Ballpark Estimate: $200 to $4,100
If the word “shark” strikes a sense of fear deep in your heart, you are not alone. Many people today have an intense fear of being attacked by a shark. The good news, though, is that shark attacks are quite rare. In fact, more people are actually killed by lightning strikes each year than by sharks. Further, those shark attacks that do occur are somewhat predictable and are not always fatal. And while there aren’t any companies that will drive you into the heart of a violent lightning storm for fun, there are plenty of companies that will drop you in the middle of a group of Great White Sharks with only a steel cage separating you from the sharks’ razor sharp teeth.
If the concept of seeing a shark first hand sounds appealing, there are many companies that, in exchange for a fee, will give you the experience of a lifetime. These companies will take you right to the areas where the Great White Sharks congregate, which includes areas off the southern coast of California, Mexico, South Africa and Australia.
Endangered Shark Species
The first time you see a White Shark up close, you may be surprised by its huge size. Male white sharks are between 10 to 16 feet and can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds or more, while great white females are even larger, many reaching up to 12 feet and up to 4,000 pounds. This species, which typically has a life span of 20 years, is on the endangered list, so the opportunity to see it up close is an experience many people treasure.
Safety Comes First
An Austrian tourist was killed by a bull shark in the Bahamas in February 2008 while on a shark diving trip organized by a reputable dive company. How did the bull shark get through the cage? Easy- there wasn’t one. Cage-less diving has become popular in recent years as adventure travel dive companies try to attract adrenaline junkies who want to experience sharks first hand. But while a natural experience without a cage separating divers from the sharks is okay for some types, Great White Sharks can be extremely dangerous, so all of the dive operators who conduct these tours insist on using reinforced steel cages for their divers.
What to Expect From Shark Diving
When you sign up for a shark diving expedition, you can expect to travel by boat carrying special shark cages. When you reach an appropriate area, the cages will be lowered from the boat by a winch so that the top of the cage lies just above the waterline. Next, either mechanical shark decoys or chum are attached to the cage to attract the sharks. The amount of time it will take for a great shark to respond can vary a great deal, ranging from just a few minutes on up to several hours or even longer. When one or more sharks do arrive, you’ll be prompted to put on a wetsuit and weight belt, then climb down into the cage for an up-close and personal view. Air is usually surface-supplied by hoses to each diver (rather than divers wearing their own scuba tanks). Anywhere from two to six divers can fit in a shark cage at one time, and generally you and your co-travels can expect to be rotated in and out of the cages in shifts of 15 to 30 minutes at a time.
When Great White sharks encounter divers in a cage, sometimes they are curious and will swim up to the cage, but many times they are uninterested and simply swim by, more interested in the decoy or the chum than the odd looking tourists in neoprene videotaping them. Rarely will the great white sharks even nudge or bump the cage, let alone attack it, so you can expect to be able to watch in complete safety.
What It Costs to Dive With Sharks
If the idea of meeting a Great White Shark personally intrigues you, there are many ways to accomplish this goal. If you don’t want to travel far, you might consider visiting the Gulf of the Farrallones Marine Sanctuary, which is located off of the coast of California. This area is heavily populated in the fall with Elephant Seals and their offspring, which attract record numbers of great white sharks. If you participate in a local shark dive here, you will be able to watch this pursuit first-hand. A one-day shark dive at the Gulf of the Farrallones through Incredible Adventures is $875. But if getting into the shark cage is too “in the thick of things” for you, you can join the excursion but opt to forego the dive itself, instead watching from the boat’s observation deck. This is a privilege that will set you back $375.
If you prefer a longer experience, the Nautilus Explorer offers 10-day shark diving excursions to Isla Guadalupe, Mexico, which also boasts large numbers of Great White Sharks. The cost for this shark diving ranges from $3,200 to $4,100, depending on the cabin type you select. Food and beverages (including alcohol) are included in the price.
For more seasoned divers, Global Adrenaline offers a variety of shark diving adventures in Australia, which range in price from $900 to $1500 per person, depending on the length of the trip.
In South Africa, African Shark Eco Charters prides itself on coordinating shark dives with small groups, which enables each participant to enjoy a very personal experience. The price for a one-day shark diving tour is under $250, while longer trips average $200 a day, so a 10-day trip would be about $2,000.
So the price of a shark dive can range from $200 on up to $4,100, depending on where you go and for how long.
Keep in mind that in addition to the voyage fees, you will also need to pay for your travel arrangements, any diving equipment and other related expenses.
A Brewing Controversy
While many people enjoy participating in shark dives, there are also many debates that exist around this practice. Some people say that using bait to attract sharks is dangerous, since it exposes sharks to humans and may tempt them to ultimately attack. Dive companies defend their tours, however, saying that there is no evidence that cage diving has led to increased shark attacks. Nonetheless, the activities of most dive companies are closely regulated.