If you had the opportunity to swim with sharks, would you take it? Shortly before heading to Hawaii I researched online for exciting things to do in Oahu’s North Shore, and the result was easy enough: surfing and swimming with sharks. Was I going to skip any of the two? Certainly not! And thus only 2 days after arriving to the most isolated archipelago in the world we made our way from Waikiki to Haleiwa where we joined a shark cage swimming tour with Hawaii Shark Encounters.
Getting to Haleiwa is easy enough with public transportation, but you will need to give yourself about two hours or more if going by bus. Luckily we had met a couple of honeymooners from Spain the day before, and after sharing with them our plans they decided to join us: we rented a car between both couples and got there easier and quicker- it only took us about an hour.
Home to the world’s most famous surf beaches Haleiwa is actually a sleepy town most of the year, with a few restaurants and scattered surf shops that provide any service you will need when there. We were there 30 minutes early, and chose to enjoy the best coffee and home made muffins in Oahu at the Coffee Gallery (the carrot pie is to die for!), a cafe I recommend you stop at even if you’re not going to join a tour.
Most of the wildlife encounter tours start early in the morning when the wind is yet to pick up and the animals are active, and by 8:30 the four of us plus another two more last minute travelers were in the boat heading into the ocean. While heading out the dive instructors gave us the safety tips we have to watch for, and we also signed the omission of responsibility in case an accident with the sharks was to happen- this made some of the participants quite nervous!
After a brief 20 minute trip we reached the place where the crew had dropped some bait a few hours before, and sure enough we quickly spotted a few sharks swimming by. The cage was lowered and they asked for the first volunteer, who of course was…me!
The sharks were two meter long blue sharks, and certainly did not seem aggressive at all; in fact we were told that they had never heard about an attack on humans by a shark of this species. In 2006 they spotted a great white, but this is extremely rare as white sharks live in cold water, and the Hawaiian Island simply don’t have it.
Getting into the cage is easy enough, and observing the feared predators was a treat to the eye. The water in Hawaii is so clean that you can easily see them from 10 meters or more, and despite the fact that you can stick an arm or leg between the bars in the cage at no point I feel any threat or danger (nor did the other two participants who 10 minutes before had assured that in now way the y would be getting into the cage). The sharks were simply swimming around us with curiosity, and being so close to them simply felt great. Perhaps the most difficult part of the experience is being ablet to stay put in a single place, as the cage sways back and forth because of the waves and wind making it difficult to stay put and take pictures.
The tour takes about two hours, and is a great adventure to be experienced by people of all ages. During our trip we spotted about 4 or 5 sharks, but there can be more, or less. You are in their environment for a change, and it’s impossible to know how many will show up. The staff at Shark Experience Hawaii is very knowledgeable and reassuring, and the boat is big enoug to fit 8 people comfortably. They also carry disposable waterproof cameras available for purchase if you want to take your own shots.
All in all I recommend this tour if you want a close encounter with these animals, as you’re in for a great treat and a lifetime experience. Would I do it again? I know I will! But next time it will be with… great whites!
Save Money When Visiting Oahu
If planning on visiting many parks, museums, joining tours and overall participating in paid-for activities you might want to consider buying a Go Oahu Card (or read my article with 4 essential tips that will save you money in Oahu). These cards include the entrances to 37 parks, tours and museums in the island (unfortunately not the shark dive but it does include the Grand Circle Island Tour I did) and will certainly save you a good chunk of money if these are the things you like to do. The price of the card varies depending on the number of days you want to validate it for or you can also customize it for the specific activities you want to do. Do your math and check how long the activities are to make sure it’s really worth it- for example, the Grand Circle Island tour lasts almost a full day and at 60 USD it costs the same as the card, thus it wouldn’t make sense to buy a 1 day card for the tour. I prefer the second option, where you decide what you want to do, find out the regular prices and then how much it would cost you with the card. To learn more or buy click here –>Go Oahu Card (by using this link to buy the card I could make a little bit of money, but it won’t cost you anything and you’ll help me keep sharing great tips via this travel blog- it’s a lot of work!)
Have you ever swum with sharks? Where was this? Were you afraid, was this something you’d recommend? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below, and this post too if you like it!
We were offered a discount on this tour, however this has not affected in any way the opinions shared in this article. Hawaiian Shark Encounters is a well established and reputable shark viewing company in Hawaii based in Haleiwa. You can contact them via their website at www.hawaiisharkencounters.com or by phone at 1-808-351-9373