Probably the most exciting bucket list item is diving with sharks. But before you book the first trip you see, you’ll want to check out the ultimate shark-watching locations.
Scuba divers can dive with sharks in open water, but cage diving with sharks gives us a wild adrenaline ride with a sensible safety net for most of us.
We’ll consider open water and cage diving shark encounters so you can choose for yourself. Then we’ll look at the best locations for cage diving with sharks worldwide.
There are many fantastic cage diving locations around the planet, from South Africa to Australia, Mexico, and the USA.
Let’s take a look so you can choose your unforgettable experience wisely.
Shark Watching: Cage Diving vs. Openwater Shark Diving
If you want to go shark diving underwater in the wild, you’ve got two options.
Depending on the location and type of shark, you can see sharks in open water while scuba diving, or freediving. Alternatively, you can choose to watch your sharks from inside the protection of a submerged metal cage.
Whichever option you choose, seeing sharks in the ocean is one of the most fascinating and adrenaline-pumping things you’ll ever experience.
Cage diving with sharks involves you getting in the water where the fantastic, wild apex predators are while being safe inside a metal cage for protection. Sounds perfect, right?
A shark cage dive is ideal for seeing sharks, including even the great white shark. Although you’ll still find seeing big sharks thrilling and perhaps even a bit scary, the cage gives you a very reassuring level of safety.
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Cage diving is the best (and possibly the only way in some places) to see big sharks underwater. After all, even the bravest and most experienced scuba diver will probably think twice about jumping straight in the water with great whites.
You don’t even have to be scuba diving certified to go swimming with sharks in a cage. While some operators will use scuba equipment, most use a straightforward mask and snorkel, or a system often called a “hookah” supply where you breathe from a mouthpiece supplied by compressed air from the surface.
The protective metal cage is lowered into the water at the back of a boat so that you can safely observe the sharks. The boat crew often put bait lines into the water to attract the sharks in a well-practiced, albeit somewhat dramatic procedure.
You can watch the sharks from inside the cage, knowing that you’re quite safe.
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Shark cage diving is most commonly made with great white sharks. However, as we look at different cage diving destinations around the world, we’ll see that you have exciting shark encounters with tiger sharks and the great hammerhead, amongst other exciting shark species.
Exceptionally experienced shark divers might find the cage a little restrictive. The bars might get in the way of their photographs, and they may not fully experience being in the shark’s natural environment while being in a cage with several other people. However, carefully organized cage diving is an unforgettable experience for the casual shark observer.
Open Water Diving With Sharks (Scuba Diving or Freediving)
Swimming in open water without the protection of a shark cage tends to be done either around less potentially aggressive sharks than, for example, the great white or by very experienced shark divers.
For example, it’s normal in The Florida Keys for scuba divers to swim with many different shark species without a cage and be completely safe.
The beauty of open water shark diving is that you are free to move about and fully experience the shark’s natural habitat. For photographers, there aren’t any limits preventing them from getting the perfect shot.
However, in some locations, irrespective of a person’s fear or experience, cage diving may be the only safe way to get into the water with the sharks. Whether it is because of the environmental conditions or the sharks themselves, you should always follow the local advice.
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An Alternative – Surface Shark Viewing Trips
If you’ve decided that getting underwater with sharks isn’t for you, you can still enjoy the unforgettable experience of seeing these magnificent creatures.
These shark viewing trips are perfect for families or someone who isn’t that comfortable with the water.
Check out the locations to determine what sharks you may see and when. For example, Santa Cruz is known for great white shark sightings from late spring to late fall when the sea is warmer.
In Florida and the Florida Keys, you won’t see great whites. However, you could see great hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, tiger, bull, silky, dusky, lemon, reef, sandbar, spinner, blacktip, and mako sharks year-round, amongst others that are attracted by the bait lines.
7 Best Places To Go Cage Diving With Sharks
If you’ve decided that swimming with sharks in a cage is for you, these are the best places you can do it worldwide. Many of these shark viewing trips are focused on great white shark cage diving, but we’ll also look at places where you can see other shark species.
1. South Africa
Let’s start with what may be the world’s best place to go cage diving with great white sharks.
That’s a huge claim to make. However, the frequency of great white shark sightings in the waters of the Western Cape makes South Africa a shark watchers’ paradise.
The Western Cape has two incredible locations where shark viewing trips with great white sharks have become a significant industry.
Seal Island in False Bay is known for the great white sharks who come to hunt the numerous fur seals. It’s about 25 minutes by boat from the mainland and an hour from Cape Town.
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This area is even known for “flying” great whites. You might be lucky enough to see one leap out of the water to grab a potential seal meal or towed decoy floating on the surface during your boat trip.
The southwestern tip of South Africa between Gansbaai and Mossel Bay has been called “the world’s great white shark capital.”
Dyer Island sits about 8 kilometers (five miles) offshore of the town of Gansbaai. Great white shark sightings have become a bit less common here in the area known as Shark Alley since 2017, when several orcas aggressively attacked and killed a number of the white sharks. However, there is still a chance to see them along with bronze whaler sharks or one of the 98 other shark species that live in the sea.
The best time to visit is between May and October, although there are shark sightings all year round. The green-colored ocean is at its coldest in July when it gets down to about 14°C (57°F).
Both sides of the Mexican coast offer shark cage diving. We’ll start with the more famous Pacific Ocean location before moving over to the Gulf of Mexico.
Isla de Guadalupe
Guadalupe Island is a stunning location for cage diving with great whites. The waters are almost always crystal clear, and the sightings are reliable. If you want to be able to take incredible photos from the cage, this could well be the place for you.
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It’s possible to make shark viewing trips from liveaboard boards leaving Ensenada, Mexico, or San Diego, USA.
The volcanic island sits about 240 kilometers (150 miles) off the Baja California coast and roughly 400 kilometers (250 miles) from San Diego. Most boats will spend at least three days at the site so you will get a lot of shark diving opportunities.
Shark cages are dropped in from the back of most boats. Alternatively, some have submersible cages that are lowered 9 meters (30 feet) underwater for scuba diving certified visitors.
It’s also possible to use dive equipment in a self-propelled cage in Guadalupe to get some degree of freedom. The SPOC (Self Propelled Ocean Cage) can move along with the sharks as they swim to get a really incredible view.
Most great white shark sightings occur between July and November. Experts say that the larger males appear to mate at the end of September, while the most enormous females tend to be seen towards mid-October.
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Isla Mujeres may not have great white sharks. However, it has a vast range of other shark viewing trips that can be just as exciting.
Whale sharks can be seen in large numbers between mid-May and September, although you won’t need to be in a cage to see these gentle giants.
The cage is reserved for the incredible mako shark diving. The Mako is known as the fastest shark in the world, and boat day trips give you the chance to see these up predators close and personal.
Other marine life commonly seen in this area include sailfish, manta rays, and several other shark species, so it’s a trip worth making if you’re in the area.
There’s only one place you can cage dive in Australia: the Neptune Islands.
The protected conservation park is about three hours from Port Lincoln. You can dive in cages suspended from the boat or with dive equipment in submersible cages lowered to the seabed.
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Visiting between May and October, when the waters are at their coolest of about 18°C (64°F), gives the best chance to see great white sharks, which have come to the area to feed on sea lion and seal pups. In the summer, the site often has bull sharks to see.
Operators here do not lay bait lines or chum the water, meaning you get to see the sharks exhibiting much more natural behavior than in some other places. You may see a great white shark hunting for its food or just acting with its natural curiosity towards the inhabitants of the cage.
4. New Zealand
Bluff is a small port at the bottom of the South Island. You can reliably cage dive in the Foveaux Strait and northern Titi Islands with great white sharks in surface cages.
The boat trip is only about 45 minutes and offers beautiful picturesque islands and dramatic seascapes with a good chance to see dolphins and other marine life.
Shark viewing trips see great white sharks in the summer months, in addition to mako, blue and rare seven gilled sharks.
The great whites here may be smaller than in some other places. However, that doesn’t stop this great trip from being dramatic.
5. The Bahamas
There might not be great white sharks, but the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas are an excellent place for shark viewing trips with a considerable number of other species.
This is one of the best places in the world to dive with tiger sharks. Positioned 30 kilometers (20 miles) off the coast of Grand Bahama, the area has beautiful coral life to go with the sharks.
As well as getting close and personal with tiger sharks, you might see Caribbean reef sharks, lemon sharks, hammerhead sharks, and nurse sharks.
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The boat’s surface cages are lowered securely into the water, and you breathe from the hookah air supply system as you watch the sharks cruise past.
Bimini island, located 85 kilometers (53 miles) east of Miami, Florida, also offers excellent opportunities to see many different sharks from the comfort of a cage.
Depending on the time of year, you can expect to see tiger, bull, hammerhead, reef, and nurse sharks.
Local operators offer both half and full-day shark viewing trips, so this is a great trip if you are more of a casual shark watcher.
You can find shark viewing trips on both coasts of the United States. These are the two best destinations.
Farallon Islands, San Francisco
The islands are 46 kilometers (29 miles) from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in a protected marine sanctuary.
The area is known for some of the most giant migratory great white sharks in the world, which come to feast on the population of northern elephant seals during a short period between late September and the end of November.
Shark viewing trips use mammal-shaped decoys rather than bait lines to attract the sharks, which is considered locally more environmentally responsible.
Florida, Florida Keys – Huge Range of Shark Species
Florida is famed for being the hottest shark diving destination in the United States.
Shark cage diving from Florida and the Florida Keys is so successful that many operators offer a money-back guarantee if you aren’t successful on their shark viewing trips.
Expect to see tiger, dusky, silky, sandbar, lemon, reef sharks, and the incredible local great hammerheads.
Cage diving trips run mainly from Oahu, where boats venture about 5 kilometers (3 miles) out into the Pacific Ocean.
Hawaiian waters are home to 40 different shark species, and shark viewing trips commonly see sandbar, Galapagos, and tiger sharks, as well as rarer blue, silky, or hammerhead sharks.
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Bait isn’t used in Hawaii as there are so many sharks it isn’t needed. These waters are some of the warmest that you can go shark diving in, so you won’t need to worry about getting cold.
How Much Does It Cost To Go in a Shark Cage?
The price for getting up close and personal on a cage shark diving trip varies hugely depending on the destination and length of the trip. For example, the week liveaboard trip to Isla de Guadalupe will cost you more than a short shark viewing trip in Hawaii.
Here are some examples of USD costs for shark diving trips in 2022.
Western Cape, South Africa – $170 2 to 4-hour trip
Isla de Guadalupe, Mexico – $3,300 5 day liveaboard
Isla Mujeres, Mexico – $1,100 6 hour trip
Neptune Islands, Australia – $2,300 5 day liveaboard
Bluff, New Zealand – $370 Day trip
Tiger Beach, Bahamas – $875 Day trip
Bimini, Bahamas $875 Day trip
Farallon Islands, USA $825 Day trip
Florida Keys, USA $195 3 hour trip
Hawaii $120 2 hour trip
Is Cage Diving Cruel?
Cage shark diving is not regarded as being cruel to the sharks. When operated responsibly, the shark doesn’t suffer any harm during the encounter.
The ethics of cage diving largely revolve around whether it is right to bait the water to get the sharks to come to the cage.
It’s argued that feeding the sharks makes them unnaturally associate humans with food which could cause accidents if the sharks come into contact with people who are not protected in cages.
The counterargument is that cage diving creates a sustainable industry that conserves sharks by making them valuable alive. Shark diving can replace shark fishing by putting money into the local economy on-going.
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Most destinations have very tight codes of contact that operators must follow to make the encounter safe for the sharks and the visitors.
Is Cage Diving With Sharks Dangerous?
Cage diving with sharks isn’t considered to be dangerous. However, you should always book with a properly regulated and insured operator.
Can sharks break diver cages? No, the metal cages are designed to resist the unlikely event of the shark lunging at the cage. Accidents have happened, although these are typically caused by poor maintenance or incorrect procedures.
Has a shark cage ever dropped? On very rare occasions, a shark cage has fallen from a boat. However, reports suggest that these incidents were due to the operator not following the proper procedures or looking after their cages. Properly designed enclosures have multiple backup support mechanisms to stop this from happening.
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Why do shark cages have such big gaps? The cages allow you to see the sharks without being too restrictive while also protecting you from the sharks you’re likely to see. The gaps might look big, but they are small enough to stop sharks from getting in.
A cage diving trip in these fantastic locations will offer you an incredible close and personal encounter with the ocean’s greatest predators.
So what are you waiting for? Let us know which of our seven best shark-watching locations you’ve chosen!
British-born Dan has been a scuba instructor and guide in Egypt's Red Sea since 2010.
Dan loves inspiring safe, fun, and environmentally responsible diving and particularly enjoys the opportunity to dive with sharks or investigate local shipwrecks.
When not spending time underwater, Dan can usually be found biking and hiking in Sharm's desert surroundings.