Sharks have long been some of the most mysterious, sought-after ocean animals in the world. The combination of habitat, elusiveness, prehistoric beauty and power has encouraged adventure-seekers the world over to get in the water and experience these amazing animals face to face. Here are five of the most beautiful places in the world to dive with the sharks.
Cocos Island, Costa Rica – HammerheadsCosta Rica is home to a variety of ocean life, from manta rays to white-tipped sharks and tuna. However, the largest draw for those looking to dive with deep-sea predators are the schooling hammerhead sharks. Cocos Island in particular is a popular Costa Rican destination for getting up close and personal with these flat-domed members of the genus. Resorts and scuba diving operations throughout the island, such as Undersea Hunter, offer a variety of shark-diving excursions. However, some caution that the variably cold, strong ocean current, which attracts Coco’s shark population, makes Cocos a better match for more experienced divers.
Gladden Spit, Belize – Whale SharksThe Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve covers nearly 26,000 acres of Belize’s Barrier Reef, divided into multiple zones including a conch restoration area as well as a whale shark and reef-fish aggregation conservation area. The months of April through June is the time period when this southern area of Belize opens its waters for divers and snorkelers to swim alongside the giant whale shark. Because this is the time of the year fish spawning occurs, the gentle giants are drawn to the area to feed, along with schooling fish, dolphins, hammerheads and a few other species of sharks.
Aside from these calendar months, whale shark season in Gladden Spit is also governed by the moon. Yep, that’s right. If whale sharks frolicking beneath Central American seas weren’t magical enough, Belize’s season starts two days before the full moon up until around 10 days after the months of March, April, May and June.
Gansbaai, South Africa – Great WhitesThe great white is perhaps simultaneously the most loved and most feared shark in the entire ocean. For this reason it continues to be the number one fish to see for underwater adrenaline-seekers. The fishing and tourist town of Gansbaai, South Africa has gained popularity for its many great white shark cage diving adventures, allowing divers the opportunity to safely “swim” with these massive creatures. A number of these operations don’t even require scuba gear. Marine Dynamics Shark Tours, for instance, simply uses a metal cage to separate swimmers from the animal, which—with the help of Steven Spielberg—has struck terror in generations of beach-goers.
Miami Beach, Florida – Bull & Tiger SharksIf you happen to find yourself in Miami Beach and are bored by the club and cabana-dotted beach scene, you might consider hopping on a boat and getting in the water with some tiger sharks to spice things up a bit. Boating services such as Jupiter’s Emerald Charters, a little less than 90 miles north of Miami, takes certified scuba divers on open water dives to check out a variety of local shark species including bull, tiger, lemon, hammerhead and even whale sharks.
Pigeon Island National Park, Sri Lanka – Blacktip Reef SharksThe coral reefs that make up a part of the Pigeon Island National Park are some of the most beautiful remaining marine reefs in Sri Lanka and home to sea turtles, 300 species of reef fish as well as the blacktip reef shark. Guides lead snorkelers to areas that allow for leisurely exploration in the shallow waters of the reefs where both adult and juvenile blacktip sharks are almost always spotted swimming nearby. As a bonus, once back on dry land, visitors to the island can also check out the Koneswaram Temple overlooking the bay.