Diving with the Great White Sharks is Not For Everyone: But is it for you?


It is 5 am in Port Lincoln, Australia, your guide has dropped you off at a small pier near the Marina hotel, the smells of the restaurant’s grill firing up mixes with the early morning sea spray to create an odd combination of comfort and anticipation.  As you board the boat, you take your seat among the other adventurers for the day. You have a three-hour voyage out into the Great Australian Bight, an open bay where the next large landmass is the icy shores of Antarctica.

Your destination is closer, yet just as barren.  As your boat pulls into space between several islands, with seals basking in the early morning sun, the boat operator gives a small lecture on safety while on your trip. As he is talking there is the ominous “splash” of the titanium cage being lowered into the water. The crew also gets the wetsuits ready for those brave enough to go in the water.  As you step out onto the deck, you can see the grey-green outline of the largest predatory fish in the world glide past the boat. The anticipation builds as your turn inches ever closer and you have the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to be in the water with a Great White Shark!

Diving with the Great White Sharks really is one of those “once in a lifetime” opportunities for most people.  While there is a small chance that you will see one when you are snorkeling or diving, it is not something that most people want to see out in open water.  One of the most difficult parts of booking a trip to see the Great White Sharks is location, the only two major places you can do it is in South Australia and in South Africa, both of which can be difficult to get to for many people. While diving with the Great Whites is a magical experience, people need to remember that they are curious creatures. This means if you stick your arm or leg outside of the cage, that they may be curious enough to take a bite out of it.  

The trips in Australia cost a little more, there is more regulation which is for your safety and the safety of the animals.  Even though the South Africa trips are less expensive, getting to Australia is generally easier than getting to South Africa, so the prices actually balance out in the long run.  None of the dive companies in Australia will allow you to swim with the sharks outside of the cage, once again this is for your safety. Sharks can be tempted to bite you, if for nothing more than to see what you taste like (or they confuse you for a seal).  Diving outside of the cage, even where it is legal, is very dangerous and should only be done by researchers and others who are fully trained- recreational divers should get out of the water if there is no cage to protect you. 

One of the most important parts of planning a “bucket list” trip like this is to make sure that you plan it properly.  I always recommend going with a travel agent to ensure that you have all your bases covered. With an average cost of $500 a day for a group trip or $5000 – $10,000 to rent the boat for a day, most people will only be going out on the water to dive with the sharks for one day.  If you are traveling long distances, I would plan for two days prior to the dive (to get rid of jet lag) and two days after the dive (even though it is a hookah dive, I do not fly the next day). If you book through an agent, they will be able to help you schedule some other events that are fun for those free days.  Make sure you give yourself enough time to get over jet lag, you do not want to sleep all day on the boat.

If you go, ask to be put in touch with Goin’ Off Safaris. Lunch, the owner, is a great guide and will be able to hook you up with whatever adventures you want on your days you are not on the water.  As for your time on the water, I recommend Calypso Star Charters or Adventure Bay Charters.  I have gone out with both companies and they are both good outfits.  Calypso Star is more aggressive in their baiting in of the sharks and Adventure Bay has a “glass room” where you can see the sharks if you are not ready to get in the water yet.  On both tours, I saw several sharks (Calypso 6, Adventure Bay 4), including one that was almost as long as the boat! If you work with good companies, you will have a better trip. I recommend either the Port Lincoln Hotel or the Marina Hotel in Port Lincoln, both are exceptional hotels for a reasonable price.

About the Author

Dr. Smithmyer is the Vice President of International Affairs for Brāv Online Conflict Management, an international consortium of conflict resolution professionals. Dr. Smithmyer is also a columnist for NRN doing mostly political and international business columns. When Dr. Smithmyer is not working with people to make the world a better place, he enjoys snorkeling the waters of the world.

Dr. Smithmyer has traveled extensively in the United States, Australia, Vietnam, and the Bahamas. He has also presented in the U.K., India, Brazil, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. Dr. Smithmyer is one of the most lettered men in the world with nine degrees. As an adjunct professor in his spare time, Dr. Smithmyer uses his business experience and travels to help bring the world to his students and even brings the students to the world through experiential learning trips.

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