Amongst scuba divers, sharks are one of the most polarizing animals in the ocean. Some of us can’t imagine anything better than jumping in the water and seeing a shark swimming past us, while others can’t think of anything scarier! This article is for the shark lovers, as we round-up 10 amazing sharks and the best places to see them around the world!
1. Great White Sharks
Swimming with Great White Sharks is one of the most exhilarating activities that you can do! Seeing these 15 to 20 foot long magnificent creatures and their thousands of glistening teeth underwater is a unique experience. While this may sound a bit scary, don’t worry you are behind the safety of a cage. Generally, no scuba diving experience is necessary for Great White encounters as you are usually only 1m below the surface. However for a truly unique experience head to Port Lincoln in South Australia, where Rodney Fox offers the world’s only bottom cage dive where you will need to be at least an Open Water certified diver. In this dive, you can head 18m down for 45 mins to experience Great White Sharks like few others have.
Best locations to encounter Great White Sharks:
- Gansbaai, South Africa – June to September.
- Port Lincoln, South Australia, Australia – April to June or November to January.
- Guadalupe, Mexico – July to November.
2. Basking Sharks
Imagine swimming along and seeing a shark coming towards you with a wide-open mouth. That’s what it is like swimming with a Basking Shark! But don’t worry it sounds much more intimidating than it actually is. The Basking Shark is similar to the Whale Shark in that it is a filter feeder (i.e. likes to eat plankton), is docile, and grows to around 30 feet, making this the second largest fish in the ocean (just behind the Whale Shark). Basking Sharks are scared of the bubbles made by scuba divers, so it is recommended to snorkel or free dive with the Basking Sharks. Besides it’s comically oversized mouth, the other interesting fact about this shark is that it has a gestation period of up to 3 years!
Best locations to encounter Basking Sharks:
- The Hebrides, Scotland – April to September.
- Cornwall England – May to October.
3. Whale Sharks
If you want to swim with the biggest fish in the sea, then book a trip to snorkel with the majestic Whale Sharks! These sharks are filter feeders, grow to 40 feet and are one of the most graceful fish in the ocean. Like the Basking Sharks, the preference is to snorkel with the Whale Sharks. For info on how to pick a whale shark tour, check out our article The Ultimate Guide to snorkelling with Whale Sharks.
Best locations to encounter Whale Sharks:
- Donsol Bay, Philippines- December to May.
- Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia – March to July.
- Sun Island, Maldives – Year-round. Best sightings are between August and November.
4. Hammerhead Sharks
Aptly named due to the hammerlike appearance of it’s head, Hammerhead sharks can grow about 12 feet long. Due to their eye placement on the side of their head, they have a unique advantage of nearly 360-degree vision which gives them a better range to spot food. They have a very small mouth which means they are typically bottom feeders, and it is an amazing sight to see when the hundreds of scalloped Hammerhead Sharks migrate during summer months to find cooler water.
Best locations to encounter Hammerhead Sharks:
- Cocos Island, Costa Rica – May to November. Can only be reached via liveaboard.
- Layang Layang, Malaysia – March to May.
- Protea Banks, South Africa – November to January.
5. Thresher Sharks
Seeing any shark hunt underwater is a special sight for divers, but seeing the Thresher Shark hunt is something else! They have a massively long tail (which can be as long as their body) which looks and acts like a whip. Their tail is used to stun their prey before eating it. Along with their unique hunting habits, it is one of the few shark species that like to jump fully out of the water!
Best locations to encounter Thresher Sharks:
- Malapascua Island, Philippines – Year round.
6. Tiger Sharks
As the name suggests, Tiger Sharks are named after the tiger-like stripes on their body. Interestingly enough, if you see Tiger Shark pups you may not recognise them, as they have spots which fuse into stripes when they are older. Large in size, at 15 feet long, these are the second largest predatory shark in the ocean behind the Great White and are common in subtropical and tropical waters.
Best locations to encounter Tiger Sharks:
- Tiger Beach, Grand Bahama Island – early April. Can also see a variety of other sharks such as: Nurse, Lemon and Reef sharks.
- Oahu, Hawaii – September to December.
- Protea Banks, South Africa – March to June.
7. Bull Sharks
If you are a bit of a daredevil and looking to swim with what is known as the most aggressive shark in the world, then swimming with the Bull Sharks is for you! Typically found in shallow, murky waters these sharks aren’t out to attack you, but any attacks by this sort of shark (like most sharks) are due to mistaken identity. A fun fact about Bull Sharks is that they can swim in both salt and freshwater!
Best locations to encounter Bull Sharks:
- Playa del Carmen Mexico – November to March.
- Shark Reef, Fiji – year round. Can see an array of other sharks as well tiger, white tip, black tip, and grey reef to name a few.
- Bat Islands Costa Rica – May to October.
8. Port Jackson Shark
Port Jackson Sharks are cute but are also pretty weird looking. They have small pointed teeth in the front and flat big teeth in the back, in a mouth that looks comically small for it’s head. The Port Jackson Shark is unlike most sharks, as they can breathe and eat at the same time. And if you are looking to find one of these guys swimming around, you will only find them in Australian east coast waters, and you will have a better chance of seeing them at night, as they are nocturnal.
Best locations to encounter Port Jackson Sharks:
- NSW, Australia – July to October.
9. Epaulette Shark
The Epaulette Shark is aptly named due to the black spot behind each fin which resembles military epaulettes. These sharks are small (2-3 feet long) and are docile in nature. If you are lucky enough to see the Epaulette Shark they have two amazing features: 1)they can survive up to an hour without oxygen and 2) they are known as the walking shark! Yes, they actually use their fins to walk along the bottom of the seafloor (rather than swim) and can even walk short distances on land! To spot these guys you are best to head out at sunrise or sunset as this is when they are most active.
Best locations to encounter Epaulette Sharks:
- Great Barrier Reef, QLD, Australia – Year round.
- Raja Ampat, Indonesia – Year round.
10. Mako Shark
Mako Sharks are often said to be a mini Great White Shark, due to their menacing looks. Their looks are where the similarities end, as unlike the slow, graceful movements of the Great White, the Mako Sharks are described as twitchy and are the fastest sharks in the ocean swimming up to 45mph! At those speeds, you will be very lucky to catch more than a glimpse of one! They are also known to be able to launch themselves 20 feet out of the water!
Best locations to encounter Mako Sharks:
- San Diego & Rhode Island, USA – June to October.
- Cape Town, South Africa – November to June.
- Island of Azores, Portugal – July to October.
If you are looking for other unique marine encounters, then check out our 5 wild animals you didn’t know you could swim with article, or our article on 10 Weird Marine Creatures you can spot above 40m!
About the Author
Amanda and her husband Dean have been certified divers since 2009. Amanda has her advanced open water and Dean is a dive master. They have travelled the world and dived many sites in Australia, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean.
Amanda and Dean have a travel blog called Scatabout which details the fun and unique experiences they have had on their world travels. You can find them doing something adventurous like scuba diving, hiking or something strange like running down the side of a building.
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