Swimming With Sharks for Non-Divers
Maybe it's the adrenaline thrill. Or simply the appeal of bonding with fellow daredevils over a heart-racing activity. Whatever the reason, swimming with sharks is high on travelers’ radars for outdoors and adventure. Divers have long had their shark moments thanks to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors -- in conjunction with the Project AWARE Foundation, PADI offers divers several specialty courses to get up close and personal with sharks.
Now, they’re not the only outfit with the keys to experience the ocean's most terrifying creature. Plenty of destinations around the world offer visitors the opportunity to plunge right into the sea with a variety of sharks -- without equipment or special suits! We rounded up the best places around the world to swim with the ocean's most popular predators. Thankfully, you won't be prey.
Shark Ray Alley
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Shark Ray Alley, just next to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, is only 10 minutes from the buzzing island of Ambergis Caye, one of the closest shark destinations near a shore. On a speedboat, visitors are whisked away to the hot spot chockfull of gentle nurse sharks (and stingrays, if you're into it!). Water depths range from 8 to 30 feet, and guides will feed the nurse sharks so you can get up and personal. In fact, the sharks are so friendly they'll likely pose in the photos with you. Don't feel like getting wet? The water clarity is unreal, and you can watch all the shark action from the speedboat.
Stay: Victoria House. This 42-room boutique hotel has a variety of accommodations, from plantation rooms to infinity suites. The dock to Shark Ray Alley is right in front of the resort.
The biggest shark in the world is the whale shark, and visitors can swim with them every May to September in Cancun. These sharks are immense, about the size of buses, and luckily very vegetarian. From Cancun, tour operators take guests out close to Isla Mujeres, a part of the Caribbean rife with plankton and warm waters. Here, whale sharks congregate. Shark enthusiasts don snorkels and life jackets, and take to the waters for a one-of-a-kind experience.
Stay: Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Cancun Resort & Spa. The all-inclusive resort is close to all the action.
Crystal Lagoons of Bora Bora
Bora Bora, Tahiti
Bora Bora may be known as one of the most beautiful places in the world but it's also a hot spot for feeding sharks. In fact, shark and ray snorkeling trips are among the most popular excursions on the island (yes, you will have to leave your overwater bungalow). Guests are first taken to snorkel in a crystal-clear lagoon to interact with rays and black-tip sharks, fed by the guide. Then -- should you dare -- you'll be taken just outside the reef where lemon sharks await. Snorkelers hover at the ocean's surface to watch the sharks swim below.
Stay: Four Seasons Bora Bora. The resort's very own marine biologist will often join guests on the excursion, adding a serious level of education to the day.
The Galapagos are abundant with interesting sea life, but the most interesting experience is spotting a reef shark. With Quasar Galapagos Expeditions, guests are privileged to be with a local, dedicated naturalist -- a guide who grew up in the Galapagos. Each day, for the morning landing, guests get into a dinghy for a daily snorkel. With each snorkel, they’re exposed to 5-foot-long, mean-faced reef sharks. The guide dives down into a cave and startles a shark so it swims out, while guests can watch from above. Rest assured, these sharks don't feed during the day, so stick to the morning snorkels!
Stay: Quasar has 2 boats, one of which is a 150-foot-long, 9-cabin yacht formerly owned by Princess Grace of Monaco.
Long Island, New York
While most shark cage divers will fling themselves to the fishing village of Gansbaai off the coast of Cape Town to experience great whites, Montauk, NY, is a little closer to home. From June to October, Eco-Photos Explorers takes visitors about 20 miles south, off the coast of Long Island, to witness firsthand a nice array of sharks: The most common sharks are blues and makos but, if you're lucky, you'll catch a sighting of the thresher shark. Best of all, it's not uncommon to spot 3 or 4 sharks in the water at the same time. Non-certified divers are able to participate in the shark cage dive (there's a brief training session) and it's an all-day affair. Pack a lunch (and perhaps dinner too!).
Stay: Surf Lodge. This hip boutique hotel is laid-back and well-appointed, with reasonable rates to boot.
A trip to the Bahamas wouldn't be complete without getting in the water, and shark-friendly visitors take an excursion with Stuart Cove’s Shark Adventure to check out the underwater world. Boarding a custom-built snorkel boat, guests are taken out to the crystal-clear sea for a day of snorkeling -- but it doesn't get thrilling until they stop at the final location where Caribbean reef sharks congregate (the sharks tour is optional and weather permitting). Here, a bait box is lowered 40 feet below. The bait’s scent stays close to the ocean floor, and snorkelers can buoy atop the water to watch the sharks.
Stay: British Colonial Hilton. The family-friendly British Colonial Hilton resort works with Stuart Cove’s Shark Adventure on creating great excursions.