The 8 Best Places in the World to Swim with Sharks

By: Michael Ahern

“Actually, nobody wants to swim with sharks. It is not an acknowledged sport and it is neither enjoyable nor exhilarating.“ – Voltaire Cousteau, How to Swim With Sharks, A Primer.

See that quote there? Ignore it, because it was written by some dude back in the late 1700’s who may or may not have been an ancestor of Jacques Cousteau, the person responsible for the very idea of swimming with sharks the way we do today. The fact of the matter is that YOU want to swim with sharks, let some other weirdo tell you about how they communed with dolphins and wept about how special it was, you want to cement yourself at the top of the food chain in both land and sea. MapQuest Travel is going to help you realize that goal, with this handy guide.


8. Tiger Sharks -Hawaii

The Tiger Shark is known to be a solitary hunter that generally pursues its prey at night. This shark is also known as the “Sea Tiger” due to its distinctive striped features and aggressiveness, noted for having the widest food spectrum of all sharks (from lobsters to surfboards). The Tiger Shark can easily reach a length of 16 feet and is common around the Pacific islands, but less so in recent years due to the fact that they are considered to be a near-threatened species because some cultures prize their fins as a magical cure-all. The best people to help you swim with Tiger Sharks are the folks at Hawaii Shark Encounters. Owned and operated by Stefanie Brendl, who started the company with her late partner and Shark Week personality Jimmy Hall, Hawaii Shark Encounters offers full service eco-tourist packages that allow you to get up close and personal with these predators from the safety of a shark cage.  Find out more at

Tiger Sharks -Hawaii

7. Hammerhead Sharks –Costa Rica

Shaped like your most intuitive workshop implement, the Hammerhead Shark is one of the most distinctive sharks under the sea. Scientists have been arguing amongst themselves for years about the evolutionary function of their noggins, some argue that it is to improve either sensory input, maneuvering, prey manipulation or all three. The Hammerhead usually likes to swim in schools by day, then switches to solo-hunter mode at night. These unique predators can be found along almost every warm coast of the planet, from Costa Rica to Africa. There are only 11 species of Hammerhead shark, of those only 3 are considered to be ‘bitey’ to humans, none fatal, as of 2013 there have been 33 recorded attacks, none of them fatal. In Hawaiian culture, the Hammerhead is a sign of fortune, and to be passed by one is a sign that the gods are watching over your loved ones, and the ocean is clean. If you find yourself in the clean waters of Costa Rica, spend some time with a reputable dive operator, requesting a dive in an area frequented by Hammerheads. Rich coast diving is a well-reviewed outfitter, you would be served well to check them out:

Hammerhead Sharks –Costa Rica

6. Bull Sharks -Fiji

Of all the sharks, the Bull Shark is the most dangerous to people, and the one that’s most likely to nibble your pink hand/foot bits that dangle off the end of a surfboard. A story about the series of shark attacks on the Jersey Shore back in 1916 was the inspiration for Peter Benchley’s Jaws story (they only missed Snooki by a hundred years or so). Generally it is the Bull Shark one sees when you think of anything shark-like, and it gets its name from its stubby appearance and aggressive nature. The Bull Shark is one of the few species of saltwater shark that actually tolerates fresh water, and they have been known to swim up the Mississippi River as far as Illinois. Bull Sharks are found in any warm ocean water coastal areas, in rivers, lakes and large rivers that are open to the ocean. Some of the best Bull Shark diving in the world is found in Fiji, and a great number of diving professionals name the Fiji Shark Dive as the best shark dive in the world. The Fiji Shark Dive is hosted by the Beqa Adventure Divers, which attracts some of the world’s best underwater professional cameramen and photographers.

Bull Sharks -Fiji

5. Whale Sharks -Honduras

The Whale Shark is the largest species of fish in existence, and is a non-aggressive filter feeder. These aquatic gentle giants have a mouth that is about 4.5 feet wide, with a wide flat head and two small eyes at the front. Bearing distinctive yellow spots and stripes, the Whale Shark’s skin can be almost four inches thick, serving as natural armor against many predators.  Even though the Whale Shark is huge, they pose little danger to humans, they are known to be very docile and sometimes give “rides” to divers (they let you grab their dorsal fins and they pull you along). Like most sharks, Whale Sharks are found in most warm coastal regions, one of the most popular regions you can find them is the Bay Islands in Honduras. The Deep Blue Utila resort, in conjunction with the Utila Whale Shark Research Project offer up a unique PADI certified diving package, as well as paradise on a private beach.

Whale Sharks -Honduras


4. Whitetip Reef Sharks -Australia

One of most common sharks in the Indo-Pacific, the Whitetip Reef Shark is easily spotted by its grey skin, slender shape, pronounced gills, and irregular swim pattern (its distinctive and hard to miss). These string beans of the shark family grow to be about 8 feet long but only weigh about 44 lbs. Whitetip Reef Sharks like to hang out in coral reefs, reef edges, sandy flats and shallow lagoons (they are relatively short water swimmers). Only found in the Indo-Pacific region, the Whitetip Reef Shark’s best habitat for the discerning diver is the Great Barrier Reef (one of the seven wonders of the natural world) in Australia. The very best reef shark-diving experience is from aboard a dive boat, in a live-aboard 4 Day Coral Sea Trip spanning two reef systems. Learn how you can book your Whitetip Reef Shark experience on the Spirit of Freedom by visiting the Diving Cairns website.

Whitetip Reef Sharks -Australia

3. Lemon Shark -Moorea

The Lemon Shark is the most studied shark in history, unlike most of their shark kin, the Lemon Shark handles captivity better than any other observable species. They get their name from their distinctive light colored yellowish skin, and they grow to be about 11 feet long, usually weighing around 420 lbs. The lemon Shark has electro-receptors which help them track prey, it’s a sort of radar that senses the electric impulses emitted by all living things. In addition to this tingly sense, the have a secondary olfactory sense aided by magnetic sensors in their nose offsetting their poor vision. Lemon Sharks are social hunters that roam in schools, migrating thousands of miles through the ocean to reach mating locations (like shark nightclubs with half price drinks on Wednesdays). They love the tropical and subtropical waters along the coast of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans opting for shallow water, hardly going deeper than 80 meters.  Tahiti’s sister island, Moorea, is known as the Lemon Shark Diving capital of the world, and TopDive’s Moorea Shark Experience allows you to have a safe excursion into this apex-predator’s habitat.

Lemon Shark -Moorea

2. The Basking Shark -Scotland

The Cetorhinus maximus, also known as the Basking Shark, can’t help but eat with its mouth open, no matter what his mom says. Not a lot is known about this giant fish, second in size only to its cousin the Whale Shark, it grows over 35 feet long and has an enormous mouth over 3 feet wide. The mouth is not to be feared however, the teeth on this giant fish are tiny, and the wide open mouth is only menacing to the plankton and other small floating sea creatures it hoovers up as it swims along. Basking sharks like to swim in water that swings from warm to cool, and like staying close to the surface where their food lives. These big mouthed superfish patrol the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and can sometimes be spotted off the coast of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. When it comes to swimming with these living fossils, Oban Scotland seems to be the place to be, and there is an extensive dive program that caters to those that want to swim with Basking Sharks specifically. Feel free to check out their tour schedule at

Photo by: YouTube/Simon Spear
Photo by: YouTube/Simon Spear

1. The Great White Shark –San Francisco

This is it, the moment you have all been waiting for, I can feel the anticipation as you have plowed through this exhaustive shark list and muttered to yourselves “jeez, get with the Jaws already!!” This Boogyman of the Sea, popularized by Peter Benchley and Spielberg movies, is hands down, the deadliest predator on the planet, and we as a species are fortunate that we don’t share the same habitat. Seriously, why would you swim with these guys, what would your mother think? Well, actually, Great White Shark attacks are very rare, even when humans and Great Whites swim together. Generally these toothy fish just aren’t that into you, for example, in the Mediterranean Sea (where their concentrations are great), there are only 31 confirmed attacks against people in the last 200 years! Now, if you still want to swim with these guys, contact the good people at Great White Adventures who host dives in San Francisco and Guadalupe Mexico, tell them Mike sent you, they will ask what the hell you are talking about, just wink and say “gotcha”.

Great White Shark Cage Dive