PADI names 12 world-beating shark-dive sites

(Neil Andrea /©juliesharkangel)
(Neil Andrea /©juliesharkangel)

PLUS: Your chance to win 1 of 3 free PADI eLearning courses (see panel below)

It’s Shark Week, the annual Discovery Channel TV-streaming extravaganza that divides shark enthusiasts. There are some (often divers) who consider the concept dangerously sensationalist, and many others who feel that anything that engages and educates the public about sharks is ultimately helpful.

You know that something is amiss with the world when 15% of 1,000 YouGov survey respondents were reported to have claimed recently that they would “agree to be attacked by a shark for the cool story (If they knew they would survive without long-term damage or ill-effects)”.

The titles tell at least part of the tale: Shark Week began on 23 July with Belly of the Beast: Feeding Frenzy, with a promised 20 hours of programming presented by Aquaman (Jason Momoa) that includes Shark vs Snake: Battle of the Bites, Great White Fight Club, Monster Mako: Fresh Blood and Serial Killer: Red Sea Feeding Frenzy.

Cocaine Sharks is already drawing plenty of preview attention, of course: “Shark expert Tom Hird travels to the Florida Keys to investigate what happens with sharks who come in to contact with the most notorious drug on the planet.”

PADI tends to take the positive view of shark media exposure on this lavish scale, with a number of its ambassadors taking part in Shark Week and hoping to keep the tone on the right side of positive. To mark the extravaganza, the diver training agency has issued its own tips for the world’s best sites for shark diving, in the hope that more people will set off to experience the reality for themselves.

“There are 440 known species of shark around the world, from wobbegongs to whale sharks and silvers to silkies, so it’s easy to see why so many scuba divers become addicted to seeing them,” says PADI. “This is why many of us plan holidays and dives around viewing these magnificent animals.

“If this sounds like you, be sure to add these amazing shark diving sites to your must-dive list for the best shark encounters in the world.”

Bajo Alcyone – Cocos Island, Costa Rica

Scalloped hammerhead shark (Lauren Benoit)
Scalloped hammerhead shark (Lauren Benoit)

Far removed from the Costa Rican mainlandCocos Island is consistently ranked one of the top destinations in the world for hammerhead shark diving. Only accessible by liveaboard, you’ll undoubtedly dive several world-class sites during a trip to Cocos Island, but the sharkiest dive of them all is Bajo Alcyone.

This seamount rises to 25m and attracts seasonal schooling hammerhead sharks. All you have to do is dive to the top of the mount, wedge into a protected area and take in the action all around you.

  • Dive Type: Seamount
  • Recommended Level: Advanced due to the depth and current
  • Featured Shark: Scalloped hammerhead
  • When to Go: June-November for best marine life, December-May for best water conditions.

Monad Shoal – Malapascua, Philippines

Thresher shark at Monad Shoal (Jun V Lao)
Thresher shark at Monad Shoal (Jun V Lao)

With more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines has hundreds of shark dives, showcasing whale sharks, reef sharks and zebra sharks. However, shark enthusiasts will know the Philippines for one dive in particular – Monad Shoal off the tiny island of Malapascua. This site is the most consistent in the world for thresher shark sightings. At 30m, divers wait for the threshers to come for their daily cleaning sessions.

  • Dive Type: Ridge
  • Recommended Level: Advanced
  • Featured Shark: Thresher shark
  • When to Go: November-June for the best thresher shark action

Gordon Rocks – Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Hammerhead (Andy Casagrande)
Hammerhead shark (Andy Casagrande)

The Galapagos Islands is one of three destinations that make up the legendary “Shark Triangle”, the others being Cocos Island and Malpelo. Much like the other destinations, the Galapagos are home to schools of hammerhead sharks and one site, in particular, is known as a shark-diving mecca.

Strong currents at Gordon Rocks, an eroded crater near Santa Cruz Island, attract dozens of hammerheads into a confined area. The currents bring plankton, which in turn results in high fish numbers, attracting the hammerheads. Divers can safely get fairly close to the sharks, but this dive-site should be attempted only by divers with experience of diving in currents.

  • Dive Type: Drift
  • Recommended Level: Intermediate to Advanced – experience in current advantageous
  • Featured Sharks: Scalloped, great and smooth hammerheads
  • When to Go: June-November

Tiger Beach – Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas

Tiger shark, Bahamas (PADI)
Tiger shark in the Bahamas (PADI)

The Bahamas is known as the world’s best shark-diving destination, according to PADI. You can swim with reef sharks, hammerheads and oceanic whitetips around the islands but one of the best sites is Tiger Beach, where you’re “nearly guaranteed” a safe encounter with tiger sharks.

Several of these fierce sharks appear every day to be seen by local divers. Divers wait in groups on the sandy bottom as the sharks circle around for several minutes. As an added bonus, you might also see nurse, lemon and Caribbean reef sharks while diving at Tiger Beach.

  • Dive Type: Sandy bottom
  • Recommended Level: Beginner
  • Featured Shark: Tiger shark
  • When to Go: October-January

Pipín – Jardines de la Reina, Cuba

Silky shark at Gardens of the Queens (Q Phia)
Silky shark at Gardens of the Queens (Q Phia)

The Gardens of the Queen (aka Jardines de la Reina) is quickly becoming one of the best shark-diving destinations in the world. Accessible only by liveaboard, this protected area boasts several incredible sharky dive-sites, says PADI.

At Pipín, divers can swim alongside up to 30 silkies and Caribbean reef sharks in just one dive. After years of protection by the Cuban government that is evident under water, these sharks are more curious about than fearful of divers, approaching them at will.

  • Dive Type: Wall
  • Recommended Level: Beginner
  • Featured Creatures: Caribbean reef and silky sharks
  • When to Go: December-April

Shark Dive – Beqa Lagoon, Fiji

Bull sharks at Beqa (Beqa Adventure Divers)
Bull sharks at Beqa (Beqa Adventure Divers)

Billed locally as the “best shark dive in the world”, this part of Beqa Lagoon near the southern coast of Viti Levu in Fiji has long been the site of shark-diving. On an average day, about 50 sharks show up. Bull sharks are the main attraction, but you’ll also see nurse, lemon, whitetip, blacktip, silvertip, grey and maybe even tiger sharks – the variety is part of the attraction!

  • Dive Type: Reef
  • Recommended Level: Beginner
  • Featured Shark: Bull shark

Gladden Spit Whale Shark Dive – Placencia, Belize

Whale shark (Rodrigo Friscione)
Whale shark (Rodrigo Friscione)

If you’re looking for a more laid-back shark, try diving with mighty whale sharks in Belize. Gladden Spit near Placencia is known for encounters with these gentle, filter-feeding giants, who are attracted to the area by the delicious fish-eggs produced by spawning snapper. The best chance of seeing a whale shark during a dive occurs just before and after full moon, when there are higher plankton levels in the water.

  • Dive Type: Open-ocean
  • Recommended Level: Intermediate
  • Featured Shark: Whale shark
  • When to Go: March-June and around a full moon

The Canyons – Rangiroa, French Polynesia

(Grégory Lecoeur)
(Grégory Lecoeur)

Inside Tiputa Pass, the Canyons is one of many great shark dive-sites in French Polynesia. During an incoming current, divers begin in the mouth of the pass, finding shelter in an underwater cavern and waiting for grey reef sharks to appear.

The dive continues through the pass, pausing in several canyons along the way for shark observation. Strong current attracts upwards of 200 grey reef sharks from June to July and a smaller number of great hammerheads at the beginning of the year.

  • Dive Type: Drift
  • Recommended Level: Advanced with drift-diving experience
  • Featured Shark: Great hammerheads and grey reef sharks
  • When to Go: January-March for great hammerheads; June and July for grey reef sharks

Pyramid Rock – False Bay, South Africa

Cow shark in False Bay (Derek Keats)
Cow shark in False Bay (Derek Keats)

South Africa might be famous for its great white shark diving and sardine migration, but it’s also one of two places in the world to dive with the prehistoric-looking cow (aka seven-gill) sharks. The chances of encountering this rarely seen shark are high in the shallow kelp forest. In fact, up to 18 seven-gills can be seen at once, because of their behaviour as social feeders.

You’ll need a 7mm wetsuit or drysuit to enjoy the dive, says PADI but, despite the cooler waters, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

  • Dive Type: Kelp forest
  • Recommended Level: Beginner
  • Featured Shark: Cow shark
  • When to Go: May-August

Open Water – San Diego, California, USA

Mako shark (Joe Romeiro)
Mako shark (Joe Romeiro)

Southern California is one of the best spots in the world to catch a glimpse of lightning-fast shortfin mako sharks, open-ocean hunters that follow their prey to the San Diego coast from June to November. They are often spotted alongside sleek blue sharks, so divers can go diving without a cage with both of these beautiful pelagic predators simultaneously.

  • Dive Type: Kelp forest
  • Recommended Level: Beginner
  • Featured Shark: Shortfin mako & sleek blue shark
  • When to Go: June-November

Osprey Reef – North Queensland, Australia

Wobbegong (Steve Weinman)
Wobbegong (Steve Weinman)

This world-renowned reef is globally recognised. One of the best shark-spots on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is Osprey Reef, where you can spot grey reef sharks, silvertips, wobbegongs (aka carpet sharks) and much more. Liveaboards are a great way to make the most of your time in this spectacularly busy reef ecosystem, says the training agency. Prime season is any time from June to August.

  • Dive Type: Coral reef
  • Recommended Level: Beginner
  • Featured Shark: Grey reef sharks, silvertips and wobbegongs
  • When to Go: June-August

Lemon Drops – Jupiter, Florida, USA

Lemon sharks (Rayna Onan @ Ocean Rays Photography)
Lemon sharks (Rayna O’Nan @ Ocean Rays Photography)

Jupiter has become world-famous for the annual migration of lemon sharks during the winter months. The yellow-tinged sharks congregate around wrecks and deeper ledges from Jupiter to Palm Beach. Every year from December to late March these lemon sharks, which can grow longer than 4m, follow the nutrient-rich Gulf Stream. Year-round shark encounters, including with bull sharks, makes Jupiter a top pick for exciting encounters!

  • Dive Type: Wrecks / deep ledges
  • Recommended Level: Beginner
  • Featured Shark: Lemon sharks
  • When to Go: December to late March

PADI training for shark divers – and free courses!

Whale shark (Rodrigo Friscione)
Whale shark (Rodrigo Friscione)

These four training courses are considered by PADI to be useful for divers with sharks high on their wish-lists – and it is offering three Divernet readers a free eLearning course of their choice.

Enriched Air Diver (Nitrox): PADI says that its most popular speciality will teach divers to stay under water longer to have more incredible marine-life encounters.

Night Diver: Experience marine life in a whole new way, says PADI. Not only will you learn to navigate under water at night, but you’ll be able to witness nocturnal sea creatures (like some sharks) that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.

Digital Underwater Photographer: Share your amazing shark and ray memories with buddies, friends and family.

AWARE Shark Conservation: Learn about shark anatomy, conservation issues, specific information on sharks in your local area, and how you can get involved to help protect them.

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