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This is the one hundred and eighty-seventh in a series of reviews of the best diving destinations around the world. In this post, the focus is on great white shark tours. In addition to this series on diving destinations, the best worldwide liveaboard diving locations and services are reviewed in their own series. To check them out, or others in this series, click on Liveaboards/Resorts on the menu at the top and choose a title from the list.
Have you ever been great white shark diving before? If so, I’d love to know about your experience. What dive shop or liveaboard did you use? Which dive spots are the best and what are the conditions there regarding the visibility, current, water temperature, sealife attractions, etc.? Please post your response in the comments section at the bottom and we’ll all learn something we can use.
There is probably nothing more terrifying and at the same time intriguing than great white sharks. Today many people are finding that they are widely misunderstood. To get a close look without any real threat or danger, several locations are available to see them from the safety of a shark cage or even on the deck of a boat if that suits you better. Several dive operations in South Africa offer half-day and full-day cruises with the opportunity to see them from surface shark cages suitable for certified and non-certified divers. In South Australia and off Baja California, liveaboards provide full service 2-6 day tours that not only offer surface cages but mid-water and seafloor cages as well that permit a much different viewpoint. All use chumming and bait lines and are in areas where the sharks are common due to natural feeding opportunities on the likes of seals, fish, or penguins.
Below are descriptions of the five best known and most popular shark cage sites. Please review the information and take a glance at the videos to get a real feel for the excitement of the experience.
Top Great White Shark Tours
- Gansbaai, South Africa
- Mossel Bay, South Africa
- False Bay, Cape Town, South Africa
- Guadalupe Island, Mexico
- Neptune Islands, Australia
Gansbaai, South Africa
Often called the “Great White Shark Capital of the World”, Gansbaai is located in the Western Cape Province of South Africa two hours southwest of Cape Town. This small fishing town has become a major tourist attraction due primarily to a large number of great whites that are there year-round focusing on the area called Shark Alley between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock where they feed on the 5,000 African penguins and 60,000 Cape fur seals in residence there. In addition, southern right whales and several species of dolphins are commonly sighted.
The diving is done in cages attached to the boat at the surface after chumming and the use of baited lines to bring them close. Divers and non-divers can participate and it is offered to people who just want to stay on deck, as well. Eco-awareness and training in preparation are emphasized.
One operator also offers day cruises 2 hours outside the bay for mako and blue shark dives in open water. These are guided dives for those with at least an open water certification at 5-10 meters (16-33 feet) of depth.
- Seasons and Conditions – While shark cage diving leads to sightings all year, the best time is from April through September when they more consistently come to the Shark Alley area for feeding.
- Air temperature is mild with average daily highs from 18°C (64°F) in June through September to lows of 23°C (73°F) in January and February.
- The water temperature runs from lows of 14-16°C (57-60°F) from April through September to highs of 18-20°C (64-68°F) from October through March. Outfitters provide you with adequate thermal protection for the cage dives.
- Rainfall is low all year and it rarely is a factor influencing diving.
- Currents are generally mild to non-existent in the Shark Alley site.
- Visibility is typically 5-10 meters (16-33 feet).
All diving is done from small to medium-sized boats on half-day and day trips. No liveaboards are possible.
For my full review on shark cage diving in Gansbaai, please check out this post:
Mossel Bay, South Africa
Mossel Bay is a middle-sized city also in the Western Cape Province 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Cape Town and the same distance from Port Elizabeth. This area has a lot of interesting diving on diverse undersea terrain with many of the region’s colorful invertebrates, fish, small sharks like catsharks and shysharks, a couple of historic 19th-century wrecks, the possibility of whales and dolphins from June to November, and the occasional mantas, turtles, and ragged-tooth sharks. There is also a place called Shark Island about 10 minutes from the dock where great white sharks often congregate for feeding.
One dive shop runs regular baited cage diving tours there much like the ones in Gansbaai where chumming and baited lines are used to lure them to the cage mounted to the boat at the surface. Again, participants may decide to remain outside the cage on deck. No diving certification is required to get in the enclosure.
Aside from cage diving, there are dive sites and conditions suitable for all levels of diver. The dive shops are fully equipped to provide a range of training, equipment rental, guiding and boat tours.
- Seasons and Conditions – Diving is possible all year in Mossel Bay. The best time for great whites is from April through November but some are always in the Bay.
- Average daily air temperature highs range from 17°C (63°F) in August and September to 23°C (73°F) in January and February.
- Water temperature lows reach 15°C (59°F) in July and highs in January of 22°C (63°F). Most divers will want a 5-7mm wetsuit when the water is warmest and a drysuit with hood and gloves when it is at its coolest.
- It is relatively dry with low rainfall year-round and rain is not often a factor in the diving.
- Inside the bay, currents are usually mild. At deeper sites, it may be strong on occasion.
- Visibility is variable and has a range of 4-30 meters (12-100 feet).
All diving is done from shore or small to medium-sized boats on half-day and day trips. No liveaboards are possible.
For my full review on shark diving in Mossel Bay, please check out this post:
False Bay, Cape Town, South Africa
False Bay is a large body of water just to the southeast of downtown Cape Town. There is a lot of interesting diving there with rocky terrain on the west side and sandier bottoms on the east side. Lots of good sites are not far from shore on the west side with a nice array of cool water corals, sponges, kelp, and other invertebrates to go with a large variety of colorful fish and major attractions including catsharks, pyjama sharks, gully sharks, seven-gill sharks, a number of wrecks, resident African penguins near Simon’s Town, and a massive colony of Cape fur seals numbering 60,000 on Seal Island in the north-central portion of False Bay. A number of operators run shark cage dives, a few outside of the bay, but many near Seal Island where the great whites congregate for feeding.
The conditions are very similar to those of the other two South African shark cage regions with chumming, baiting, and divers on the surface within the cage attached to the boat.
The dive shops are fully equipped to provide a range of training, equipment rental, guiding and boat tours.
In the last several years, news reports indicate white shark sightings in False Bay are way down. Let’s hope it is not permanent. You can see from the video above published on July 10, 2019, that there was a fair number on that cruise. This article indicates something else: Something Fishy in False Bay as Great White Sharks Disappear
- Seasons and Conditions – Diving is possible all year in False Bay with the possibility of great whites historically best from October through March.
- Average daily air temperatures are mild with highs in February at 26.5°C (79.7°F) and lows in July 17.5°C (63.5°F).
- The water temperature range is 12-16°C (53.6-60.8°F) on the surface but can be 1-3°C cooler at depth. A 7mm wetsuit, hood, and gloves may suffice for some, but a drysuit is the best bet.
- Rainfall is only 515 mm (20 inches) per year and not often a factor in diving.
- Inside the bay, the current is not much of a factor.
- Visibility is variable from season to season. With northeasterly winds in winter, the visibility is often from 5-10 meters (16-35 feet) but can extend to 20 meters (68 feet) or beyond. During the summer, southeasterly winds can result in some surface chop and decrease visibility to less than 5 meters (16 feet). At the same time, the dirty surface water on the east side can be blown out actually creating better visibility there.
All diving is done from shore or small to medium-sized boats on half-day and day trips. No liveaboards are possible.
For my full review of scuba diving in Cape Town, please check out this post:
Guadalupe Island, Mexico
Located 265 kilometers (165 miles) off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico, Guadalupe Island is accessible on 5-6 day liveaboard cruises from August through October before the rains start. The 18-hour trip puts you on a site rich with tuna, Guadalupe fur seals, and sea lions, all of which attract large numbers of great white sharks looking for feeding opportunities.
The liveaboard yachts are well-equipped for diving and photography and run a very professional and full-service operation. Each vessel has several cages with air supplied from the surface through hoses or with tanks. Some cages remain at the surface and there is the possibility of non-certified divers in those. Other cages are submersible and in some cases, it is even possible to leave the cage with only a rail between diver and sharks.
In the off-season, these liveaboard yachts do safaris to the Socorro Islands.
- Seasons and Conditions – The shark cage tours only happen from August through October.
- Water temperature at that time is in a range from 19°C to 22°C (66°F to 72°F). Divers will likely be most comfortable in 7mm wetsuits or drysuits with hood and gloves.
- The rainy season begins in October toward the end of these cruises.
- Visibility is typically 30-45 meters (100-150 feet), great for photography.
For my review of Guadalupe cage diving liveaboards, please check out this post:
For pricing and details on the liveaboard yachts that do shark cage diving on Guadalupe Island and cruise to the Socorro Islands in the off-season, please check out these links:
- Nautilus Belle Amie
- Nautilus Explorer
- Nautilus Under Sea
- MV Solmar V
- Socorro Aggressor
- Socorro Vortex
Neptune Islands, Australia
The 4 Neptune Islands are in the mouth of the Spencer Gulf off Port Lincoln, South Australia. They are the home of albatross, rock parrots, sea eagles, sea lions, and Australia’s largest fur seal colony. The great whites are around all year with females which are larger arriving from April to August when they have the opportunity to feast on recently born seal pups.
The Princess II is a 23-meter vessel accommodating a maximum of 12 guests that runs 2-5 day cruises year-round. Two-day trips typically are for non-certified divers who use surface cages. The 3-5 day tours include the possibility of floor cages for certified divers only. Floor dives have average depths of around 18 meters (60 feet).
- Seasons and Conditions – Liveaboards run year-round with the peak time for sharks from April to August when the females arrive.
- The water temperature range is 14-22°C (57-72°F). 7mm wetsuits or drysuits with hood and gloves are recommended.
- Visibility is great at more than 20 meters (68 feet) at the surface and on the ocean floor, great for photography.
For pricing and details for the Princess II, the only yacht diving on the Neptune Islands, please check out this link:
Cold Water Gear
For my reviews of cold water scuba equipment, please check out this post:
Photography on Great White Shark Tours
With the interesting close-up shots of sharks and attractive seascapes, as well, there are excellent photo opportunities. For information and reviews of dive cameras, click here:
Scuba Diving Trip Insurance
A cushion for emergencies provides peace of mind when on vacation. I recommend this diving insurance as they have worldwide coverage and provide scuba divers a quality insurance and medical assistance service.
Feedback and Comments
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