Updated March 2023

Do you want to do something both exhilarating and educational? Grab some snorkel gear and have a Hawaii shark cage experience!

Our oceans are full of mysteries that humans are drawn to explore. They have underwater secrets and societies that researchers and scientists are dedicated to uncovering. Unfortunately, our oceans are suffering. The only hope is for humans to have a better understanding of our various oceans and their sea life. With that, let’s talk about sharks!

I’ve always been deathly afraid of sharks. I’m of the “Jaws” era, of course I am. Throughout my life, whenever I’ve been stressed or afraid of something, I inevitably would dream about swimming with sharks circling or swimming underneath me. They’re the reason I never learned to surf even though I’ve lived in some of the top surfing destinations in the world.

But alas, it’s time to start conquering my fears in life. My beloved and I planned on taking a holiday to Hawaii to celebrate life and new beginnings, though I don’t exactly know how celebrating life turned into, let’s go jump into the ocean with sharks. In any case, after a little homework and a lot of self motivating, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do it. It was time to conquer my fear of sharks.

Swim With The Sharks

We had our Hawaii shark cage experience with Hawaii Shark Encounters, located on Oahu’s beautiful North Shore and booked it before we (I) could chicken out. They’re a reputable tour company, promoting shark conservation, education, and ecotourism. This is not a “shark dive” since you’re not diving at all. This is a floating cage experience, only needing your mask and snorkel gear. The cage provides a barrier so humans and sharks can safely check each other out.

The Experience

Hawaii Shark Encounters offers different times for their excursions but I highly recommend going on the earliest departure to have a better chance of enjoying calm waters. In short, the later you go, the rougher the surf. Go early.

 The cage itself made me feel very safe, outfitted with plexiglass on the upper part so you feel totally protected. (I stupidly went into this with that scene from “Jaws” where the shark shoves his nose into the cage, firmly planted into my brain.) Since they do not submerge the cage, you are still on the surface which allows you to view the sharks with just snorkel gear.

I jumped in after my honey who was the first in our group to jump in, and I have to admit, a bit of panic set in. The sharks were RIGHT THERE! Thank God for all the yoga and meditation classes I attended in the past because both came in handy and helped me to calm the heck down so I could enjoy this little mid-life crises moment I took on.

Sure enough, I calmed down, settled in, and I suddenly found myself in total awe and dare I say…relaxation when they swam by us. What started out as total fear, turned into gratitude for the chance to get this close to these magnificent creatures. I didn’t die of fright, they weren’t scary like in my nightmares, and they were simply awesome. On average, they were about fifteen foot Galapagos reef sharks, and curious about us in a non-threatening way. They swam in front of us, behind us, below us, everywhere. And I felt totally safe.

It felt like I had finally faced a long running fear that had followed me my entire life. I’m not saying I conquered it, but at least I faced it. I can’t imagine not having taken the chance to have this experience.

Try it ! If I can do it, I swear, any person can do it. Other tour operators offer closer encounters where you can swim cage free but this was my cup of tea. It was just enough.

Sustainable and Ethical Tourism

A major concern for me when it comes to animals and tourism is the ethical practices of tour operators. Hawaii Shark Encounters has been in business for over a decade and their focus is ecotourism and education. They have an extensive outreach and conservation program with the goal of bringing awareness to the public about sharks and misconceptions like the ones I used to have.

Other old misconceptions are about shark experiences themselves. Many beliefs are based on operators who chummed the waters in order to attract the sharks. This tour operator doesn’t do that nor is it legal to chum in Hawaii. My husband and I would never give our business to any operators not operating in the best interest of animals or marine life. I encourage you to please do your homework and choose who you give your business to.

My takeaway from our shark cage experience was, sharks are not monsters. They are an essential part of the ecosystem, as every sea creature has a role to play. They are as curious about us as we are of them. A Hawaii shark cage experience is just one avenue towards getting a better understanding of them. It was definitely a thrill!