Swimming with Sharks in Hawaii

Need a little adrenaline boost during your next vacation?

Screw swimming with dolphins. I want the thrill of being close to one of the oceans most deadly predators.  MANO!!! Mano means Shark in Hawaiian.

For my 20th birthday, in 2011, my mother surprised me with a mother daughter trip to Hawaii. Although the trip provided any fantastic memories and incredible photos, one adventure stood out the most……. Swimming with Sharks.

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Our adventure began early in the morning where North Shore Shark Adventures picked us up from our hotel for our 6 am tour. This made it really convenient for us. We chose the early morning tour to take advantage of calmer water conditions. Our tour left Haleiwa Harbour and let me tell you, boarding a custom made aluminum hull boat is not a comforting thought when floating 3 miles off shore searching for sharks. The cage is then lowered into the water and my anticipation took over.

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I was the first of our tour group of 10 to volunteer and enter the submerged prison which held 5 people at a time. The visibility was absolutely stunning as I sunk my head under the cobalt blue water. I came back up to see if my mother found the courage to follow me into the blue….but she was hesitant. I knew she was scared because even as a kid she was never fond of water, but this was different. The terror came from looking down at the black abyss of the open water. As she was climbing the latter back out of the water, I reminded her this was a lifetime experience and she would regret not trying. She started to think and that’s when I played the mom card and counted to 3 (a trick she used on me when I was younger). Once she took the plunge, I reinserted my snorkel and followed her under. She was absolutely freaking out!!!! Not of fear but of utter excitement. Bubbles were flying everywhere. Like I mentioned earlier, the view was incredibly crystal clear and we were transported into another world. We were completely surrounded by what seemed like thousands of sharks. Every angle of the cage showed different kinds of the oceans most perfect predators.

Some of these sharks ranged from five to fifteen feet and were inches away from the cage. The sharks featured on this boat tour include the Gray reef, Galapagos, and Sandbar. Sadly, we didn’t get to see any hammer heads that day.

After our exciting experience, the salt water dehydrated us to the point where we were becoming nauseous with the sways of the boat waiting for the second group. I sat down again the side of the boat just in case but as I looked overboard I saw more sharks circling underneath me. I was filled with mixed emotions. Do I hurl my cookies over board…. or not? It’s a weird feeling looking at something so dangerous when you feel completely terrible.

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All in all, it was a fantastic experience. The staff was excellent, funny, knowledgeable, and made us feel comfortable. If I was to do it again or if someone asked for advice….definitely boost your electrolytes before you go. I can’t tell you how much coconut water I drank after just so I could get rehydrated and back to normal.

Is It Ethical?

A big question that’s always on my mind is….Is it Ethical? I’ve always questioned if swimming with dolphins and their ethical treatment. But when I got the chance to “dive in” with sharks I didn’t give it a second thought because they were in the wild.
Well, as a wildlife enthusiast, I started reflecting on my past shark experience and questioning whether my actions were supporting something questionable. So I started researching the subject.

Many cage diving tours promise shark views by enticing these lovable predators with “chum”, blood, or another type of bait to lure them close enough for selfies. This raises concerns regarding feeding wild animals can affect their behavior and disturb their natural balance. While on my tour with North Shore, they did not feed or have to lure the sharks in with bait. The motor of the boat is similar to crabbing vessels and the Sharks instinctively follow. Sharks are, true by nature, very timid animals but inquisitive and curious. Some companies do lure their Sharks, I was happy to find out that NorthShore did not.

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To summarize, there are so many arguments and complexities when it comes animal care. These magnificent beasts are not fed or drugged to perform for paying tourists. The only thing I can think of that would be unethical is the boats making noise and disturbing natural habitats. I honestly have no idea what the right answer is but I am thankful for my experience.

Thanks for reading.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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