Da dum, Da dum, Da dum….
I hate scary movies; I’ve been a terror wimp my whole life. I have never even watched Jaws. The movie poster alone sent me into tears running for my mother and making me think twice about jumping into the lake – let alone an ocean. It was good that I grew up in the land locked Midwest as I was pretty sure that sharks couldn’t get to me there in Illinois River; however, I didn’t completely rule it out.
So when I spontaneously clicked on the ‘contact’ button on the Hawaii Shark Encounters Website – I have no idea what came over me.
Embracing Fear and Adventure
I’ve changed a lot since I was a kid – I used to be terrified of adventures, now I crave them. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m having a midlife crisis….I mean how else could you explain my participation in the Mongol Rally this summer? But for whatever reason, seeing sharks up close and personal in the Pacific Ocean suddenly seemed exciting to me instead of terrifying. It’s kind of like when all of a sudden I started liking olives…I’m not really sure why, but it just happened. Sharks, olives…not quite the same, but suddenly I’m craving them both.
Hawaii Shark Encounters
Hawaii Shark Encounters runs tours off the North Shore of Oahu; home of the big waves. The website provides a lot of information on the tour and sharks in general. Their big warning about the tour is not about the sharks, but about seasickness. Apparently it’s a small boat about 3 miles away from shore, which equals a pretty rocky experience. I decided I would pack my Dramamine just in case.
My friend Ron and I got up, made a big pot of coffee and took off for the North Shore at 5AM. Yes, that wasn’t a typo. The tour started at 6:30AM, apparently the water is a bit calmer then. As I got closer to the harbor, my nerves started to kick in a bit, but strangely I felt rather calm. Since I had been involved in so many ‘questionable’ activities around the world, I felt like to do this activity in America was probably the safest place I could ever do it! We are a country of ‘watch out’, ‘be careful’, ‘danger’, ‘sign this waiver’…so I felt pretty relaxed.
We arrived on time and easily found the boat. There were 9 other people signed up to meet sharks up close and Ron decided he would simply come along for the ride and be my photographer. I was excited for the familiar company! We popped some Dramamine and the boat took off.
The Ride to the Shark Diving Cage
There were two guides on the boat who lectured us on safety instructions while we drove the 3 miles out to the floating cage. The morning was gorgeous and the sun was just starting to rise. My coffee had kicked in and I was feeling alive as the warm Hawaiian sun hit my body. Calm, cool, collected. The guide said that only 5 of us could be in the cage at the same time so we would need to go in two groups. “Who wants to go first?” he asked.
Without hesitation I raised my hand and said, “I’ll go.” Ron turned around and looked at me somewhat surprised; I’m pretty sure he was more worried for my safety than I was! My feeling is that I might as well be bold and first, else I just get nervous waiting around.
There it was – off in the distance, a red flag attached to a silver floating cage. Rocking gently on glistening blue water. It looked safe enough…
Entering the Shark Cage
We were lectured again on safety of how to get in and out of the cage. I had the feeling that the only danger I was really in was slipping on the boat itself somehow. I slowly descended down the ladder into the surprisingly warm water, steadied myself on the rungs of the cage and put on my mask. I took one last look at Ron as he snapped pictures and I dipped my head underneath the water.
There they were, staring back at me. Galapagos and Sandbar sharks calmly swam around the cage circling around the boat and us; there were about 12 of them and 5 of us. The biggest ones seemed to be way over 6 feet. I was surprised at how big they were when they swam underneath the cage. They weren’t frenzied or menacing, but instead they seemed to simply be going about their business. They were sleek, and moved about fluidly. It was sort of like seeing the Abominable Snowman after Hermey the elf pulls out his menacing teeth and he’s simply a white fuzzy snowman.
The hardest part about the cage experience was the fact that it moved around constantly in the waves, I felt like I was being jostled around like a pin ball. It was challenging to hold on, try to take photos, dodge a few jelly fish, AND make sure that my foot didn’t inadvertently float outside of the bars and end up as shark breakfast. Since we were 3 miles from shore the waves and subsequent cage movement was pretty substantial. Even though the cage floated, it didn’t move as fluidly as the boat does on water so after a while even in my Dramamine state I started to feel a bit queasy. I stayed in the cage for about 20 minutes and then got out to let other people in and give my stomach a break. Ron greeted and eagerly waited for my underwater report of shark sightings. I survived! But first, I had the pleasure of a warm fresh-water shower.
Overall the experience was quite fun and very safe. It was really beautiful to simply see the sharks swim so close by. It was exhilarating but not terrifying…perfect! Plus – I loved the warm ‘shower’ at the end – it was a great touch! Finally, if you didn’t have a camera with you, you could buy a disposable one on the boat.
The website talked extensively how the tour would include an opportunity to really learn about sharks; the website states “A very important part of our tour is shark education”. During the boat ride to the cage we were supposed to get a ‘talk’ on shark biology, behavior, and learn about the importance of them in the Hawaiian culture. Unfortunately this didn’t happen at all. The only things the guides really briefed us on were the safety instructions.
Would I recommend it?
Yes. However I would like to get the shark education promised on the website. I’m sure that if we had asked, the guides would have provided it. But in the excitement of the moment, I honestly forgot about it.
To get more information or to book a tour check out
Hawaii Shark Encounters – www.hawaiisharkencounters.com
Learn more about the cage
Disclosure: Hawaii Shark Encounters hosted my shark cage experience . However, all of the opinions expressed here are my own – as you know how I love to speak my mind!
By 50+ and on the Run November 1, 2011 - 7:20 am
I didn’t think I wanted to do this, but you’ve made it sound pretty cool. Maybe it goes back on the list!
By Amanda November 1, 2011 - 1:06 pm
I, too, was really excited about this experience in Hawaii. I’ve always been fascinated by sharks, and really would like to see them up-close. However, there were no sharks to be found the day I went out! Glad to see a few were around the day you went!
And I agree that the warm water shower after getting out of the ocean is a great touch!
By Barbara Weibel November 1, 2011 - 1:33 pm
Amazing adventure – I’d love to do it someday.
By Sherry November 2, 2011 - 4:05 am
You should! For me it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it may be. But they didn’t bait the sharks at all either which I appreciated.
By Roberto November 1, 2011 - 2:20 pm
It is very simple, you are amazing and great! I am glad that you didn’t feed the shark with your foot. Don’t forget that also we ara a country of “Take care.”
By Nancy & Shawn Power... Inspiring YOU To Travel! November 1, 2011 - 3:07 pm
Wow! We have been eyeing this tour for a while, a bit nervous about it though until now.
Your blog has eased the worry, thanks.
Nancy & Shawn
By Jodi Henderson November 1, 2011 - 9:19 pm
Hmmm…I kind of want to do something like this, so I put cage diving in South Africa on my maybe list. Wonder how well it compares to your experience in Hawaii. I’m still a bit of chicken, so we’ll see if I ever work up the courage. 🙂
PS – Jaws is a great movie, despite the cheesy mechanical shark. You should check it out!
By Deb November 2, 2011 - 10:39 am
Awesome Sherry! You really are having great adventures! I would love to do this. We’ve swam with nurse sharks in Belize and seen reef sharks diving in Mexico and Honduras but it would be awesome to be up close and personal with the “man eaters” in a cage. Now, are you going to watch Jaws or what? Now that you’ve conquered the sharks, I think you wil be able to conquer the movie:D
By Michelle November 2, 2011 - 4:56 pm
If you’re still in Oahu, you should come to Lemonade Alley! November 12th 8am-2pm at the `Iolani School Baseball field where there will be 32 lemonade stands set up by kid-entrepreneurs, selling lemonade. This will be your photo of the week for sure!
By Kirk Horsted November 3, 2011 - 12:41 am
Shark steak–Yum! Next time, catch one, freeze ‘er up, bring it back to the God’s Country, and I’ll grill it up with some mango chili relish + rum-raisin-sweet potato puree, and a fine Zinfandel. If you catch it with your bare hands, that Zin’s a case! (But don’t let them do the same thing to you; they have terrible taste in wine…)
By sarah wu November 3, 2011 - 6:50 pm
wow Sherry, what a adventure. I don’t think I’m brave enough to do this but it looks pretty cool and the experience must be memorable.
By Erik November 4, 2011 - 9:12 pm
I’d love to do this, just not sure I’d have the nerve when the time came to come to get into the cage.
Guess I was traumatized by JAWS!
By Hawaii Attractions November 6, 2011 - 1:33 am
The waters in Hawaii are a bit cold, so only certain types of sharks come out, nevertheless, it’s an awesome activity!
If you’re still here, we’d love to see you come out to Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor. It’s the newest addition to memorials at Pearl Harbor!
By Sherry November 6, 2011 - 3:02 am
Thanks so much for visiting my site. Yes – I found the shark experience to be loads of fun – yet more calm than I was expecting! I leave Oahu Sunday (today) and head to the Big Island next. Sorry I missed the aviation museum – will be on my list for next time! I did go to Pearl Harbor – but just haven’t had time to write about it yet!
By Jami Raye November 7, 2011 - 8:47 pm
WOW that looks incredible! I swam with Dolphins the last time I was in Hawaii and it was amazing! Nothing beats that tropical paradise! Kauai Vacation Rentals here I come!
By Anil November 20, 2011 - 10:19 am
I was a bit surprised to find out that the cage just is out there all the time…
By Sherry November 20, 2011 - 11:12 pm
Well – I think the take the cage out there early and then bring it in at the end of the day. But the take it out there before they take the tourists out there – that’s all I know for sure!
By Jacqueline December 4, 2011 - 11:37 pm
Beautiful photos, and such an amazing blog! I will definitely be subscribing!
By Amy February 20, 2012 - 10:33 am
Its so amazing and very scary what they made ……..
By EJ Juen Jr March 25, 2012 - 7:36 pm
Hi Sherry, this looks very thrilling. I’m planning to try this kind of large fish encounter later (hopefully next year) but with whale sharks in Donsol, Philippines. 🙂