If swimming with sharks is on your travel bucket list, these spots are officially recommended by PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
By CN Traveler
Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Mexico
Swim alongside gentle giants in the waters of Isla Mujeres, home to the largest concentration of whale sharks on the planet. If you’re a real whale shark fanatic, plan your trip during the annual Whale Shark Festival in July.
Maaya Thila, Maldives
Home to hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, and white tips that circle the dive site in large groups, Maaya Thila is one of the best spots in the world to swim alongside whale sharks. The largest species of fish, a whale shark can grow to be 46 feet long and weigh up to 15 tons. Hopefully you've practiced with Dory and brushed up on speaking whale.
Beqa Lagoon, Fiji
As one of the world's most shark-infested stretches of water, Beqa Lagoon has no shortage of toothy creatures to see. But, the stars of Beqa Lagoon are the tiger sharks, who swim alongside seven other species of sharks. The adventure doesn't stop there: the reef is also home to eagle rays and giant grouper, which can grow to be nearly eight feet long.
Cat Island, Bahamas
The untouched waters surrounding tranquil Cat Island include exciting diving topography such as steep walls and drop-offs, pristine reefs, and almost guaranteed encounters with the resident oceanic whitetip (pictured), tiger, reef, nurse, and lemon sharks.
For the ultimate thrill, venture into the waters surrounding the volcanic isle of Guadalupe, home to a large population of great white sharks. Many dive shops offer cage diving shark encounters for a truly up close and personal experience with these massive aquatic predators.
Wilmington, North Carolina
The Papoose was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1942, and its wreckage has remained below water ever since. On a daily basis, five to ten sand tiger sharks can be seen hanging around the sunken ship.
Tiger Beach, Bahamas
A white sandy bottom at 20 feet deep doesn’t sound exciting—until the resident sharks come into view. Tiger Beach offers open water shark dives with tiger sharks, great hammerheads, Caribbean reef sharks, lemon sharks, and spotted dolphins. Photographers will love the crystal clear waters and the toothy subject matter, but bring your big-boy/girl pants—nuzzling a giant lemon shark isn’t for everyone.
Cocos Island, Costa Rica
This epic dive is only accessible by liveaboard, and you’ll arrive to the dive site after a 32-hour cruise. You may recognize the Cocos Island once you see it, as the movie Jurassic Park was filmed there. Thrill-seeking divers will see schooling hammerheads, whitetip sharks, mantas, and whale sharks, and sometimes, pilot whales and humpback whales will also make an appearance. However, you will need to get your Advanced Diver Certification before this trip, as some of the dives are deep.
Fish Rock Cave, Australia
This 410-foot cave dive is one of the best in Oz, providing an exciting dive for even the most experienced of divers. Located on the east coast of Australia, this dive site is most famous for the gray nurse shark population that call it home year round. The current in this dive site can be quite strong at times, so you or your dive guide will need to take appropriate preparations.
Gansbaai, South Africa
The home of great white shark cage diving, Gansbaai should be on every adrenaline junkie’s bucket list. After all, what can get your blood pumping more than coming face to face with an Apex predator? You’ll need a full wetsuit and hood, as some operators don’t necessarily require scuba equipment. But the risk is worth it: seeing a great white is an experience that will be burned in your memory for a lifetime.