What’s on your bucketlist? Cage diving with sharks had been on mine for as long as I could remember. So, when a business trip took me to Hawaii, I tacked on an extra two weeks of vacation, and as soon as the meetings ended, I jumped in a car and headed for the North Shore. The agenda? Cage diving in Oahu!
It’s one of those adventures you see in movies or National Geographic, not something your everyday person does. In fact, it took years before I met someone who had actually cage dived. I can’t begin to express how excited I was to do it in Hawaii.
When I booked the shark dive, I started looking for a place to stay on Oahu’s North Shore. Our dive left early morning, and it’s about 45 minutes from Honolulu to Haleiwa, where the tour departs. When I realized Turtle Bay Resort (picture Forgetting Sarah Marshall) was nearby, the decision was made. I wasn’t staying in Honolulu when I could stay at Turtle Bay! I booked two nights- why not make it a romantic getaway with my husband while also having an epic adventure?! As an aside, many visitors to Oahu never leave Honolulu- don’t be one of them! Oahu has so much to offer beyond the city, which is congested and touristy.
Turtle Bay Resort
Despite being a wonderful resort on the North Shore, I found Turtle Bay to be surprisingly affordable. Sure, there are crazy expensive bungalows, but the hotel rooms almost all offer ocean views and won’t break the bank. Our room had a balcony directly facing the water, and offered stunning sunrise views.
The resort is beautiful! The private beach isn’t huge, but climb over the rocks to find it stretches on. There isn’t much to see right off the Turtle Bay beach, snorkeling wise. The water is clear, but what coral remains is dead. That was the only downfall of the entire resort I could find!
The morning of our cage dive, we awoke to an amazing sunrise and grabbed breakfast at the hotel. I had a Sunrise Breakfast, which has become our favorite ‘Hawaiian breakfast’ to make at home! It’s simple, but I love it- papaya filled with yogurt, granola and blueberries. Sadly, the papayas at home just don’t taste like those in Hawaii!
The Cage Dive
Hawaii Shark Encounters was, and is still as far I’m aware, the only cage dive operator on the island. The tour leaves from Haleiwa. Departure times may vary by season, but the earlier the better for calmer water. We took the 8am time, I just couldn’t make the 7am departure. It’s vacation in Hawaii after all! Maybe we were just lucky, but the ocean was perfectly placid.
Imagine the early morning air whipping by as you boat 3 miles off the coast, into international waters, to find an anchored cage awaiting you. This cage dive never fully submerges, so you’ll just wear a snorkel. I’m not SCUBA certified, so it was perfect for me. A reality photo of me snorkeling- looking like a drowned rat! Not sure how some gals manage to post snorkeling photos where they look like divas!
Your tour will be broken into two groups, since the cage can’t hold everyone at once. My advice- jump for the first group. We had quite a bit more time in the cage than the second group.
The sharks are so regular, the tour operator will give you a refund if you don’t see any! This guarantee gave me peace of mind, but the sharks were waiting for us when we arrived.
Once the boat anchors, off you go into the cage. There were 5-6 Galapagos sharks during our swim. My video quality isn’t as stellar as I’d like, but safe to say, it was absolutely thrilling in person! (Side note: the tour now offers a rental GoPro). The guides will warn you not to stick anything out of the cage- hands, feet, or GoPros. I took their advice, so forgive the bars in the videos!
The sharks will swim right up to the cage, close enough to touch. It was awe inspiring to look into their eyes, but also to realize they were on all sides and below you too. Shark Week on the Discovery Channel has always fascinated me, and I felt like I was in an episode. Sure, it was a thrilling experience, but it’s also educational. The sharks aren’t those in movies- they don’t attack the cage or try to leap into the top of it. Honestly, they just seemed curious. Does that mean I’d jump in without a cage- no! But, after a cage tour, you might see these beautiful creatures in a new light.
I’ve swam with dolphins and beluga whales, pet a wolf, a tiger, and many other furry creatures. All of these experiences, though, were in captivity. That’s probably best for my health, but it was completely different to be the visitor in the animal’s world. It was me in the cage, not the other way around. I hope someday I’ll get to swim with the big boys- the Great Whites in South Africa or Mexico. Nonetheless, cage diving in Oahu was one of my best travel experiences. If you’re in Hawaii, don’t miss this incredible opportunity. Seeing it on video is just not the same as doing it in person!
Looking for more Hawaii inspiration? How about a week in Maui?