Shark Cage Adventure on Oahu

When I think of sharks I am immediately brought to a level of irrational fear.  I know all the facts about how rare an attack is but something about a large predator with row upon row of razor sharp teeth IN the ocean where there are numerous scary critters just scares me, call me crazy but it does.


The Galapagos Shark
I do go in the ocean often though and enjoy it greatly.  I snorkel and scuba dive and have even tried surfing, but that has always been near shore and in water that I can see quite well in.  Even though I enjoy being part of the underwater world I do often think about sharks and other critters that can hurt me.

So what do you do when you have a fear?  Well in my world you tackle it head on; book a trip to Hawaii, then book some shark time and go for it!  OK, so I wasn't that brave. We were already here, and I decided on a cage dive so these are baby steps, but it's something right?!


I could have done a diving tour amongst sharks out off the coast of Oahu but that seemed a rather drastic step and in all honesty I just do not trust myself to stay calm.  I fear I may panic at the site of a shark (sort of like I do even snorkeling with an common needle fish) and try to shoot up to the surface injuring myself.

A happy medium in tackling this fear was a shark cage dive or snorkel.  Luckily just off the North Shore here on Oahu is a great company, Hawaii Shark Encounters in Haleiwa, that offer this exact thing.  We live only 20 minutes from there at the moment and with my sister in law in town it seemed a great time to try it out and see if I could tackle my fears at least a little bit.  Even though I researched and found this to be very safe, fears still lingered

What were my irrational fears?  Just to name a few...
  • The shark will leap inside the cage!
  • My feet will stick out of the cage in an effort to stabilize myself and a shark will bite it!
  • I will throw up from motion sickness!
  • The boat will capsize leaving us all swimming cage less with the sharks!
  • Some other critter would end up in the cage with us.
Dylan, my sister in law, and I left the house at 5:30am in order to make the 6:30 boat tour.  Yes I got up at 5:30, no small feat for our household.  They suggest you arriving a few minutes early in order to get waivers signed and payment made.  We arrived at Haleiwa Boat Harbor a bit early.

There are bathrooms so we utilized that while we waited.  The boat itself does not hold the cage so don't bother looking for the boat by that parameter.  Drive around to the inner circle of the harbor and you'll see their sign.


We loaded the boat and filled out our release forms and paid.  They prefer to have payment by credit card as it moves things along more quickly.  You can also purchase an underwater camera on the boat for $20, overpriced but well worth it if you have no other options.  They do allow you to bring your own camera and also offer a professional photographer sometimes, so inquire when you book the tour.


The ride out is beautiful especially at 6:30 when the sun is rising over the coastline mountains.  We lucked out and had a very calm ride out.  After a quick 15 minute ride we arrived at the shark cage which is stationed out in the water.  On our way out safety procedures were explained and the staff gave a brief overview of what to expect.


As soon as we pulled up the sharks appeared.  Apparently, they have become quite accustomed to feeding from local fisherman so as soon as they hear the engines they come.  One of the biggest issues people have with shark cage diving is the way the water is chummed to lure them over, changing the way they feed and bringing the sharks closer to shore.  Perhaps the best part of this tour was that the sharks come to the engine sound and there was no bait or chum thrown in at all.  I mean who wants to swim amongst fish guts anyway?  Not sure how that would work but we were thrilled it was a non issue.

The shoreline that was my saving grace against motion sickness
As the sharks hovered around my sense of anxiety kicked in, along with my motion sickness.  The ride out was great but as soon as you start to sit rocking along in the ocean and thoughts start racing through your mind as you see fin after fin rise out of the water anxiety and excitement ensue.  We lucked out with a calm day but in all honesty I can't imagine it much rougher.  Had we gone later in the day I am quite confident the trip would have been much harder on my senses.

We had 14 people on the tour so we did 2 groups of 7 in the cage.  I had read it was best to go second as you typically get a little extra time so we waited.  As the first group entered the cage, I kept my eyes on the shoreline to help easy the nausea and listened to our tour guide.  He was really knowledgeable about Hawaii, Oahu, and sharks in general and seemed thrilled to be there and answer any and all questions.  The first group was in the cage for about 15-20 minutes.

Yes, really, THAT close!
When our turn came the excitement won out over the anxiety for me. The staff knew exactly how to help us in and out of the cage so even though it seemed dangerous they helped and no one was hurt. Dylan and my sister in law got in first as I readied my camera.  The cage itself is pulled right up along side the boat so you never get in the water outside the cage.  After everyone gets in they let the cage float out about 10 feet away from the boat so that it is not banging against the side.  The motion was still something I could sense but with all the excitement it was a non issue in the cage.

Dangling feet yet no bites at all
Cage bottom


The water is cool especially at that hour but you quickly catch your breathe and when you dip down and see all those sharks, you forget the water temperature immediately.  There were easily 10-15 sharks swimming right up to the cage checking us out.  After reading a lot of reviews it seems that this is quite the norm for the amount of sharks seen on this tour.

Amazing, glorious, mind blowing...that is all I can come up with to summarize how cool an experience this really is!  Better yet it is an experience that soothes any fears you may have of the ocean and sharks.

We stayed in the cage for about 20-25 minutes and although I wanted to stay all day watching the sharks it was really rough in the cage and 20 minutes is about all you want to do.  Trying to hold on to the metal bars of the cage is tough and we all got banged around a bit in an effort to see all we could and hold on at the same time.

One thing that surprised me was that we never really felt crowded inside the cage.  There were 7 of us and the driver said that is the amount they usually have in the cage at any given time, give or take a couple people.  As you come out there is a hot water shower on board and believe me it felt amazing!  It was a chilly ride back but only took about 15 minutes and the views of the mountains were enough to warm you...almost.

Dylan and I trying to stay warm on the ride back
All in all this was a great trip.  The staff was knowledgeable and helpful and the water was clear and perfect for viewing underwater sea life.  It surprised me as when we stopped the boat it looked like dark water but as soon as you enter you can see it is actually very clear.  The tour costs slightly over $100 and usually that is way too much for us to justify, but this is such a unique experience that I really did walk away feeling like it was worth it.

Since I am writing this you know I was not eaten by a shark.  All my fears were unfounded, although my legs and arms did stick outside the cage on multiple occasions.  The sharks were not aggressive at all, just slowly swimming around exploring us.  Most were at least 6 feet long with the largest being over 10 feet long.  Galapagos sharks are quite well mannered and we never felt in danger at all.  I was not eaten, the sharks did not jump in the cage with us, the boat stayed upright, and although I came close I did not even get sick!  Imagine that, ha!

I highly suggest this tour to anyone coming to visit Oahu!  If you are afraid of sharks at all I would suggest it even more.  It helped me immensely to get past my fear and see them for the gentle creatures most of them are.  It was one of the coolest things we have done so far!

Tips for the tour:
  • Take Dramamine or a similar motions sickness pill at least 1 hour before the tour starts.  In hindsight I should have taken 2 as I am prone to motion sickness.  The sea is rough and that is on a calm day.  They do cancel the tour if the water is too rough or bad weather is in play.
  • You can bring small children 5 years old and up but honestly I don't know if that is a great idea.  My son would have loved the sharks but being stable in the cage would be a challenge.
  • Bring a towel and a sweatshirt.  When you get out of the water the air is chilly and a sweatshirt would have gone a long way to minimize that.
  • Bring a waterproof camera.  The picture opportunities are too great to pass up.
  • Bring your own snorkel and mask if you have one.  They provide them for you but having your own would be nicer.

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20 comments:

  1. Good on you for tackling that fear!

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    1. Thanks Talon, you more than anyone knows how real it was:)

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  2. I'm about to start practicing snorkeling in a swimming pool, so that I will hopefully be competent by next January when we expect to be living on Oahu for three months. But, snorkeling with sharks, even in a cage? I think not, so thanks for letting me have the experience vicariously.

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    1. Ha, well the snorkeling bit is not too hard! You'll do fine. And honestly aside from the motion sickness this shark cage gig was amazing! Think how great you'll feel after tackling that fear!

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  3. Great write-up! We're planning a trip to Hawaii next year and I came across your review. Not sure we'll do the sharks but honestly, never even knew it was an option (and my husband would love it). Loved reading about your experience!

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    1. Oh wonderful, you will love it here! We are here a while so I plan to write up each and every hike with good info so you know all the ins and outs. We've been to lods of lesser heard of spots alrady so it should be useful. Keep checking back)

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  4. Had a chance to bath with the white sharks in Maldives.

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    1. Ohh, that sounds awesome! Tell me more...

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  5. Very cool. Congratulations for getting over your fear! Kind of like how I am with my fear of heights... So what do I do? Climb mountains. And my fears of the dark and of insects... Hence, the jungle:)

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    1. Thanks Melissa, I am proud of my sil and me. My son was gung ho the whole time. I thought I was going to throw up the whole night and mornng I was so worried, ha! I always try to tackle things head on, I was totally scared of dark and small spaces until my kids pushed me through a small uncharted cave with a phone to light it up and belly crawling and everythng. Knowing first hand that nothing bad happened is the best cure to fear I think:) Good luck!

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  6. OMg OMG OMG - scary! Wow! Good on you, still don't think I could do that even after swimming with Nurse sharks in Belize. Your ones look very angry Eek!

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    1. No, they didn't seem scary at all. Swimming around all slow and calm, I seriously wanted to reach out and pet them:) Were you in a cage in Belize?? I don't think I could do cageless but I suppose if the opportunity presented itself I would! For now I need to get back to diving...**le sigh**

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  7. Wow!

    I am very jealous! It looks like a National Geographic expedition. Remember, shark attacks are actually rare and deaths even rarer. The movie Jaws really gave poor sharks a bad rap. They are beautiful creatures. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Yes that movie ruined sharks:) It was qute the adventure for me, no doubt! Next time you get a chance go for it!

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  8. Looks like you had a great experience and tombs up for fighting the fear! I do not snorkel but I dive, and for some strange reason have always been hesitant to those cage dives...it is so unnatural and in the way disturbing.

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    1. Thanks so much! I don't think the cages are un naatural really, certainly not disturbing or I wouldn't have taken part. For me it was a good middle ground and I saw no harm in it.

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  9. I’m really scared of these large predators. I can’t imagine having this experience by my own, never.

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    1. It was actually quite beautiful and helped me feel less nervous about them. They move so slowly and calmly.

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  10. SO AWESOME!! I've wanted to do for ever! I didn't realise you can do this in Hawaii. I'm glad to hear that the sharks still come without having to chum the water.

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    1. Yes I was really glad too. It was so much fun! Are you coming to Hawaii soon? I would guess it is best during the summer as the water gets a lot more rough on the North Shore in winter!

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