Hanging with sharks seems like a risky proposition, but those who give it a try have found swimming with sharks to be a thrill like no other. Looking for a real honeymoon adventure? In honor of Shark Week, which kicks off on the Discovery Channel this week with an epic Michael Phelps vs. Shark showdown, we're rounding up the best honeymoon destinations where you can actually swim with sharks!
For the extreme adventurer, swimming with grey reef sharks in Bikini Atoll is a bucket list experience. “Philippe and I traveled there to research the sharks' behaviors for a documentary Nuclear Sharks that we co-hosted on Discovery Channel's SHARK WEEK last year,” says Ashlan Cousteau, co-host of Travel Channel's "Caribbean Pirate Treasure" series debuting August 20th.
For the unfamiliar, Bikini Atoll is not an easy place to get to. You will need to fly into Majuro, the capitol of the Marshall Islands, and then travel by boat two days north to Bikini. But once there the sharks act like no others. “Only a handful of people have ever been to Bikini so when the boat first were greeted with 12 curious sharks off the stern who were trying to figure out just what we were. Once in the water, 75 to 80 grey reef sharks were our constant companions,” says Cousteau. “To add to the epic adventure stay with Martin Daly on Berna Island. Philippe and I visited the resort while it was under construction with the owner, and surfing legend, Martin Daly and it was remarkable.”
If the Marshall Islands are too remote, there’s also the Great Whites off of Guadeloupe Island, Mexico. “I asked Philippe to take me there for my thirtieth birthday. During seal pupping season, dozens of white sharks come to hunt. It's an overnight trip out to the island on a live aboard boat where you spend two and a half days diving with the sharks in cages off the back of the boat or, if you are scuba certified, you can see the sharks from a submerged cage (which is where I spent most of my time),” says Cousteau.
Fans of swimming with sharks maintain that being in the water with these amazing beasts is mind-blowing. Not only is their size incredible, but the way they move in the water reminds you of graceful dancers floating through space. “My favorite experience diving with great whites is that after you spend some time with them you realize they are not mindless monsters. They are mostly curious and watching them as they swim close by to check you out is mind blowing. Let me tell you, when a 20 foot female Great White makes direct eye contact with you, time freezes, you both connect and it's a moment that stays with you for the rest of your life,” says Cousteau.
Remember, sharks are not the evil killing machines legend makes them out to be. They are beautiful creatures who, as apex predators, keep the ecosystem healthy. But like any apex predator you must treat them with caution and respect.
If you are ready for your own shark adventure, it doesn’t have to be during Shark Week – there’s amazing opportunities to experience and co-exist with sharks (to various degrees!) around all over the world, and we’ve rounded up some of the best.
No shark diving experience roundup would be complete without Gansbaai in Cape Town. “My husband and I flew to Cape Town, South Africa to go cage diving with Great white sharks. We awoke at 3 am to drive out to the cape where we submerged ourselves with the most dangerous beasts in the ocean. There is nothing more romantic than getting over your fears together,” says Collette Stohler of Roamaroo.com . “Once we were back on land, we climbed Table Mountain, dined at the V & A waterfront, and went wine tasting in Stellenbosch.”
A great place to do a cage diving experience is just outside of Cape Town. “I recommend Apex Predators, one of the leading shark diving companies in the world, to take our guests out to see the Great Whites! Plus, Cape Town is a city that is as full of life as it is adventure - and even if swimming with the sharks isn't your thing, you can get cozy with a couple of nights at La Residence in the Winelands, a charming getaway with access to the region's incredible wineries,” Lindsey Epperly of Epperly Travel.
If you are planning a trip between June and September, head south of the border to beautiful Mexico where you can get up close and personal with great white sharks, bull sharks, whale sharks, hammerheads or white tip reef sharks.” You can book snorkeling, diving, or cage diving tours around the country,” says Jessica Bisesto, senior editor at TravelPirates.com.
Head to Isla Mujeres to spot whale sharks off the coast of Cancun. “This is a popular tourist destination with plenty of great dining and nightlife options. Prefer to book an overnight tour or adrenalin-filled cage diving experience? Explore stunning Isla Guadalupe for a more intimate aquatic experience,” says Bisesto.
Despite Las Vegas calling the desert home, it has some of the world’s most unique shark experiences. And while Las Vegas offers great Shark Week activities, it also has a surplus of Only-in-Vegas experiences. Cozy up underwater at Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino where guests dive side-by-side with more than 30 sharks, including sandtiger, white tip and sandbar sharks, within the 1.3-million-gallon Shipwreck Exhibit. If you’re craving interaction – at arm’s length – Shark Reef Aquarium also offers its Animal Encounters program where guests have the opportunity to go above the Shipwreck Exhibit and feed sharks.
For those who would prefer to keep a little glass between them and Shark Week’s superstar, visitors can head to the Golden Nugget in Downtown Las Vegas. Once there, cowabunga down a clear waterslide that goes through the 200,000-gallon shark tank aquarium at the pool for a truly memorable experience.
Bora Bora is the ultimate honeymoon destination, and it also boasts amazing opportunities for travelers to swim with sharks. French Polynesia was actually featured on the Shark Week programming series last year, and will be featured once again this year. The newly-opened Conrad Bora Bora Nui, a gorgeous new resort in Bora Bora, offers an array of exciting local experiences for guests, and shark diving is one of them. Guests will dive into the mesmerizing underwater world beneath the turquoise water, where they will swim with the destination's famed blacktip sharks. Guests will also swim with manta rays, tropical fish and turtles, and can explore the beautiful coral formations of the reef. The hotel rents out snorkeling equipment so that guests have everything they need, and dives can also be arranged for a deeper look at Polynesian marine life.
San Diego is known for stunning beaches and incredible weather, but also offers visitors opportunities to swim, snorkel and dive with sharks. “Head to beautiful La Jolla to snorkel with leopard sharks, then enjoy a candlelit dinner for two at sunset,” says Bisesto. “If you’re looking to get more personal with great white sharks, head to Pacific Beach and book a cage dive experience you and your partner will never forget,” Bisesto says.
Turks And Caicos
In Turks and Caicos shark diving is very vibrant, with the island chain being set atop a 3,000 mile plateau above 6,000 ft. sea walls. Because of the warm waters, Turks and Caicos flourishes with Caribbean reef and hammerhead sharks.
“TCI is your best bet for scoring a sighting of a shark because of their environment. Other Caribbean islands will be hit or miss but you're more than likely to score a sighting on a trip here,” says Kerry Sherin of WhereToStay.com.
France in the Caribbean, truly. Mountainous terrain with vistas and beautiful bays, white and golden sand beaches, gourmet French cuisine, many fabulous restaurants, nightclubs, sidewalk cafe’s; picturesque harbor with luxurious yachts, lots of shopping, designer and other. It has a little bit of everything. Chic and glamour with a laid back island vibe. “In St. Barths, find yourself swimming among many types of sea life, from turtles and fish to sharks. However, because the area is considered a Natural Reserve, it is forbidden to attract sharks using any kind of bait or lures. Therefore, it is not guaranteed you will see a shark on your trip but the views are still sure to please,” says Sherin.
As an ever popular honeymoon destination in the Maldives, One&Only Reethi Rah brings a side of adventure to the water with the resort’s whale shark adventure experience. For those not wishing to hear the theme of Jaws playing in their head while diving in the water, they can be assured that Whale Sharks are some of the friendliest creatures in the sea. This gentle giant feeds on plankton, and yet can reach a size of more than 10 meters. The shallow waters off South Ari Atoll are a few favorite spots to snorkel or dive alongside these amazing creatures, a journey just 40 minutes away by seaplane, or two-and-a-half hours by speed boat.
North Carolina’s Crystal Coast
Known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”, more than 2,000 vessels have made their unlikely final resting place at the Crystal Coast. With average water temperatures reaching 80 degrees F and approximately 75 feet of sparklingly clear visibility, Crystal Coast diving is an experience unlike anything else in the world. From shipwrecks to aquatic life (including an array of species of sharks), the Crystal Coast offers top notch diving. The infamous pirate, Blackbeard, sunk his ship “Queen Anne’s Revenge” two miles off the coast, lending the opportunity to explore the 300 year-old shipwreck. The site is largely popular for two reasons: Divers are almost guaranteed to see between five and 20 sharks — and nothing in the sea lurks like a sand tiger.
Port Lincoln, South Australia, is considered the premier aquatic playground of the state, if not the country. At the very tip of the shark-tooth-shaped Eyre Peninsula that bites into the Southern Ocean, it's a diverse, rugged, pristine and little-known destination, even among Australians. It’s also home to the actual waters where Jaws was shot!
Specialist tours by Adventure Bay Charters, Calypso Star Charters and Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions will get you face-to-face with great white sharks from the safety of a purpose-built cage. For couples looking to stay dry and cozy together, Adventure Bay Charters offers prime viewing of the underwater action from the safety of a glass “Aqua Sub” equipped with a special glass pod that allows travelers to get up close with great white sharks, all without getting a drop wet. Passengers are welcome aboard the “Shark Warrior”— a charter boat with the specially built 6-seater glass “Aqua Sub” viewing area at the rear of the vessel. The boat operates out of Port Lincoln and takes travelers to the shark-infested waters of Neptune Islands, two and a half hours off the coast of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. Once the boat reaches great white shark territory, the pod is lowered into the ocean and passengers can climb down into the glass-enclosed viewing area that provides spectacular 360 degree underwater views—all while staying free of wetsuit and oxygen equipment. Couples can even enjoy lunch or a glass of wine as they sit back and marvel at the grace and beauty of the Great White Shark.
“I went cage diving with the Great White Sharks in South Australia last year - near the town of Port Lincoln,” says Anthony of The Travel Tart. “It's slightly different to South Africa as you have air hoses, which mean you can stay down underwater compared to South Africa where you have to hold your breath. You normally go down in groups of 8, and stay down there for about 40-50 minutes,” he says. “You can see great whites at any time of the year!”
There’s a new shark interaction that just debuted in honor of Shark Awareness Day. It’s at Discovery Cove, the all-inclusive day resort in Orlando. This place is famous for its dolphin interactions –– but now they are going to introduce guests to sharks in a non-scary environment.
At this spot, you are not in a cage during these experiences, nor do you have to have scuba certification. This is a shark experience that in some ways is less intense than the standard cage dives, but in other ways far more exciting. You also get to be physically in the water, swimming freely with the sharks with no barriers. You’ll interact with five species: Pacific blacktip, reef whitetip, nurse shark, zebra shark, and a spotted wobbegong.
The waters may be chillier in Northern Scotland than some other shark diving destinations, but make no mistake – you won’t regret making the trip. Between April and October, prehistoric basking sharks fill the waters. “Basking sharks have a reputation for being social, oftentimes congregating in schools up to 100. Book a multi-night basking shark tour to enjoy some peace and quiet on your next trip to beautiful Scotland. Once you’ve wrapped up your time in the water, rent a car and explore the stunning highlands or spend a night at a castle for a romantic, royal retreat,” says Bisesto.
If you prefer shorter flights and warmer weather, head to the Bahamas for year-round tiger shark tours. “The perfect location for underwater photographing enthusiasts, Tiger Beach offers visitors the chance to mingle with friendly sharks from as little as $166 per person. Another fantastic option is Stuart’s Cove where visitors can snorkel with Caribbean Reef Sharks,” says Bisesto.
If you want to experience a true bucket list shark encounter like Michael Phelps himself, who came face-to-face with a hammerhead in Bimini for his Shark Week appearance on July 30th, check Resorts World Bimini on the Bahamian Out Island of Bimini, just 50 miles off the coast of Miami.
The blue waters of Bimini are home to a rich biodiversity of 45+ species of sharks — most notably, the hammerhead shark. Adventurous couples who want to dive with these prehistoric beauties (in their natural habitat, completely free of cages) should plan their escape Bimini from December through mid-April, as peak season is January through March.
For the fainter of heart, Atlantis Paradise Beach in the Bahamas is home to a shark habitat, showcasing Great Hammerhead sharks, Caribbean Reef sharks, Barracuda, and Smalltooth Sawfish. There are daily scheduled feedings open to guests to watch, perfect for those who want to see something majestic – but not get too close.