Cage diving is an adrenaline-pumping experience that puts you toe-to-fin with one of the world’s deadliest creatures – the shark.
Even if you’ve gone skydiving, wing suiting, or performed any of the countless other extreme sports, going cage diving will still ignite something inside of you. Knowing that you are about to stare into the cold, black eyes of the ocean’s most formidable creature from point blank range is enough to fire up even the most seasoned extreme sports veteran.
Here are the best cage diving spots in the U.S.
Montauk, New York City
The surprising thing about some American shark diving experiences is how urban they are. You can even get within nuzzling distance of a shark off the waters of New York. Welcome to scenic, windswept Montauk, N.Y. Courtesy of Sea Turtle Shark Cage Dives, you go 15-30 miles south of Long Island where, during summer, warm waters roll over from the Gulfstream, bringing with it a congregation of sharks. Here, you get a grandstand view of them from a two-person aluminum cage. A typical Sea Turtle Shark Cage Dives day kicks off with a briefing and some boat orientation at the marina. Once you set sail, the trip to the hotspot about two hours. On arrival, the crew starts chumming the water – making a slick that will lure sharks. That process can take anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours.
In the meantime, every participant in the intense experience has the chance to test the cage and get a feel for the relevant maneuvers. The temperature will range from nippy to comfortable: 60 to 80 degrees. Additionally, visibility should be good: from 20 feet to over 100 feet. The sharks that divers see the most are thresher, mako and blue sharks.
During August, makos are plentiful, and 12-foot-long blue sharks are always up for a feast. How long you linger with these predators depends on when they show. Typically, you get two sessions of between 30 and 45 minutes each. The whole voyage can take up to 10 hours. Besides sharks, you may also see tuna, whales, mahi-mahi (common dolphinfish), turtles, sunfish and porpoise. Sea Turtle Shark Cage Dives charges about $300 for a typical day.
Isla Guadalupe, Baja
Isla Guadalupe sits 160 miles off the coast of Baja, California. Isla Guadalupe is quickly becoming the world’s best destination for diving with great white sharks. The quiet corner of the Pacific supposedly harbors one of the planet’s most prolific white shark populations. The temperature ranges from a reasonably comfortable 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Here, shark diving season runs from August through October, each voyage lasts five days and the visibility is 100 feet or more.
The going rate for a Isla Guadalupe excursion is over $3,000, but the experience is like no other. Shark Diver, one of the cage diving companies that host the adventures, explain that you may meet two extraordinary fanged creatures, both of which have been tagged for reference. “Shredder” is a 15-foot-long great white shark with a unique dorsal fin, well known cage diver curiosity” and “Bruce” is a 16-foot-long behemoth that occasionally turns up to see divers.
Farallons, San Francisco
Our third cage-diving venue is roughly in the same neighborhood as Isla Guadalupe. Welcome to San Francisco’s Farallon Islands, nicknamed The Devil’s Teeth. The islands are a fair distance from San Francisco – about 20 miles off the coast. Here, your adrenaline-fueled ocean trek kicks off just before dawn, where you board the shark boat at the Fisherman’s Wharf – Hyde St. Fishing Pier. You’ll set sail before 7:00 am so you can see early morning feeding events. This time, however, the sharks aren’t feasting on chum. The spectacle is much more intense, as great white sharks turn up to dine on the seals that inhabit the Farallons. Total time at the dive site can run up to about seven hours. The islands around the action make up the Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary, which is 1,255 square miles of protected waters constituting part of a nationally significant marine ecosystem. Chumming is out because those waters are protected under law. That means you will only see the gut-churning glory of natural feeding events. Sometimes, seal decoys are deployed to entice great white sharks. Shark season runs from September into November. Dive Discovery, one of the cage diving companies for the Farallons, hooks you up to an on-board air source, which means no cumbersome air tanks on your back. Be ready to cope with a tough environment. Dive Discovery warns, “please know that seas can be very rough and the waters near the Farallons are known for being cold and murky.”
Cover Photo Credit: Hermanus Backpackers / Flickr.com