Great White Shark Diving: Where you need to go

Have you ever wondered how it is to dive with one of the most popular sharks in the world? We collected where you need to go and what to expect from Great White Shark Diving. 

A breathtaking adventure is waiting for your, while you just need to decide where to go. 

In this article, you learn about Great White Sharks and where to dive with them. You can read the whole article from the beginning or jump straight to the most relevant chapter for you:

Get to Know Great White Sharks

It is considered mean, cold and voracious: only a few animals have such a bad reputation as the great white shark. Not even experts know how many great white sharks swim in the oceans. Estimates assume between 4000 to 25,000 animals.

The Great White Shark
The Great White Shark

Great white sharks, scientifically Carcharodon carcharias, belong to the family of mackerel sharks. The Latin name Charcharodon charcharias means “jagged tooth” and refers to the impressive teeth of the predators. 

Several rows of wide, triangular incisors protrude from their upper jaw, while lower jaws are narrower and sharper – perfect for holding on to prey.

But recent scientists proved that great white shark are not the vicious monsters they seem to be. People do even swim with great white sharks without a cage nowadays – but let’s start with great white shark cage diving first!

Endangerment of Great White Sharks

The great white shark is the most protected shark species in the world – and still highly endangered. The World Conservation Union IUCN classified the Great White Shark as “vulnerable” on the Red List of Threatened Species


Great White Shark Status

In Australia and the northeastern USA, the Great White Shark has been a much sought-after trophy among sport fishermen since the 1950s and, at the latest, since the success of the feature film “The Great White Shark” in the 1970s.

The biggest great white shark ever caught on camera is called “Deep Blue” and was filmed by Ocean Ramsey and Juan Sharks on Hawaii in 2018.

The animal is estimated to be around 50-years-old and weighs 2.5 tons. This shark was firstly spotted by scientists of the coast of Mexico almost 20 years ago.

Ocean Ramsey
Ocean Ramsey swimming with Deep Blue of the Coast of Hawaii

 Teeth and jaws fetch high prices and indeed sport fishing is the biggest threat to this species.

The great white shark is not relevant for large commercial fisheries as it is too rare. Until recently, however, it was often landed as a bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries. 

Especially in the Mediterranean Sea, the Great White Shark suffers greatly from habitat change. The populations here are particularly affected by water pollution and the decline in tuna stocks, which are their main prey.

Habitat and distribution of Great White Sharks

Great white sharks are found in temperate regions around the world, in winter also in subtropical and tropical seas. Most commonly off the coasts of temperate zones, such as the Atlantic Ocean off the United States or the southern coasts of Africa and Australia.

Sharks are not afraid of cold water either: they can regulate their body temperature. Due to their feeding behaviour, Great White Sharks are mainly found near colonies of sea lions, seals or elephant seals. 

Great White Shark Habitat
Great White Shark Habitat

At the beginning of the millennium, several Great White Sharks were transmitted off California, Australia and South Africa and their migrations were tracked by satellite. It turned out that the animals spend up to five months a year at sea, migrate up to 11,000 kilometres and dive down to 1,000 metres. 

Genetic studies on populations in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand give reason to believe that the males in particular migrate regularly between the populations, thereby ensuring gene exchange.

Great White Shark attacks 

Shark attacks are very rare. Nevertheless, some beaches attract them like magic for various reasons. But why? And how much have shark attacks on these beaches increased in recent years?

Great White Shark Jaws
Great White Shark showing its Jaws

According to an evaluation of the International Shark Attack File as well as the Global Shark Attack File, there were 447 fatal shark attacks and 2,320 non-fatal incidents with sharks in relation to humans worldwide in 1846.

The number of reported shark attacks finally decreased worldwide in 2019: The incidents were with 101 attacks higher than the 66 in the previous year, as reported by the International Shark Attack File.

The three sharks most likely to attack a human are bull sharks, great white sharks and tiger sharks, according to the portal Travel and Leisure. 

Great White Sharks are often wrongly associated with various shark attacks at it looks similar to the bull shark and is widely known in the public.

“Great white sharks spend most of their time in the open ocean,” Marie Levine, Managing Director of the Shark Research Institute and archivist of the Global Shark Attack File, told the portal. Bull sharks, on the other hand, are found in river deltas and approach up to about 90 kilometers from the coast. 

Tiger sharks on the other hand are extremely curious. They actually feed on carrion, turtles and garbage, but could bite a human from their sense of exploration.

Diver in the Ocean
Diver in the Ocean

But why do sharks attack human? There are three possible Explanations:

Option 1: The shark confuses its prey and considers surfers on boards to be rowing seals, its favourite food. This is supported by the fact that a shark usually lets go of humans quickly after the first bite. On the other hand, because of their super senses, sharks should have noticed long before the attack who is swimming. Maybe they’re just curious and want to try a bite.

Option 2: A swimmer or diver unconsciously provokes a shark. In fact, if you get too close to a shark, it threatens it with gestures. Like the Grey Reef Shark: He shakes his head and tail to simulate an attack, puts his pectoral fins upright, makes a hump and then swims a spiral or several figures of eight. Bad luck for the one who swims on the water and doesn’t see the dance.

Option 3: The shark only defends its territory.

Best diving locations for Great White Sharks

Depending on the season, the probability of encountering the giant varies. But there is never a guarantee. 

Shark Shadow Line
Shark Shadow Line

We have put together an overview for you, so that you know in which countries you can dive with the sharks at which time of the year and with a high probability of seeing them.

Great White Shark Cage Diving

While there are people like Ocean Ramsey or Juan Sharks who regularly dive with Great White sharks without a cage, it is definitely recommended to not dive with great white sharks without a cage.

Great White Shark Cage Diving
Great White Shark Cage Diving

In some countries it is even not allowed and we do not recommend it without a cage! 

First introduced by Jacques Cousteau and further developed by the famous shark attack survivor Rodney Fox, shark cages have been around since the 1950s. They are made of galvanized steel tube and float on the surface with the top of the cage above the water. 

This allows you to enter directly from the boat. Shark cages are attached to the boat at all times and usually have a “window” or gap large enough to allow a clear view through the bars while keeping curious sharks from getting too close.

Responsible cage diving operators lure sharks with bait so that the water smells of fish blood instead of feeding them. Some use tuna heads attached to a rope to lure sharks closer to the cage, giving you better visibility. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73PW56YHvXs

Once the sharks are present, you will enter the cage in small groups where you can stay underwater with either a snorkel or a regulator long enough to watch the sharks as they pass near the bars.

Most charters start early in the morning when sea conditions are at their calmest. Your experience begins with an in-depth safety briefing that includes details about shark biology and how to stay safe on the boat and in the cage. 

Depending on which location you choose, it will take between 10 and 30 minutes to reach an ideal spot. Boat capacities vary, but most allow between four and six people in the shark cage at any one time. 

You can expect to spend about two hours at the dive site, of which about 30 minutes in the water.

Because the cages swim on the surface, you do not need a diving license to do cage diving (it is not even necessary to be a very good swimmer). 

The advantages of choosing to see great white sharks in South Africa rather than at other hotspots such as Guadalupe Island in Mexico or the Farallon Islands in California are the relatively low cost, the accessibility of shark observation sites and the fact that sightings are virtually guaranteed.

Criteria to Rank the Best Places to Dive with Blue Sharks

The following rakning is sorted after criteria which are in our opinion the most relevant for divers. We were evaluating the most important criteria when someone aspires to dive with blue sharks, namely:

  1. How Likely is it to encounter Great White Sharks. 
  2. How is the situation with tour operators at the respective Great White Shark diving spot.
  3. What is the water visibility like.

Top locations for Great White Shark Diving

  1. Port Lincoln, Australia 
  2. Guadeloupe, Mexico
  3. Bluff, New Zealand
  4. Gansbaai, South Africa
  5. Mossel Bay, South Africa
  6. False Bay, South Africa
  7. Simon’s Town, South Africa
  8. Farallon Islands, USA
  9. Cape Cod, USA

1. Port Lincoln, Australia 

The enchanting Port Lincoln on the southern tip of the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia is famous for diving with great white sharks.

Port Lincoln in Australia
Port Lincoln in Australia

Neptune Islands is the only place in Australia where you can get so close to this largest predator. Definitely one of the Australia highlights.

Have you ever thought about whether you would like to be face to face with great white sharks? Protected in a cage or dry in a glass aqua-sub to get close to these unjustly disreputable, beautiful creatures of the sea. 

In Port Lincoln there are three operators that have diving with great white sharks in their program. 

There is Rodney Fox, who offer boat tours of several days with dives and cage diving. However, the costs for such a 3-4 day liveaboard are around $2,000 – $3,000. In contrast to the other two providers, the cages are left on the seafloor, which requires a diving license.

The other providers for day trips are Calypso Star and Adventure Bay Charters. Compared to Rodney Fox expeditions you don’t need a diving license for these trips. 

Key statistics to diving with Great White Sharks in Port Lincoln, Australia:

Best TimeAll year round
Water Temperature10 – 25°C / 55 – 77°F
VisibilityUsually 30+ metres
Chance to encounter great white sharksHigher than 70%
QualificationNo Diving Qualification needed (just for Rodney Fox)

Best Great White Shark Diving Operator in Port Lincoln

Multiple diving schools are offering great white shark cage diving. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor):

  1. Calypso Star Charters
  2. Adventure Bay Charters
  3. Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions

2. Guadalupe, Mexico

When we think of diving with great white sharks, we think – at least in the Pacific – of the top spot: Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico.

Coast of guadeloupe
Coast of Guadalupe

Depending on the month, males and/or females cavort here and eat bacon with the resident seals. Accordingly, we can expect almost exclusively larger, mostly already sexually mature animals. 

The smaller ones are on the one hand not yet able to successfully hunt seals and on the other hand do not even live in such waters.

The crossing to and from Guadalupe is sweetened with stops at dive sites along the way, giving us our very own highlights: For example, we have fun with the playful ear seals and roam through mystical kelp forests.

From San Diego you need one day by boat to Guadeloupe. The island was populated by colonists with goats, who destroyed all the vegetation, which is why it is now bare and protected.

Its beaches are inhabited by different kinds of seals, which are hunted by the great white sharks, which is why you will meet more great white sharks near Guadeloupe than in South Africa. Up to 150 great white sharks are said to live near the island.

It is important to know that both certified divers and non-divers can participate in the Great White Shark Diving near Guadalupe Island. Non-divers must use a water pipe system and stay in a cage on the surface. Certified divers may use diving equipment while the cage is diving at 10 meters.

Finally, on Guadalupe Island it is technically forbidden to cheat or bait sharks. However, law enforcement at this remote location is lax and many operators lure sharks with food.

Key statistics to diving with  Great White Sharks in Guadalupe, Mexico:

Best TimeAugust to October
Water Temperature20 – 22°C / 68 – 72°F
VisibilityUsually 30+ metres
Chance to encounter great white sharksHigher than 90%
QualificationAdvanced Open Water Diver or equivalent (some exceptions with no qualification)

Best Great White Shark Diving Operator in Guadalupe

Multiple diving schools are offering great white shark cage diving. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor):

  1. Horizon Charters
  2. Nautilus Dive Adventures
  3. Islander Charters
  4. Solmar V
  5. Liveboard
  6. Dressel Divers

3. Bluff, New Zealand [UPDATE: Shark cage diving in NZ was made illegal in September 2018 and is no longer offered]

One of the least known places for great white shark diving is the small peninsula in South New Zealand.

New Zealand
Bluff, New Zealand

Bluff is situated on a small peninsula about 20 km south of the centre of Invercargill. The peninsula, on which the 265 m high mountain The Bluff rises, closes Bluff Harbour, a natural harbour, with the very flat peninsula opposite. 

Bluff itself faces the natural harbour and covers the northern part of the peninsula. The most eastern point of the place is Stirling Point, which is located at the eastern tip of the peninsula and where the beacon for the harbour entrance is located.

There are male great white sharks all year round. During the mating season the females come. However, there are several incidents when tourists reported that they saw no sharks during their trip to Bluff, New Zealand.

Key statistics to diving with Great White Sharks in Bluff, New Zealand:

Best TimeBeginning of December to June
Water Temperature14 – 23°C / 57 – 73°F
VisibilityUsually 10+ metres
Chance to encounter great white sharks50%
QualificationNo Diving Qualification needed

Best Great White Shark Diving Operator in Bluff 

Multiple diving schools are offering great white shark cage diving. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor):

  1. Shark Experience
  2. Shark Dive NZ

4. Gansbaai, South Africa

There are three places in South Africa where you can do cage diving. The first and most famous place is Gansbaai, a small town located 165 kilometres southeast of Cape Town.

Gansbaai Coast in South Africa

Gansbaai near Cape Town in South Africa offers shark diving between the Indian & Atlantic Ocean where dives can be combined with shark tours. Just as the lion dominates the savannah of Africa, the Great White Shark is the king of all predators in our oceans. 

Only he is mercilessly hunted and misunderstood by man, unlike the lion. The shark territory is off the coast of Cape Town, where he has his nursery. It is his territory and man kills him because he is understood as a monster fish.

There are only 2 coastal places in the world where you can dive with the cage and make acquaintance with the biggest predator of all seas. One of them is the small village of Gansbaai in the Overberg region of South Africa, where you can make a first class shark observation about 12 km from the coast. 

Only 2 hours drive from Cape Town, your great adventure can begin with a dive to meet the White Shark. An encounter that you will never forget for the rest of your life.

From here it is only a short boat trip to Dyer Island, which is known for one of the world’s largest populations of great white sharks. The road between the island and nearby Geyser Rock is called Shark Alley and this is where these legendary National Geographic images are taken, depicting the “great white shark jumping out of the water”. 

Gansbaai is also only 30 minutes away from Hermanus, the capital of whale watching in South Africa.

Key statistics to diving with Great White Sharks in Gansbaai, South Africa:

Best TimeBeginning of March to September
Water Temperature16 – 23°C / 61 – 73°F
VisibilityUsually 5+ metres
Chance to great white sharkHigher than 90%
QualificationNo Diving Qualification needed

Best Great White Shark Diving Operator in Gansbaai

Multiple diving schools are offering great white shark cage diving. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor):

  1. Great White Shark Tours
  2. Marine Dynamics
  3. White Shark Ventures
  4. White Shark Projects
  5. Shark Lady
  6. Shark Cage Diving
  7. Shark Diving Unlimited
  8. Sharkbookings

5. Mossel Bay, South Africa

Mossel Bay is a small town by the sea, which lies directly on the Garden Route. It is famous for its great white sharks and an alternative, yet not so famous as Gansbaai.

Mossel Bay
Mossel Bay in South Africa

Due to the fact that the water temperature here is higher than at other locations, the place is known worldwide for the largest occurrence of great white sharks along the South African coast!

You will not only find the great white shark in Mossel Bay, but also many other species of sharks and rays that have found a new home in this area.

Of course, many other species of animals, such as dolphins or whales, can also be seen at certain times of the year.

Key statistics to diving with Great White Sharks in Mossel Bay, South Africa:

Best TimeBeginning of May to September
Water Temperature16 – 23°C / 61 – 73°F
VisibilityUsually 5+ metres
Chance to great white sharkHigher than 90%
QualificationNo Diving Qualification needed

Best Great White Shark Diving Operator in Mossel Bay

Multiple diving schools are offering great white shark cage diving. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor):

  1. White Shark Africa
  2. Shark Bookings
  3. Shark Divers
  4. Shark Zone
  5. Mossel Bay Shark Seekers

6. False Bay, South Africa

To the east of the Cape of Good Hope the False Bay. The bay got its name in sailing times because of its sheer size, when sailing ships already confused False Bay with the Atlantic Ocean, but they only reached it after sailing around the Cape of Good Hope. 

False Bay
False Bay in South Africa

Close to Seal Island, a small island in the middle of the bay, which serves as a resting place for seals, the great white sharks are especially fond of making their tracks. The animals are a preferred hunting ground for the sharks, which is why they are in large numbers in these waters. 

Adventurous people can test their courage here and undertake Shark Cage Diving tours with various providers and get particularly close to the Great White Sharks, protected only by a cage.

Key statistics to diving with Great White Sharks in False Bay, South Africa:

Best TimeBeginning of May to September
Water Temperature17 – 22°C / 60 – 71°F
VisibilityUsually 5+ metres
Chance to great white sharkHigher than 90%
QualificationNo Diving Qualification needed

Best Great White Shark Diving Operator in False Bay

Multiple diving schools are offering great white shark cage diving. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor):

  1. Apex Predator
  2. Shark Zon False Bay
  3. African Shark Eco
  4. Shark Explorers

7. Simon’s Town, South Africa

Simon’s Town is a city iin the False Bay and located east of Cape Town on the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula, but west of the Cape of Needles and is therefore, contrary to popular belief, a bay of the Atlantic Ocean, not the Indian Ocean.

Simon's Town
Simon’s Town in South Africa

South of Simon’s Town is Boulder’s Beach, so called because of the huge granite rocks scattered over the sandy beach. Spectacled penguins have lived here since 1985 in one of only three penguin mainland colonies in South Africa.

Key statistics to diving with Great White Sharks in Simon’s Town, South Africa:

Best TimeBeginning of May to September
Water Temperature16 – 23°C / 61 – 73°F
VisibilityUsually 5+ metres
Chance to great white sharksHigher than 90%
QualificationNo Diving Qualification needed

Best Great White Shark Diving Operator in Simon’s Town

Multiple diving schools are offering great white shark cage diving. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor):

  1. Shark Explorers Simon’s Town
  2. Ultimate Animals
  3. Apex Shark Expeditions

8. Farallon Islands, USA

The boat trip from San Francisco to the Farallon Islands takes two hours. In autumn, the Farallon Islands are home to an abundance of great white sharks.

Farallon Islands
Farallon Islands

The Farallon Islands are a group of rugged volcanic islands and rocks in the Gulf of the Farallones, off the coast of San Francisco. 

They are located 43 km west of the Golden Gate and 32 km south of Point Reyes. Administratively, they belong to the San Francisco metropolitan area.

Key statistics to diving with Great White Sharks in Farallon Islands, USA:

Best TimeBeginning of September to November
Water Temperature13 – 17°C / 55 – 63°F
VisibilityUsually 10+ metres
Chance to great white sharksHigher than 70%
QualificationNo Diving Qualification needed

Best Great White Shark Diving Operator in Farallon Islands

Multiple diving schools are offering great white shark cage diving. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor):

  1. Great White Adventures
  2. Incredible Adventures
  3. Shark Dive Adventures
  4. Dive Discovery

9. Cape Cod, USA

White sharks cavort off the east coast of the USA. The predators of the seas make the picturesque Cape Cod peninsula a magnet for creepy tourists. 

Cape Cod – 44 years ago Steven Spielberg’s cult classic “Jaws” – The movie conquered the cinemas. The horror film is set on Cape Cod. 

At that time there were no great white sharks in the waters off the picturesque peninsula in the southeast of the US state of Massachusetts. 

But that has changed in the meantime. Cape Cod has become the “shark hotspot” of the USA.

Key statistics to diving with Great White Sharks in Cape Cod, USA:

Best TimeBeginning of July to mid-October
Water Temperature6 – 20°C / 41 – 67°F
VisibilityUsually 30+ metres
Chance to great white sharksHigher than 90%
QualificationNo Diving Qualification needed

Best Great White Shark Diving Operator in Cape Cod

Multiple diving schools are offering great white shark cage diving. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and Trip Advisor):

  1. Cape Cod Shark Adventures
  2. Atlantic Great Whites

Great White Sharks in Captivity 

Aquariums are home to dazzling sea creatures from all over the globe. Visitors can dive into a fascinating underwater world full of colourful fish, plants, turtles and even sharks.

Great White Shark in Capitivity
Great White Shark in Captivity

But one notorious conspecific is missing in the aquariums of the world: the great white shark. Why is that?Is the great white shark too big for an aquarium? Is it because of its sheer size? 

With an average length of about four metres, the great white shark is one of the largest shark species of all, large specimens can even reach a maximum length of seven metres.

But the size of the sharks is not the decisive criterion, because orcas, which can grow to over nine metres in length, are unfortunately still kept in captivity worldwide and are used in animal shows.

A great white shark would certainly be a crowd puller, but attempts to keep it in an aquarium have failed time and again. Most recently, a great white shark died in the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan last year after only three days.

Like him, many of his conspecifics since the 1950s have suffered the same fate. When trying to present the animals in an aquarium, they died within a few days or weeks.

Great White Shark Above
Great White Shark Above

California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium has held the record since 2004. Great white sharks survived here for more than 16 days, some even for several months. 

For comparison: In the wild, the animals can live up to 70 years, males grow older than females. This makes the great white shark actually one of the most long-lived cartilaginous fish of all.

Summary

In summary, it can be said that great white sharks are wonderful animals that have an unjustly bad image in large parts of society. The statistics on shark attacks around the world show that attacks are still the exception rather than the rule.

Habitat loss and the constant intrusion of humans into the sharks’ habitat can lead to unfortunate accidents. There are several places in the world that allow you to observe great white sharks at close range without taking any risk.

If you also like to read more about Big Cats in Africa, we have posts on the best places to see Leopards in Africa, Walking with Lions or seeing the European Lynx.

Are you an underwater enthusiast? Check out our posts about Whale Shark Diving or Blue Shark Diving.


For Safari/ Trekking have a look on the top 10 African Safari Parks in Africa, The best places to see Elephants, Where to see Giraffes, or a trekking tour to the Mountain Gorillas in Central Africa on our blog.

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