Rest assured—shark diving is very safe. Actually, it’s one of the most popular extreme water activities in recent years. Adrenaline junkies from all over the world flaunt their experience swimming with sharks as a badge of honor.
Like bungee jumping or skydiving, shark cage diving is more about conquering your fears for the sake of adventure (not risking your life). It’s about being captivated by incredibly beautiful and graceful creatures.
What comes to mind when you think about the danger of sharks? For a lot of people, it’s the irrational fear of being singled out by a giant monster from the deep that’s only instinct is to devour anything in sight.
Steven Spielberg capitalized on this primordial fear of apex predators with his blockbuster horror film, Jaws, and the general public’s perception of sharks (particularly the great white species) has never been the same.
Ironically, now that fear of menacing sea monsters has kicked off an exciting new industry in which people pit their wits against that fear to gain a greater appreciation of nature and marine life (while experiencing an unforgettable rush in return).
That’s because the key to enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime experience comes from your perspective. Not your ability to swim or defend yourself (although being able to swim is highly recommended).
You should try to understand the nature of sharks and dispel any preconceived notions of how dangerous they are. It also helps to learn all the details, diving conditions, and safety precautions of shark cage diving in general.
All of this knowledge serves to illuminate the reality of shark diving and hopefully quell any uncertainty or anxieties about it.
Having said that, just like any extreme recreational activity, cage diving with sharks is not 100% risk-free (and you should be well aware of the risks).
Let’s dive into some of those concerns:
Do sharks hunt people?
No, sharks do not hunt people, and most sharks are not threatening to humans. You may be terrified at the sight of sharks, but they don’t instinctually see you as part of their usual diet.
There is plenty of evidence supporting the notion that shark cage diving is safe:
- Ever since Jacques Cousteau launched the first shark cage in 1956, no one has ever died from a shark attack while shark cage diving.
- Out of more than 450 shark species, only a dozen have attacked people (and only three species are associated with more than ten fatal attacks: tiger, bull, and great white).
- The natural diet of sharks consists of small fish, invertebrates, plankton, and some marine mammals.
- Between 1958 and 2018, there have only been 2,786 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks in the world (about 5% were located in or near Hawaii).
- Between 2001 and 2010, an average of 4.3 people per year died from shark attacks.
- Approximately 3-4% of shark attack incidents involve snorkeling or diving-related activities.
However, sharks have been known to attack people out of curiosity or confusion. This can happen rarely while scuba diving in certain locations or doing things incorrectly. Some attacks are due to mistaken identity. That’s why injuries are far more common than fatalities. Sharks often swim away after a test bite when they realize the victim is not prey.
Because sharks are naturally exploratory and curious, they are adept at picking up a range of signals/scents in the water that are produced by animals and objects. The most common being movement (e.g., swimming or splashing) and blood.
Can sharks smell period blood?
Yes, sharks can smell blood up to a quarter-mile away (and even a drop of blood in a swimming pool). Whether or not a shark will become attracted to the scent of your blood depends on several factors, such as how much time you’ve spent in the water or how well your wetsuit contains the blood (buying you plenty of time to get back on the boat if you’re too worried about impending danger).
Are sharks attracted to urine?
No, thankfully, sharks are not attracted to urine (at least that’s what most experts say). So anyone with an overactive bladder can rest assured that relieving yourself will not bring about your doom.
Is shark cage diving safe?
Yes, cage diving with sharks is generally safe for humans. As previously stated, there have not been any shark-related fatalities in shark cage diving accidents (and virtually no injuries).
However, three tourists in 2008 (two Americans and one Norwegian) tragically drowned when they became trapped underneath the capsized hull of their cage diving vessel.
There have been a few extraordinarily rare incidents of sharks exposing viewers to risk of injury or death by hitting or attacking the cage.
For example, in 2005, a great white shark tore through the bars of a cage and eventually caused the cage to start sinking. But its captive, Mark Currie, was able to swim out the top of the cage and was pulled to safety.
Another freak accident occurred in 2007 off the coast of Guadalupe Island when a great white shark breached and got entangled in a shark cage that was housing a diver. It eventually flopped out of the top. The diver was physically unharmed.
Minor injuries can occur due to climbing in and out of the cage, slipping on the boat, dehydration, seasickness, or inhaling water.
How safe is the cage?
Dive cages are basically indestructible. They are custom-built for safety and stability under adverse weather conditions. They come with a lid covering the top to prevent unwitting sharks from entering. They can absorb the impact of a powerful shark hitting it at full speed.
Cages are made of stainless steel frames up to 25 mm thick. Sometimes an extra layer of security mesh is attached around the sides of the cage. They produce a magnetic field that draws the curiosity of nearby sharks.
Test bites and prodding of the cage are normal but reported incidents of sharks aggressively attacking or trying to maul a cage are often due to provocation by crew or cage inhabitants.
How deep is the cage in the water?
Cages vary in dimensions. Usually, at least one foot of the cage is above water during the viewing. The bottom of the cage can reach up to six feet below the surface.
But some cages are designed to be fully submerged and lowered even deeper.
Furthermore, shark cages are firmly attached to their vessels by thick ropes to prevent them from sinking or drifting.
How to be safe while shark cage diving
It’s pretty simple to be safe while cage diving with sharks if you follow standard rules and protocols:
- Do not provoke the sharks!
- Do not touch the sharks.
- Trust the professionals.
- Make sure all equipment is checked for safety.
- Choose the right wetsuit for low activity and long exposure.
- Try not to panic.
- Know how to swim (or scuba if necessary).
- Pay attention to the safety guidelines given by crew members.
Remember, sharks can be scared of humans too. They don’t necessarily want to swim nearby if they perceive you as a threat. They also hate confined spaces, so they aren’t interested in getting inside the cage with you and your weird-looking friends.
Of course, like any extreme activity, there is always a tiny chance that something could go awry. Instead of worrying about what could go wrong, try and focus on the amazing marine creatures in front of you: ancient, sophisticated, and for the most part, harmless.