Travel Blog #113 – Shark Cage Diving with North Shore Shark Adventures

May 8, 2022 | General Information

Sharks are one of natures most revered predators. Since the beginning of time man has waged a battle with these creatures for undisputed rights to the top slot at the summit of the food chain. While man has long since figured out methods of neutralizing the threat of sharks with technology, the fact still remains that without these tools the shark is still a very real threat. This primal fear makes it that much more of a rush to be able to interact with them in the wild and I think that is one of the reasons why the shark cage tour is so popular with our clients.

I started the day in downtown Honolulu with an early wake up call to ensure that I had adequate time to make my early 6:45am check in time at the Haleiwa Boat Harbor on the north shore. As soon as my alarm went off I snapped into action grabbing my gear, making a quick cup of coffee and then loading into the car. As I turned the key to start the car I couldnt help but to think about how crazy this day was going to be.

The ride to the north shore was fairly uneventful, as I passed the Schofield Barracks there was a tremendous amount of traffic from the soldiers checking in for morning duty at the base but as soon as I passed the base it was free and clear for the rest of the way to Haleiwa. I turned into the harbor and then made an immediate left to and parked right next to where the North Shore Shark Adventures boat was moored with the massive cage strapped to the back.

As I reached for the door handle I hesitated for a moment as I shook off the last few butterflies that were bouncing around in my stomach. My fingers popped the door open and as soon as I gathered together my equipment I made my way to the boat to check in.

It wasnt long from when I checked in before were out of the harbor headed for the old crab fishing buoy where the crew of North Shore Shark Adventures travels to everyday to drop their cage in with the sharks that swarm the area. I talked with one of the crewmembers on the way out and he explained some interesting things to me about the history of their dive site.

For years crab fisherman have visited this shelf off the north shore to drop their crab pots. There are large populations of crab that reside in the area that have provided a stable food source for the fisherman over the years. The fishermen however are not the only ones that feast on the abundant supply of crab; Galapagos sharks also swarm the area feeding on the crustaceans living on the bottom. When the fisherman come to the area the bait their traps before they heave them off of the boat into the water. This bate normally deteriorates on its journey to the bottom leaving chum like trails streaming out behind the traps as they descent towards the bottom. The Galapagos Sharks keen sense of smell alerts them of this as soon as it happens, they react by swarming the area to figure out whats it going on. Over time the sharks have been conditioned and they will begin to make their way to the area as soon as they hear the hum of the motors coming into the area.

I thought to myself that it seems like a likely story, but I really wasnt going to believe it until I saw it for myself. Sure enough, as soon as we pulled up to the buoy it wasnt more then 30 seconds before we saw our first dorsal fin break the surface. Soon after the first there was a second fin, then a third, and a fourth until there were about 30 sharks swarming around the boat.
The crew hastily lowered the cage down into the water, went over some last minute instructions and then started loading people in. There were floats on the top of the cage so the swimmers could get away with just using snorkel gear and did not need to bring SCUBA gear into the already crowded cage. They broke the group up into two teams. We were in team two so we got to observe the others before it was our turn to get into the cage. I vigilantly watched group one, at first I was trying to figure out which part of the cage would give me the best chances of seeing the most sharks. After observing for a minute or two I realized that the cage was completely surrounded and one spot was just as good as another to see the sharks.

As soon as we got into the cage and I put my face into the water I quickly realize that the sharks I was able to see from the surface were actually only the tip of the ice berg and the majority of the sharks were actually swarming under the cage, hidden from view from above the surface. For the first minute or two I was in the cage I forgot that I even had a camera in my hand. It wasnt until a wave slammed me into the side of the cage that I realized my camera was in my hand and started to film.

Being this close to these sharks was like nothing I have ever experienced in my life. As I bounced around in the cage I experienced a constant dilemma of whether or not to wrap my fingers completely around the bars of the cage. Having my knuckles on the same side of the cage as the sharks was too much for me to bear when the swarm of sharks was even remotely close to the cage. After what seemed like an eternity in the cage I could hear one of the crewmembers shouting for us to get out. After lifting my head from the water I could see the others making their way to the ladder at the edge of the cage. After getting back on the boat the reality of what I had just done began to sink in. I had just gone swimming with a swarm of sharks, in their own environment, with nothing between us but the steel bars of the cage. What an amazing adventure!