Sharks have long been portrayed in the media as mindless killing machines (thanks Jaws!) but this is far from the truth. These apex predators are essential to keeping ocean ecosystems thriving and healthy.
If you are a bit apprehensive about diving with sharks, let me put your mind at ease. You’re more likely to win an Oscar than get bitten by a shark, and you’re also more likely to be killed by a toaster. So watch yourself when you’re making breakfast tomorrow.
Sharks are graceful and often shy and timid creatures, and are mesmerising to see on a dive. Watching them slink through the water with such ease is a stark contrast to the clips we see of them on the news, eyes rolled back in their head as they bite down on bait.
The picturesque dive destination; the Maldives, is home to over 26 species of shark. The Maldives is most well-known for its impossibly beautiful sandy cays bordered by turquoise water and abundance of coral reefs, so it’s easy to over-look the fact that this destination offers divers the chance to come face to face with a whole range of different shark species, including the enormous and completely harmless whale shark. Since 2009 there has been a complete ban on any form of shark fishing, so the Maldives is the place to head to to dive with healthy and stable populations of sharks.
1. The Maldives: Want sharks? Head south. Deep south.
No doubt you’ve seen those awe-inspiring images of giant schools of hammerheads circling together on the web. How much better would it be to see it in real life?!
The Maldives is one of the few places where divers have the chance to spend some time immersed in a school of hammerhead sharks. One of the best spot in the Maldives to see hammerheads is in the Thaa Atoll, which is only accessible by live aboard boat. The ‘Deep South Shark’ trip on board the liveaboard ‘Carpe Vita’ will take you here among many other shark-filled destinations.
The ‘Deep South Shark’ trip is designed specifically for shark diving experiences in the Maldives. Starting in Male, this unique intinerary includes diving in Vaavu Atoll, Meemu Atoll and the Laamu atoll. You will also have the rare chance to see the the illusive thresher shark when you pass the equator and reach the Fuvahmulah atoll, where tiger sharks and thresher sharks are plentiful.
During the trip the ‘Carpe Vita’ will visit up to 8 different atolls, each more spectacular than the last and offering divers a variety of encounters with numerous different species of shark. Add Atoll is normally visited last, and here you’ll even have the chance to see manta rays.
These ‘Deep South’ shark trips only run in February and March when the conditions are premium. Spaces fill up quick so what are you waiting for?! Start planning your ‘Deep South’ shark adventure now!
2. The Maldives: A ‘Sharktastic’ adventure on board Emperor Atoll
Between January and April divers can have ten days filled with nothing but sharks (and of course a few sunset cocktails!) onboard the Emperor Atoll. During these early months of the year, currents flowing from Sumatra and Indonesia not only bring fantastic visibility of 40 metres, but pelagic species coming to the reef for a quick snack.
Lonely planet rated the Maldives as one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks, and it’s easy to see why. The 12 foot ocean giants can be spotted year round in certain parts of the Maldives, and one of the best sites to spot whale sharks is at ‘Maamigili Beyru‘ in the southern part of Ari Atoll. You’ll visit this area as part of your ‘Sharktastic’ journey and be able to come face to face with one of the largest, yet completely harmless sharks as juvenile whale sharks can be spotted here year-round.
South Ari Atoll is one of the largest atolls in the Maldives, and is renowned for encounters with big marine life. The area is scattered with pinnacles where pelagic species congregate, supplying divers with no shortage of incredible dive sites and more importantly, no shortage of shark interaction. ‘Rangali Madivaru’ translates directly from ‘Divehi’ (Maldivian language) to english as ‘Manta Point’. This is without a doubt one of the best Manta cleaning stations in the Maldives, and mantas coming in for a quick clean are regularly spotted.
‘Kandooma Thila’ in the South Male Atoll is home to shark cleaning stations and grey reef sharks and eagles rays can be seen in abundance. ‘Cocoa Corner’ is one of the best shark dives in the Male atoll, with hundreds of grey reef sharks stalking the outer edges of the reef.
Onboard the MV Emperor Atoll you’ll head to the Vaavu and Meemu atolls which like the South and South Male Atoll, are places plentiful in sharks. If the conditions are right, you’ll visit ‘Bodu Miyaru Kandu’ or ‘Big Shark Channel’. It’s all in the name really, and shark fanatics won’t be disappointed on this dive.
The MV Emperor Atoll takes a maximum of 12 divers on each trip, making your live aboard adventure far more personal and resulting in crowd-free diving. Most dives are drift dives, so divers should be comfortable diving in strong current.
3. Indonesia: A festival of whale sharks on board WAOW
In Cenderawasih Bay in the northern Province of West Papua, Indonesia whale sharks gather under the platforms of traditional fishing platforms; ‘bagans’. Normally filter feeders that consume plankton, these opportunistic feeders have developed a taste for the fish that slip through the fishermans’ nets. Because of this, intimate sightings of whale sharks are guaranteed onboard the WAOWs’ ‘Festival of Whale Sharks’ trip.
Along with intimate encounters with these gentle giants well off the beaten track, a ‘Festival of Whale Shark’ trip on board the WAOW will visit dive sites full of pelagic species, and also offers some fantastic muck dives such as the ‘Fish Market’ so all divers tastes are catered for, however the friendly whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay are the show stoppers of this live aboard. Diving in Cenderawasih Bay is best from April – November, when the weather is fine and calm.
Diving with the most respected fish in the sea is a fantastic experience. Live aboard diving on a trip with an itinerary that is specifically tailored to increase shark experiences is a great way to holiday for any shark enthusiast!