Shark Diving Guidelines – For Divers

Posted on: September 9th, 2013 by Hannah Darrin

by Shark Angels

Shark diving needs to be practiced intelligently. Both dive operators and divers should realize they bear responsibility when they choose to offer or partake in shark diving. Both parties must take the responsibility very seriously and take measures to ensure that no unnecessary accidents or incidents occur – to the sharks or the divers. This is critical in protecting the few places left on earth where sharks still thrive, as well as our continued ability to dive with them in those locations. Responsible dive operators should make sure that people not only know the risks involved, but are also taught how to behave and how to respond in various situations to minimize the likelihood of a negative incident. Responsible divers should be at the appropriate skill level and well prepared to dive with sharks. The following outlines our collective best practices, accumulated from thousands of hours in the water with sharks. This may seem lengthy, but we think it is important to be thorough – and as careful as possible! We recommend taking some time to review this before shark diving.

Planning your dive:

  1. Do your research! Choose species of sharks based upon your comfort, capabilities and also experience level. A great experience starts with making the right decisions, being educated and also listening to others.
  2. Your best chance at great encounters is choosing the species you wish to see as well as the location and best time of year. There is some seasonality around sharks in certain places and sadly, shark hotspots can change. Often there are ideal seasons to dive – but some species and places always have sharks as well.
  3. Use the Shark Angel community to research, plan and make decisions. Post on the Shark Angels facebook page – plenty of folks will have plenty of helpful opinions!
  4. Support places that are shark sanctuaries.
  5. Choose wisely! Dive with an experienced, well-established, reputable operator who has experience with the species you’ll be diving with. You can check online reviews or even call the local tourism office or chamber of commerce. Often, their reviews are posted on diver sites and on sites like Trip Advisor.
  6. Make sure the operator provides an extensive briefing regarding the behavior of the species you expect to / or may see on the dive, as well as detailing all procedures and rules.
  7. Make sure the dive operator has experience with the type of diving you wish to do (freediving, nitrox, rebreather, etc) and has an experienced team to help you as well.
  8. Ask as many questions as you feel necessary to be comfortable with their approach and the dive itself. These include baiting approach, type of diving, dive conditions, their level of education, number of divers in the water, types of species, etc. Review our guidelines for evaluating a prospective dive operation.
  9. Ask for a list of the threatened species and all relevant local regulations. Study these and also the behavior of the sharks you are diving with.
  10. Choose dive operators who give back and contribute to the conservation of the local ecosystems and the protection of the endangered wildlife – including sharks.

Pre-dive Preparation:

  1. Make sure the dive operator is outfitted with a first aid kit in case of an accident, and that your dive guide is an experienced shark diver.
  2. Only dive to your comfort level and in conditions you have experienced before – unless you are a very skilled diver. If you are feeling uncomfortable or scared, then it is best to sit the dive out. Do not push your limits.
  3. Do not dive with sharks in low visibility. It is also a good rule of thumb to stay out of the water between dusk and dawn unless you are experienced and/or with a very experienced dive guide.
  4. Conditions can be difficult when shark diving. Make sure that your fitness level and dive skills are up to the challenge if you are attempting to do high current, strong surface chop, or deep dives.
  5. Check your gear and weight prior to beginning your dive. It is important to make sure that everything is in working order and that you are comfortable when you enter the water. This is not a time to try out new gear.
  6. Some dive operations recommend or require that you carry something to use as a barrier between you and a shark that wants to investigate you (not to be used as a weapon to hit the shark and under NO circumstances is a spear or bang stick to be used). The barrier object, for example, can be a large camera or a piece of a PVC pipe. In these cases, the dive operator will provide this and give instructions on proper usage. It is important to note that this is highly dependent on species and conditions. Your operator can tell you if this is appropriate where you are diving. Don’t use these devices as weapons to hit or poke sharks.
  7. Stay covered. We always think black is best – including hood, gloves, and fins. White and yellow usually attract more attention from sharks. Cover your skin and hair as well.
  8. Do not handle bait on the surface prior to a dive.
  9. Carefully listen to the briefing. Your dive guide knows the conditions and knows the sharks. Ask questions and above all, listen, listen, listen. Remember – they know best.
  10. Prior to the dive, use the internet to acquaint yourself with the type of shark(s) you will be diving with and their typical behavior. Be sure you refer to reputable sources.


During the Shark Dive

  1. Follow all the instructions from the dive guide’s briefing.
  2. Listen to your dive guide(s) and stay within eyesight of them during the entire dive. They know the animals best. Determine a set of signals to utilize with them that will allow you to communicate if any issues arise.
  3. Quietly enter and exit the water.
  4. Continuously turn to get a 360 degree view of your surroundings. If a shark is curious and wants to investigate, he/she is more likely to do so when you are not looking.
  5. Make eye contact to let the shark know that you see him/her. Constantly maintain eye contact with large predatory sharks.
  6. Keep your hands close to your body. Do not flail them about. Wear Gloves as hands when moved frequently without gloves can be misinterpreted as small bait fish.
  7. Be a good buddy. Watch out for your buddy and other divers in the group, stay close to them, and point out sharks that they don’t see coming.
  8. Don’t chase the sharks.
  9. Respect the shark’s space. Never poke, prod, ride or otherwise antagonize the sharks.
  10. While you may be tempted to touch the sharks, avoid contact – from in water or in the boat. TO TOUCH OR NOT TO TOUCH (read more.)
  11. If you are taking photos, be aware that sharks may be attracted to the strobes or lights. They may even bump or wish to take your camera. In these situations – it is best not to fight them. Be sure to keep looking around. Don’t focus so much on your pictures that you lose track of what’s going on around you.
  12. If you experience problems with your gear, exit the water rather than making surface adjustments. Keep your head in the water and your eyes on the sharks.
  13. Never panic – remain calm throughout the dive. Avoid sudden movements.
  14. Don’t touch the bait or attempt to hand feed a shark. Some dive operations hand feed sharks, but this is only for the trained and experienced shark handler – not for guests. Review our “Shark Diving Myths” section for more information on feeding and our position on it.
  15. Face down current. The sharks will be following the scent up current to the bait. This way you’ll see the sharks coming in towards the bait.
  16. Don’t situate yourself down current from the bait. This makes you a barrier between the shark and the bait, which is not what you want. Typically because it will scare off certain species of sharks.
  17. Do not put yourself in the bait slick. This means staying away from the bait (either in front or behind the bait) in the direction the current is moving. Instead, stay to the side of the bait.
  18. If you’re in open water, maintain good buoyancy control.
  19. Constant fast fin kicking will attract attention. Kick slowly and purposefully.
  20. If scuba diving, dive with a snorkel so when you surface, you can keep your face in the water and scanning the surface below you.
  21. When in a bait ball or hunting situation, avoid placing yourself in the middle of the action.
  22. Never ask your dive guide or bait handler to change their baiting or chumming practices to allow you to get closer to the sharks or get a “good shot.” There are reasons operators have established their practices – and some dive guides may be too eager to please.
  23. Do not take a camera with you until you are an experienced diver, and you are experienced with your camera. A shark dive is not the time to figure out the intricacies of your new rig.
  24. If you witness other divers acting inappropriately, tell your dive master immediately. You aren’t being a tattletale, you are ensuring everyone’s safety.
  25. Typically you are most vulnerable in the water column, rather than the bottom or the surface – provided you are paying attention. Be most cognizant when you are located in these zones…
  26. It is easy to lose focus and become comfortably unaware. Always employ these best practices, even if they seem needless, and stay alert while diving. When you are unable to maintain your focus and attention to these rules it is time to get out of the water.


After the Shark Dive:

  1. Do your part to dispel myths and further shark conservation. Tell others (particularly non-divers) about your experience. Post pictures and videos – focusing on demystifying sharks (not the Jaws hype.)
  2. Send us your photos and videos so we can share and promote.
  3. Become a shark angel and join our community!
  4. Support local and global efforts to protect sharks and ocean ecosystems.
  5. Take some time to give feedback to the operator about your experience and leave feedback on the dive operator online for others, so they can benefit from your experience.
  6. Do not buy souvenirs from the sea including shark teeth, shells, coral, etc. unless they are fossils.
  7. As a diver you can help by documenting and reporting shark sightings (or lack thereof) from your dive trips, unsustainable (or possibly illegal) activities you may witness, positive observations such as communities that are benefiting from shark tourism, unusual behavior, etc. Email all of this to us.
  8. Write a guest blog about your shark experiences and observations.
  9. Give an In-the-Field dive presentation to the group you’re diving with. You can spread the message about saving sharks and encourage the dive operation to continue to promote this message and Shark Angels campaigns. We’ll happily send you a presentation.
  10. Go shark diving again! Particularly in the areas that protect sharks and with dive operations that benefit local communities through shark tourism.
  11. Send us any suggestions to add to our best practices, places to dive, information on your dive operator, etc.

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