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I'm looking for some popular places for shark diving in Europe (is this possible at all, never heard of it) and South America. Do I need any special swimming skills or can I do this as a tourist?

  • Are there any serious safety concerns?

I would also like some statements about the ethical aspect.

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What kind of sharks do you want to dive with? Anything in the shark family, or only bigger ones, or only things that look "shark-like"? –  Gagravarr Mar 7 '12 at 12:02
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As always the bigger the better –  RoflcoptrException Mar 7 '12 at 14:12
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@Gagravarr - in the sea, surely things that look shark-like are sharks. Swim away! Swim away! :-) –  Rory Alsop Mar 7 '12 at 14:44
    
Swimming with things in the shark family that don't look very shark like may be easier to arrange than with things that look like huge sharks! Also, don't swim away, go and say hello - frantic swimming makes you look like a tasty distressed seal, while something at their level tends to be ignored... –  Gagravarr Mar 7 '12 at 15:29
    
Another query - can you scuba dive already? And would you be willing to learn (eg shark dive as part of an introductory dive course)? Or do you just want to swim / snorkel / free dive to see them? –  Gagravarr Mar 7 '12 at 15:30
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3 Answers

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Pro tip: The Spanish word for to dive is bucear and the word for shark is tiburón. If you browse with Google Chrome it has built in support for Google Translate so you don't have to copy and paste URLs between windows or tabs.

The Spanish newspaper El País had an article two years ago which is online called Diez sitios para bucear entre tiburones "Ten places to dive with sharks".

Two of the places it lists are in Europe. One seems to be in nature, and the other not:

06 Scotland

The Isle of Mann, in the Irish sea, is a much more economically accessible zone from Spain. The traveller will be able to enjoy very different landscapes to the previous, with a predominance of cliffs and green valleys typical of the zone. Under the water, you can bump into the basking shark, also of a large size, but not bigger than a whale. A species that, occasionally, has put in appearances at the Spanish coast.

10 Madrid

Yes, Madrid. Without beach, of course, but where all who have been bitten by the bug will be able to slip between these animals that amaze and terrify at once. And for a much more accessible price. The Zoo Aquarium of Madrid has launched the activity "Diving with Sharks". Though the sharks do not swim free and the diver is submerged (for an hour) in a tank of salt water, it is possible to see nurse, bull, and grey sharks at close range. The activity costs 300 euro and takes place on the weekends.

Now, if by "South America" you actually mean "Latin America including Central America and Mexico" then there are some more options:

05 Mexico (North America)

This country has several reefs. At Guadalupe Island, where you can dive with great white sharks and at Isla Holbox to find whale sharks. In the waters that surround this 43 kilometre-long island, live other species of large size, like groupers, bonito and snapper, and less stress for the diver. Guadalupe Island is about 290 square kilometres and is characterized by its volcanic rock ever present in the lives of the locals.

08 Costa Rica (Central America)

Cocos Island is perfect for enjoying schools of hammerhead sharks, that is, groups with a large number of specimens. Possibly, the hammerhead is one of the most recognizable species thanks to the unique shape of its head. Additionally, the diver also has the possibility of spotting skates, rays and tuna here during the dive. The natural value of this island has made it be declared a World Heritage Site.


Now a simple Google search in Spanish with a list of countries in South America off the top of my head turns up a lot more. So many I didn't attempt to read through any of them thoroughly since it's time for bed but here's a sample of the countries there were hits for: Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela - Happy researching!

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I thought Isla Guadalupe sounded familiar. The tours there run out of San Diego. Island is near northern part of Baja peninsula –  Karlson Mar 8 '12 at 0:28
    
Yes I looked it up briefly and saw that it's near Baja, which is not one of the parts of Mexico I know. –  hippietrail Mar 8 '12 at 0:35
    
It's called Mann or the Isle of Man. Not the Isle of Mann. Weird, I know, but there it is. –  TRiG Sep 18 '12 at 17:35
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Hope this is not going to come as a disappointment:

Best Shark Diving Regions are Australia, South Africa, US, and Bahamas.

There is a US operator of Shark Diving Tours, that has tours for Great White, Tiger, etc and has a pretty good FAQ at the bottom of that page that will answer safety and experience questions, Bahamas requires you to be a certified diver for example.

Now I've also found a site that lists quite a few Shark Dive Tour operators across the globe, but from looking through them I found only 2 in your region requirements Galapagos and possibly Cocos/Malpelo which is in Costa Rica. It's possible I didn't pay enough attention to every little detail but this should give you a good start.

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I know it's not quite Europe, but it is close... The Red Sea is supposed to be a great spot for shark diving. Friends who've done it rave about it, and say there are usually loads of different sharks. A quick google indicates you can normally see hammerheads from May till mid August, oceanic whitetips (Longimanus) from mid September until the end of December, and at various times species like grey reef sharks, threshers and silky sharks. However, the best spots for these are advanced scuba divers only, due to depth and current - 40+ dives is quite a typical restriction before you can dive there. From the sounds of it, that's not a good fit for you.

However, staying with the red sea, nearer shore on some of the reefs you can see smaller sharks. You'll still need to dive to see these, but you can potentially do that as a beginner (and maybe even as part of a beginner's course). The reefs often have baby blacktip reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks, and the odd leopard shark. Oh, and loads of interesting fish, rays, turtles etc, but you did say you wanted sharks!

I can't see much about snorkelling on the red sea which allows you to see sharks, it looks to mostly be snorkelling to see interesting fish.

I've not done shark diving in Europe, but I have done some in Australia. On the dives when we saw reef sharks (which do look like "proper" sharks), they weren't in the sort of place you'd be able to see them when snorkelling. The same is true of the time I saw leopard sharks, they weren't anywhere snorkellers could go.

However, I have seen quite a lot of Wobbegong Sharks (picture below) in Australia, in places where snorkellers would be able to see them / get close. Admittedly, you'd need to be good at holding your breath, as they're normally at least 5m down, and usually hiding under an overhang during the day, but it can be done (it's easier as a scuba diver though!). So, you could always find somewhere with lots of Wobbegongs, and go snorkelling there. They don't look like "classic" sharks, but they are sharks, and I think they're fun to see!

Wobbegong Shark, off Byron Bay

Thinking about the rest of Europe, Malta is a popular dive base in the Mediterranean. It's very very rare to see Sharks there, so I think you're unlikely to see them in the med. I believe you can sometimes see them on the Atlantic coast of europe, but only as an experienced scuba diver, and normally only with baiting the water then going down in a cage, such as described here. As with the red sea, not a beginners option.

Otherwise, another option is to go to a big aquarium, and dive with sharks there. Most of the big ones offer a package of an introduction to scuba diving, then an escorted dive with the sharks there. Typically it's quite expensive, and it's probably not the same experience as seeing them in their natural environment, but you'll know you'll get to see them!

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Since you mentioned Malta, this link is appropriate: sharklab-malta.org (but you're right that they're very very rare there). –  Szabolcs Jul 18 '12 at 14:20
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