I had no idea what I wanted to do in Hawaii except one thing – shark cage diving with Hawaii Shark Encounters.
Despite being more or less a solo traveler, I’m rarely doing anything alone. Sometimes but rarely. It’s always been easy for me to meet another traveler, a family member in the area, or another digital nomad to experience an excursion or activity with.
In this case, it happened to be with Joel, the CEO and co-founder from Buffer. After meeting Joel and a few other Buffer heroes at a bar called Mai Thai at Ala Moana mall, we decided to be Hawaiian buddies. After a flurried exchange of text messages, we knew we wanted to go shark cage diving, hike Koko Head, and hit up Lanikai beach….at the very least.
Our first excursion was shark cage diving with Hawaii Shark Encounters – who paid for this particular excursion (thank you!). We easily made reservations on the phone or you can do it online and use a discount code (BK10) to get 10% off. The earlier the better so if you can get up at the butt crack of dawn to do the 6.30 am tour, do it! We ended up signing up for the 8.30 am tour and were off.
It takes about an hour without traffic to get to the north shore from Waikiki. If you’re going on a weekday, I’d add an extra 30 mins just in case to be safe.
Things to bring:
+ A towel
+ Bottled water
+ Hoodie or sweater just in case since it gets windy on the boat ride
+ Maybe seasickness meds. We didn’t get sick but we’ve heard cases of people upchucking all over the side of the boat once it got rocking
On the way, we were incredibly lucky to do some awesome whale watching! We spotted a few pods along the way but the big whammy was when we spotted a mother whale with her baby calf! After a 10-15 minute detour to whale watch, we continued on our way.
There’s about a max of 12 people in a group, in our case – we had 11. My group was to be first in the water and after being quickly outfitted with my snorkel mask, I was also the first one to jump in!
After putting on my mask and sticking my face down into the clear blue water, I immediately saw a shark swimming near the cage. In shock & a bit of surprise, I sputtered back up and uttered, “They’re here! I just saw one!” and immediately stuck my head back down to catch some shark swimming action.
For the next 20 minutes or so, Joel and I would dive down to take photos of the sharks as they swam by + take some shark selfies. The bottom of the cage is quiet and more calm so try to spend as much time down there as possible. Our captain said it’s also possible to hear the whales singing but I personally didn’t hear anything.
It was pretty difficult to dive down and STAY at the bottom since you’re in such salty water, so hook an ankle or arm around the bottom of the cage to control yourself. It’s also nice to be aware of your limbs since they can go kicking or flinging into another person in your group. There were quite a few times where I had to signal an apology after accidentally whacking another person with my foot. haha.
After the first group is finished, the second group gets to jump in. It wasn’t bad since we were able to see the sharks swimming from topside. The crew doesn’t chum the water although they did use some bait fish to get the sharks closer than normal.
The boat ride back was smooth sailing – nobody got sick and everybody had an amazing time. If you go on the 8.30 am tour, you’ll finish around 10.30 which is just in time for lunch at one of the infamous shrimp trucks or a cold beer at one of the nearby bars. Since you’re already at the North Shore, you can probably watch some surfers or visit one of the more calmer beaches if it isn’t raining (it rained a bit for us afterwards).
It was a totally awesome experience and if you’re interested in doing something a little more thrilling and you don’t have your PADI scuba diving license for example, this is a great, safe, and fun activity for you and your family and friends.
+ Many thanks to Hawaii Shark Encounters for sponsoring this thrilling experience. As always, no fakin’ in the makin’ – all thoughts and opinions are mine.
Website: Hawaii Shark Encounters
Address: Haleiwa Small Boat Harbor 66-105 Haleiwa Rd., Haleiwa, HI 96712
Phone Number: 808.351.9373 (call this number if you get lost)
+ Bring sunscreen, water, towel, and a jacket or hoodie
+ Bring seasickness meds if you think you may get sick
+ Bring your GoPro if you have one or be sure to rent one from the boat
+ Arrive on time