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For PADI divers, every week is Shark Week!

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Some of our favorite places to have epic interactions with the stars of Shark Week – dive certification not always required!

We’ve been all around the world diving with sharks from the smallest shy shark to the giant whale shark. Here’s some of the best places in the world to swim, snorkel and dive with the iconic and most popular stars of Shark Week – including Whites, Bulls, Tigers, Great Hammerheads, and Mako Sharks – while shifting your perspective at the same time!

Image Credit: Andy Casagrande @ABC4EXPLORE

Great White Sharks – Guadalupe Island, Mexico

PADI Diving Certification required: None

Other Shark Species You’ll encounter:  None (they don’t want to end up on the White Shark’s menu!)

Want to have the same experience people like PADI Diver Andy Casagrande film for Discovery’s Shark Week? Head to a remote archipelago off the coast of Baja.

Guadalupe Island is off the coast of Mexico and is absolutely epic for experiencing white sharks doing what they do best. This small volcanic island is located 150 miles off the west coast of Mexico and is home to approximately 170 great white sharks from July to November.

The water is crystal clear, topside conditions are usually great – and the action is incredible, and highly reliable. While we are dealing with wild animals that make their own itineraries, it isn’t unusual to see 20 – 30 different animals on a trip!

The island’s shores are havens for Guadalupe Fur Seals, Californian Sea Lions and Northern Elephant Seals. It also brings in incredible amounts of pelagic fish species like tuna. It’s a 24-hour diner filled with white sharks’ favorite food from late July through the end of each year.

Some of the biggest sharks in the world have been tagged in Guadalupe including “Deep Blue”. The action at the surface can be busy with the huge females hunting large elephant seals and from the in-water cages, it’s incredible to witness the social structures and the interaction between sharks.

Many operators serving Guadalupe Island offer the unique experience of liveaboard diving with great whites. While it may not be the easiest place to reach, thanks to the large population of migrating sharks and clarity of the water, this is a great choice for a great white shark encounter.

And you don’t need to be a certified diver! You’ll have surface supplied air and plenty of time in cages built for your – and the sharks’ safety.

Choose from 7 PADI Liveaboards in Guadalupe Island

Other White Shark Hotspots:

Image Credit: Neil Andrea and @juliesharkangel

Tiger Sharks – “Tiger Beach”, Bahamas

PADI Diving Certification required: Open Water Diver or Freediver

Other Shark Species You’ll Encounter:  lemon sharks, reef sharks, nurse sharks and the occasional great hammerhead

Named because of their unique stripes and impressive hunting style, tiger sharks can be found in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the globe. These beautiful marine animals can reach up to 5 meters/16 feet in length and can weigh up to 635 kg/1,400 lb.

Tiger sharks have gotten a bad reputation on Shark Week as being indiscriminate eaters (yes, it’s true a suit of armor and an unexploded grenade have been found in the stomachs of this species) – and dangerous sharks. However, swimming with one – whether snorkeling, freediving or diving is a life-changing experience. You’ll quickly realize that you are having an adventure of a lifetime as the fear melts away. And there is really no place on earth like this place off the coast of the Bahamas – that exists only below the surface.

About an hour by boat from the West End of Grand Bahama, Tiger Beach is famous and aptly named for its resident tiger sharks. Two to seventeen of these gorgeous animals reliably appear nearly every day of the year. Tiger Beach offers the chance to take part in some of the greatest shark diving in the world. You’ll get up-close encounters with not only tiger sharks but lemon sharks, the occasional hammerhead and plenty of whitetip reef sharks in the crystal-clear azure waters that only an aquarium can top in terms of visibility.

The best time to dive Tiger Beach is between October and January when the sharks use the area as a breeding ground. Shark Week has featured some of the residents being tagged or even giving birth – and hopefully you’ll even meet Emma, the world’s most famous Tiger Shark.

From Bimini or Grand Bahamas, you can head to the most spectacular tiger shark gatherings in the world by a day boat – or you can take a trip on a liveaboard departing from Southern Florida or the Bahamas. The easy surface conditions, 20-foot depth and gorgeous light make Tiger Beach accessible for freedivers and scuba divers alike.

View Dive Operators in the Bahamas

Other Tiger Shark Hotspots:

Image Credit: Beqa Adventure Divers

Bull Sharks – Shark Reef, Fiji

PADI Diving Certification required: Advanced Open Water Diver

Other Shark Species You’ll Encounter:  tiger sharks, gray reef sharks, nurse sharks, black tip reef sharks, silvertip sharks

Part of many different Shark Week episodes, bull sharks are well known sharks for many reasons – including a reputation for brutish behavior (which earns them their name) as well as the fact they are one of the most adaptable species of all sharks. They can survive in both salt and fresh water and can be found in most coastlines throughout the world. Although they’re portrayed as one of the more aggressive sharks on shark week, they are incredible creatures to see underwater and shouldn’t be missed. And there’s literally no better place to dive with bull sharks than Fiji – where you’ll find the biggest bull sharks in large numbers.

With the establishment of the Shark Reef Marine Reserve, Beqa Lagoon has become a premier shark diving area the world over. Bull sharks are the stars of the show here, but divers can encounter up to 7 other species as well. These include sickle lemons, gray reefs, nurse, blacktip reefs, whitetip reefs, silvertips and tiger sharks. With more than 20 dive sites in the lagoon, divers can fill a week or more with fantastic shark sightings. Although you will see sharks during any month of the year, July to September offer the best diving conditions in terms of visibility, water temperature and other large marine life.

As an added bonus, any diving done in the Shark Reef Marine Reserve finances shark research and compensates local fishermen for lost income due to the creation of no-take zones. It’s a win-win-win for sharks, divers and the local population!

A recent study in Fiji found that bull sharks form friendships with each other! Researchers studied data collected over 3,000 shark dives in Fiji’s Shark Reef Marine Reserve (SRMR), one of the world’s most sought-after diving destinations. SRMR is located in the Beqa Channel, off the southern coast of Viti Levu, and is a striking example of collaboration for conservation.

The shark is revered by local Fijians and legend has it that Dakuwaqa, the ancient shark god, provides protection for the people when at sea. So not only will you be exploring Fiji’s underwater world with your dive buddy, but you will likely encounter a pair of bull shark BFFs on your dive too!

View Dive Resorts in Beqa Lagoon

Other Bull Shark Hotspots:

  • Bimini, Bahamas
  • Playa del Carmem, Mexico
  • West Palm Beach and Jupiter,Florida
  • Protea Banks, South Africa

Image Credit: Neil Andrea and @juliesharkangel

Great Hammerhead Sharks – Bimini, Bahamas

PADI Diving Certification required: Open Water Diver or Freediver

Other Shark Species You’ll Encounter:  bull sharks, lemon sharks, reef sharks, nurse sharks and don’t forget the shark’s close cousin… the eagle ray

Bahamas makes it on our list twice thanks to the incredible conditions underwater (there’s actually a color named Bimini Blue), and the fact the Bahamas plays hosts to some of the most spectacular mega-fauna in the world – including the Great Hammerhead Shark.

There’s no mystery as to how the hammerhead shark got its name! That massive hammer – known as a cephalfoil – makes them one of the most distinctive animals on the planet. And that hammer isn’t just for show… It gives this shark superpowers which means the great hammerheads have seven finely attuned senses plus 360-degree vision (without turning their head!) to be able to avoid divers.  Seeing a great hammerhead is rare as they tend to be quite skittish underwater, so finding a place you can reliably experience them is a rarity.

Every winter from December to March, great hammerhead Sharks gather around Bimini  in large numbers. Naturally shy and reserved, these huge sharks with their odd faces become curious in this location, closely approaching divers. Shark diving is closely controlled due to the area’s marine park status. Although Bimini Island is a part of the Bahamas, it is located just 50 miles from Miami in the United States, making it possible to visit by boat in just three hours from the American city.

The waters of Bimini are warm, clear and typically protected. The shark dives occur in less than 20 feet of water allowing divers and freedivers to enjoy incredible encounters.

Plan a trip to Bimini to see the “hammers” and you’ll likely catch up with bull sharks, friendly dolphin pods, and graceful schools of eagle rays. You’ll feel like you stepped back in time to an island still not heavily commercially developed and traversed by golf carts. Bimini can be explored by divers and snorkelers alike – and is absolutely stunning above and below the surface. Head to nearby Honeymoon Beach to swim with the local group of rays as well – after all, rays are really just flat sharks!

Other Great Hammerhead Hotspots:

  • Southern Florida, USA
  • Rangiroa, French Polynesia
  • Solomon Islands

Image Credit: Joe and Lauren Romeiro

Shortfin Mako Sharks – Rhode Island, USA

PADI Diving Certification required: None

Other Shark Species You’ll Encounter:  blue sharks

Mako sharks get nearly as much airtime on Shark Week as white sharks, thanks to their incredible biology, although the fact they are in the same shark family as whites (mackerel) probably doesn’t hurt!

Shortfin mako sharks are sometimes described as miniature great whites on amphetamines. These toothy sharks look like a shrunken-down version of the ocean’s top predators, but they act totally differently. While great white sharks slice slow, graceful circles around a diver, watching with an inquisitive eye, makos are twitchy sharks, hopped up on adrenaline, that speed past you.

Thought to be the fastest sharks in the ocean, makos have an estimated top speed burst of about 45 mph. They can achieve these speeds thanks, in part, to their ability to thermoregulate – meaning they can warm their body temperatures. Incredible acrobats, like great whites, makos are known to jump out of the water, sometimes up to 20 feet in the air, using their perfectly shaped fins as wings and rudders.

Equally impressive, they have the largest brain to body mass of any study shark as well. So they have it all – beauty, brains and braun.

Makos are pelagic sharks that live throughout the world’s oceans, but there are only a handful of places where you can have reliable encounters with these incredible creatures. Our favorite, most reliable place? Rhode Island. Plus, you don’t even have to be a diver!

Most people don’t think of Rhode Island as a shark-diving hot spot, but during the summer months, when the Gulf Stream moves close to shore, this stretch of New England coastline becomes a haven for makos and other sharks, as game fish move closer to shore. You can even join PADI divers, PADI AWARE supporters and Shark Week celebrities Joe and Lauren Romiero as they film and study the local mako population on their dive charter.

Even if you miss the stars, the equally charismatic blue sharks steal the show.

Other Mako Hotspots:

  • Baja Sur, Mexico
  • Cape Point, South Africa
  • San Diego, California
  • Azores

Header Image Credit: Andy Casagrande @ABC4EXPLORE

PADI  is the world’s largest ocean exploration and diver organisation, operating in 186 countries and territories, with a global network of more than 6,600 dive centres and resorts and over 128,000 professional members worldwide. PADI embodies a global commitment to ocean health and enables people around the world to seek adventure and save the ocean through underwater education, life-changing experiences and travel. Find out more at www.PADI.com

Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Creature Feature: Whale Shark

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In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.

On 30th August it’s International Whale Shark Day! So to celebrate this month’s creature feature is all about the largest fish in the ocean… the Whale Shark!

The biggest shark in the ocean. The biggest fish in the ocean. The Whale Shark lives up to its name. Reaching a whopping 18m in length (potentially more). This is a legendary and beautiful shark.

They are unmistakable. Apart from their size, these filter-feeders have a beautiful patterning on their back. They have a checkerboard of white or yellowish spots on a grey, blue or brown back. It is often compared to a starry sky. In fact. In Madagascar they are known as “marokintana” for “many stars”.

Each Whale Shark’s pattern is unique. Amazingly, software used to identify star clusters from images of space has been adapted to identify individual Whale Sharks!

These sharks are highly migratory. Including journeys of 13,000km (made one way only) over 37 months. Which falls short of the most migratory shark, the Blue Shark. Tagging has revealed that there are regular ‘aggregation sites’. Here, Whale Sharks come together in huge numbers. Several hundred Whale Sharks may come together. To feed at annual, seasonal or lunar fish and invertebrate spawning events. The huge numbers of plankton at these events are consumed by suction. Whale Sharks can hang vertically and feed by sucking and gulping in water which is filtered through gill rakers.

Despite everything we know about them. And tagging studies. We still don’t know where Whale Shark’s pupping or nursery grounds are! We do know they are viviparous, giving birth to live young. Giving birth to up to 300 young.

Although they are protected by international agreements such as CITES and CMS. Unfortunately, Whale Sharks are endangered. They’ve been overfished in many areas for meat. Currently, the tourism industry for this species is booming. If you’re lucky enough to be able to go and see Whale Sharks – then why take a look at our guide for ecotourism.

Finally, if you want to support this majestic creature why not adopt a Whale Shark?

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Rhincodon typus

FAMILY:  Rhincodontidae

MAXIMUM SIZE: 17m – 21m

DIET: Plankton

DISTRIBUTION: Circumglobal, all tropical and warm seas except the Mediterranean

HABITAT: Open ocean to close inshore off beaches

CONSERVATION STATUS:


Banner Image – © Paul Cowell | Shutterstock

In-text Images – © Frogfish Photography


For more amazing facts about sharks and what you can do to help the Shark Trust protect them visit the Shark Trust website by clicking here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Celebrating the biggest fish in the sea: International Whale Shark Day 2022

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On August 30, the world is showing the biggest shark that lives in our oceans some big, BIG love. Because believe it or not, the biggest fish in the sea needs all the love they can get! Sure they are a shark – but they are the closest thing to a vegetarian that exists in the shark world.  Filter feeders, they eat plankton. While their mouths are 4 feet wide, their throats are the size of a quarter. And before you begin to worry about their 3000+ teeth, you should probably know they are only the size of the head of a match.

It’s hard to believe given the fact they can grow up to 40 feet in length and weigh up to 20 tons, but they are very elusive and proficient in the art of underwater camouflage. In fact, Jacques Cousteau only saw three in his lifetime!

Photo: Simon J Pierce

They are found in all temperate and tropical oceans around the world except for the Mediterranean Sea, and can migrate thousands of miles between feeding areas. They spend most of their lives near the surface, but have been known to dive to depths of almost 2,000m.

These gentle giants are magical – with a unique dot pattern that is specific to each individual whale shark.  Their populations are so low that there is a genetic similarity among all whale sharks worldwide.  Whale sharks play an extremely important role keeping the oceans healthy while also creating sustainable income for local communities through tourism. However, like many other shark species, whale sharks are classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, with declining populations worldwide.  With massive migratory areas that make them difficult to protect, the fact they are often bycatch or targeted for their meat + fins, and as filter feeders that they often consume micro-plastics, whale sharks need all the help they can get.

Photo: Rodrigo Friscione

Here’s everything you need to know about these incredible fish – including how to meet them, how to protect them, and how to celebrate them every day!

Whale Shark Fun Facts:

  • Name: Rhincodon typus
  • Size: 18- 40 feet
  • Weight: up to 20 tons (equivalent to 3 African Elephants, a full school bus or 12,000+ bricks!)
  • Physical features: mouths are 5 feet wide with 3,000 teeth, eyes are as big as golf balls
  • Life Span: estimated 60-100 years
  • IUCN Red List Status: Endangered

1) Love Tropical Waters Both Deep and Shallow

The preferred environments of whale sharks are tropical and temperate waters and all over the world, including both deep and shallow coastal waters and lagoons of coral atolls.

A marine biologist named Eric Hoffmayer recorded the deepest dive yet: in 2008, he monitored a shark in the Gulf of Mexico that descended 6,324 feet. Sharks lack a swim bladder that keeps other fish buoyant, so one idea is that whale sharks free-fall toward the seafloor to rest.

Whale sharks especially love the Philippines. In 2016, the 1000th whale shark was identified in Philippine waters, making the Philippines the third largest known aggregation of whale sharks in the world and the biggest in South East Asia.

2) Endurance Swimmers Who Are Global Travelers

Whale sharks are one of the most migratory species and can travel around 40 miles per day! They tend to prefer different geographic locations at various times of year based largely on water temperature, food supplies and breeding opportunities. Genetic studies show that whale sharks across the globe are closely related which suggests that mating is one of the reasons for such long travels.

It is believed that pregnant females will migrate long distances to be able to give birth near remote islands where baby sharks will be out of reach of common predators.

But they are also slow swimmers (for sharks) usually moving at no more than 3 mph. Their swimming pattern is different than most sharks in that instead of using just the caudal fin for primary propulsion, they use the full posterior two-thirds of their body length.

The record for whale shark migration was 12,000 miles by a whale shark named Anne in 2011. She was tracked making the mammoth migration from near Panama in the southeastern Pacific, to an area close to the Philippines in the Indo-Pacific. Other tracked whale sharks have traveled:

  • Over 8,000 miles from the Gulf of CA, Mexico to Tonga
  • 3,107 miles to the coast of Thailand

Photo: Julie Andersen

3) They Enjoy Alone Time

Whale sharks are usually solitary creatures but come together for months in large aggregations to feed in plankton-dense waters. After feeding, they drift off in random directions, completely disappearing during winter and spring.

4) They Practice Vegetarianism

Whale sharks can eat plankton up to 45 pounds of plankton each day (which is equivalent to  121 cheeseburgers per day). But they also eat shrimp, sardines, anchovies, mackerels, squid, tuna, and albacore. and fish eggs. According to The Nature Conservatory, whale sharks will wait as long as 14 hours for fish to spawn on reefs and then they will swoop in and eat the eggs.

But they also largely have a vegetarian diet, especially when other prey is scarce. Scientists discovered that whale sharks get more than half their nutrients from plants and algae.

5) Each Baby Whale Shark is a Miracle!

Whale sharks are ovoviviparous, meaning they produce eggs that hatch inside the mother’s uterus.  Litters can be up to 300 pups but not all pups are birthed at the same time. That is almost twice as many as any other shark species.

But only one pregnant whale shark has ever been studied and, interestingly, many of these embryos were at different stages of development. Scientists observed that some were still in their egg cases whilst others had emerged but were still in the uterus. This may signify that females are able to store a male’s sperm, selectively fertilizing their eggs over a prolonged period.

Juvenile whale sharks, as docile and vulnerable as their elders, often become prey for other sharks and orcas, so while a female may birth more than 300 pups at a time, survival rates are devastatingly low; females giving birth to multiple litters at different times could increase their survival rate which could be why they have their very own, built-in sperm banks.

Making the birth of a whale shark even more miraculous is the fact that each whale shark’s pattern is as unique as a human fingerprint!

Think You Know Whale Sharks? Click here for a fun way to test your whale shark IQ!

Header Photo: Whale shark in Oslob by Shawn Heinrichs

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