Sandy beaches, year-round sunshine, not a hint of humidity in the air, and sharks. You read that right — one of the lesser-known advantages of diving in California is its year-round shark population. The area is home to more than 10 different species of shark, and, for many divers, there is no thrill greater than observing the ocean’s top predator in action.
Type of Shark Diving available in California
Waters of California provides basically two options for diving in-
Cage Diving with Sharks
The most common method of diving with sharks is cage diving. This method is by far the safest, yet it still allows divers to get up close and personal with the sharks. The cage, which is attached to a boat, is typically a rectangle and fits about four divers at a time. Once in the water, divers have a largely unobstructed view of the sharks as they swim within feet of the cage. A typical dive will last about 20 to 30 minutes and give the diver plenty of chances to take pictures and marvel at the mighty creatures.
Open Water Diving with Sharks
The most extreme form of diving with sharks is to go all out and literally swim with them in their natural habitat. No cages, no safety link to the boat, just you and the sharks in the wide-open ocean. At the moment, there are only a few places on Earth that will allow you to view sharks without a cage, but you may find it to be an experience that’s well worth the trip. Open water diving is a safe activity, but it is always important to remember that sharks are wild animals and can be unpredictable.
Types of Sharks You can Dive within California
California is home to one of the biggest shark populations in the world.
Explore a list of the sharks you can expect to see on a trip with California Shark Diving —
- BLUE SHARK
The nomads of the deep, Blue Sharks are known for their oceanic migrations. Growing over 10’ in length, these are big sharks that aren’t afraid to get closer to divers and the cage for a closer look. They are the main shark we see in California and are found year-round.
- MAKO SHARK
Mako Sharks are another one of California’s main sharks and the coast of Southern California is one of the best places to see them in the world. Makos are the top predator in the open ocean and demand respect. They are the fastest of all sharks and are capable of extreme bursts of speed making them superior hunters. Seeing a Mako in the wild is one of the best encounters you can have in the open ocean.
- SMOOTH HAMMERHEAD
Smooth Hammerhead Sharks are a large species of Hammerhead found in California waters. These impressive sharks are fast and efficient predators that have no problem swimming right up to our guests and cages. These sharks are designed for the hunt and are one of the more excited sharks you can dive with.
- SILKY SHARKS
Silky Sharks are an offshore species of shark that usually lives in water more than 100’ deep. They are a shark averaging between 3’ – 10’. These sharks are master hunters and spend most of their time following schools of tuna in the open ocean. Silky Sharks are great sharks to dive with as they have no fear of humans and get very close to our divers.
- GREAT WHITE SHARK
Great White Sharks are the largest predatory sharks in the ocean. Growing over 20 feet and over 2 tons, these sharks are at the top of the ocean’s food chain. Great White Shark’s main food sources are seals, dolphins, small whales, tuna, and other sharks. California has one of the largest Great White Shark populations in the world. That being said we rarely see them on our trips.
Top 5 Places to Shark Dive in California
Before planning to dive off the coast of California, check out the 5 most amazing places where you can dive in with the sharks-
- Cabo, San Lucas
Diving with sharks is a unique experience, it is something you will never forget and want to repeat. Swimming with them changes the wrong idea that they have taught us on television and you learn to love and respect these incredible animals. This is an open water expedition so there is the possibility of observing different marine life such as sea lions, dolphins, whales, Marlyn, etc. But remember that we will be in the open sea so nothing is guaranteed.
- Southeast Farallon Island State Marine Reserve
Make your way to the Farallon Islands, aka Farallones, one of the most famous spots for ecotourism in the world. Dive among sea stacks as you swim among this group of islands, located off the San Francisco coast. If you are a fan of whales, prepare yourself. The Farallon Islands boast a population of humpback, blue, gray, and killer whales that congregate here every summer and fall. Experience the glory of basking sea lions as seabirds fly overhead.
- Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve
At La Jolla Cove, divers can experience this reserve honoring the local Native American culture. Thanks to the preservation of this site, you can dive alongside lobsters, leopard sharks, and octopi. Get set up for a scuba diving adventure among the magnificent sheltered kelp forest that is signature to Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve.
- Catalina Island
At the nation’s first nonprofit park under the sea, the Avalon Underwater Dive Park is one of So Cal’s most popular dive sites. In addition to the famous flying fish that populate this area, the sea is brimming with brilliant orange Garibaldi.
- Veteran’s Park
Situated on the shores of Los Angeles County is Veteran’s Park in Redondo Beach, one of three Beach Cities that include Hermosa and Manhattan beaches. Explore the waterways to spot all sorts of sea creatures ranging from octopi to sharks. The giant crab and California halibut frequent this area, while shark enthusiasts will fawn over the leopard and horn sharks often spotted here. Keep a lookout for the elusive bat ray, while the calico bass and blackeye goby are certainly camera-worthy. Interested in going night diving? Veteran’s Park is the place to be after hours in the sea.
Advice for the California Shark Divers
- Note the shark’s body language.
Sharks are not inherently ‘aggressive,’ but they can be territorial or competitive,” explains Cunningham. “Sharks will use their body language prior to any physical confrontation. If you notice a shark is dropping its pectoral fins (like when a cat arches its back) or holding its mouth open (like when a dog snarls), slowly back away, give it space, and exit the water.
- Remember that sharks swim by and ignore people all the time.
Most people assume that if there’s a shark in the water, they’d know about it, but in reality, Cunningham says sharks swim by and ignore people all the time, much like any other fish. Over the years, drone footage has shown sharks within feet of people who had no idea they had company. Most of the time, sharks are just checking out the scene.
- Don’t panic.
The key to getting through any shark encounter is to act like a predator. And if you’re too busy panicking and calling extra attention to yourself, there’s no way the animal is going to believe you could potentially be a threat to them. Sharks do not see people as prey items. More often than not, sharks completely ignore humans in the ocean.
- Make eye contact if you see a shark.
When you see a shark, your instinct may be to swim as fast as you can in the other direction, but this could communicate that you are prey and should be chased. When you spot a shark in the ocean, your goal is to let them know that you, too, are a predator.
- Act like a predator by constantly checking your surroundings.
Sharks will wait until they find an animal’s blind spot before they approach. You can convey that you’re a predator, not prey, by continuously turning and looking around when you’re in the water — be it as a diver, swimmer, or surfer.
- Don’t worry if you have a cut — sharks don’t react to human blood.
Yes, you read that right. The longtime belief that sharks, who have a great sense of smell, are drawn to human blood is false. Sharks do not react to human blood or scent.
- Avoid bright colors
Believe it or not, when it comes to sharks, the color of your clothing and gear matters. Sharks have a monochromatic vision, so it would be smart to avoid colors like white, yellow, and/or neon when swimming or diving because those may stand out more brightly in a blue ocean.
- Create space between you and the shark.
This is where those fins come in handy. If the shark is getting closer, use your fins, GoPro, or any solid items you have on you to create space between you and the animal.
- Know the Environment
Understand the dive environment before you enter the water. This is important not only when it comes to safety, but also for finding sharks in the first place.
- Choose a responsible dive operator
Choosing a reputable and environmentally-focused dive operator is a key consideration with shark diving. Many operators adhere to strict codes of best practice to ensure both the animals’ and divers’ safety, and that the divers enjoy the experience.
Best time to plan a Shark diving adventure in California
There are various time periods where you can enjoy different species of sharks. Although Shark diving is available all around the year, here’s the list of diver’s favorite seasons-
- From August through the middle of September California is slammed with young male white sharks. We call these 10-15 foot animals “teenagers” and they act like it. Younger males are FULL of energy and slam hang baits whenever they get the chance. They are also known to crowd the shark cages with up to four to five animals at a time taking turns to investigate anything that floats at the surface. This is a great time to come for amazing weather and lots of cage diving fun and excitement with white sharks.
- Late September through October sees a dramatic shift in white shark populations. Typically breeding aged white shark males start to dominate the local site. These 15-17 foot animals are seasoned and battle-hardened. They are also efficient seal killers. There’s a change in pace at the shark cages as well with great white sharks that take their time to eyeball divers. It can be unnerving to non-divers but don’t worry they are just being curious in the only way they know-how. Late October weather can become unsettled, so come prepared.
- From late October through November you have the largest sharks. The younger males have gone, realizing that they have no chance with the large breeding aged females, and the largest like Deep Blue shows up to shock and awe divers the world over. Deep Blue is a simply massive animal weighing in at an estimated 4500 lbs of raw predatory muscle. With her are the largest males of the season from 16-18 feet long. They will be at the island until late December and then vanish into the Pacific until next season. November weather patterns can be unsettled, the trade-off is bigger and bigger sharks!
Cost to go Shark diving in California
The budget for shark diving in California varies according to the location and the service provider.
- Open-water or cage-less swims typically cost $100-$3,600, depending on the location and number of dives. Off the Farallon Islands, California, home to the large plankton-eating Whale Sharks, a day swim costs about $100-$150.
- Cost is about $775 for a one-day cage dive and includes diving air, weights and belts, and food. However, the cost for the five or six-day adventure including dives, equipment, meals, and lodging is $2,950-$3,450, depending on the choice of stateroom.
Is it safe to Shark dive in California?
California has one of the highest concentrations of sharks in the world, making it a top shark diving destination. So, it is completely safe to dive with the most beautiful animal in California!