Sharks are everywhere and they’ve been here forever. Sharks have been swimming in the oceans since Pangea and there are currently over 400 different species of them. But for a fish that’s been around for so long, sharks are pretty misunderstood. In the United States, more people get struck by lightning than attacked by sharks. One of the best ways to learn more about our neighbors of the deep is by visiting a local aquarium. And if you’re feeling really curious, some aquariums even offer shark diving programs. Are you ready to take a little dip?
One of the best aquarium shark diving experiences can be found at the Long Island Aquarium, in their 120,000-gallon Lost City of Atlantis Shark Exhibit. At the Long Island Aquarium shark dive, you descend into the exhibit in a cage. Here you’ll come face-to-face with four sand tiger sharks, four nurse sharks and two wobbegong sharks, as well as the fish that share their habitat.
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“This experience is perfect for someone looking to get over a fear of sharks, because you are very safe,” said Darlene Puntillo, the Long Island Aquarium’s marketing director. “You’re in a steel cage with an experienced dive master and an educational tender outside the cage.”
Whether sharks scare you or not, you’re sure to learn a lot on your dive. Included in the dive is a tour of the Lost City of Atlantis habitat, as well as a Q&A with the in-house shark experts.
“Getting that close to an animal you otherwise wouldn’t helps people feel a connection to that animal,” Puntillo said. “You can’t leave this adventure without appreciating sharks and wanting to be with them or learn even more about them. They are amazing animals!”
If you can’t make it to the Long Island Aquarium, you could head to Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey. Adventure Aquarium offers educational programs with a variety of marine wildlife, including sharks. In Shark Realm, you can don a wetsuit and snorkel and get right in the water. You’ll come within inches of sand tiger sharks and sandbar sharks. You’ll also get the chance to swim with and feed the aquarium’s stingrays in the Stingray Lagoon.
Adventure Aquarium is full of great shark exhibits even for people who don’t want to get in the water with them. You can interact with little bamboo sharks at the Touch a Shark exhibit and walk through a giant Shark Tunnel (home to over 20 sharks). You can even make your way across Shark Bridge, a V-shaped rope suspension bridge that passes over a shark tank.
Do you have a younger shark fan in your house? Many nearby aquariums offer touch tank experiences, where children can interact with small rays and sharks. Mystic Aquarium and The Maritime Aquarium both offer this type of experience. The New England Aquarium’s shark and ray touch tank houses even larger marine life, like cownose rays, Atlantic rays and epaulette sharks.
If you’re willing to travel for sharks, there are a few other aquariums around the U.S. that offer shark diving programs. Most notable are the Florida Aquarium and the Georgia Aquarium.
At the Florida Aquarium, you can take a surface snorkel among stingrays, barracudas, a sea turtles, nurse sharks and sand tiger sharks. A dive master will be with you at all times to guide you through the experience.
“Part of the experience is learning about sharks and how they impact our waterways,” said Sandra Morrison, the Florida Aquarium’s director of communications. “We limit the number of guests and staff that go in the habitats to ensure we do not negatively impact the animals.”
If you’re a certified scuba diver, you can go even deeper at the Florida Aquarium. With a dive master at your side, you will plunge into the tank to get a close-up and personal look at the sharks. You don’t need to bring your own scuba gear, the aquarium will provide it for you. Just make sure you have your certification!
At the Georgia Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world, you can take their Journey with Gentle Giants swim. Journey with Gentle Giants is an experience where you can snorkel or scuba dive (again, as long as you’re certified) with a variety of marine life, including manta rays and whale sharks. The swim takes place in the Ocean Voyager exhibit, which contains 6.3 million gallons of water. In addition to whale sharks and manta rays, you could see zebra sharks, sawfish, leopard whiprays, bowmouth guitarfish, humphead wrasses and many other types of fish. The Journey with Gentle Giants swim is actually the only program in the world that allows guests to swim with whale sharks, the largest-known living fish species.
If you want to get closer to our toothy ocean friends, then shark diving is definitely for you. And at these aquariums, every week is shark week.
Would you ever go shark diving? Have you done it before? Tell us in the comments!