Following the Fin: Shark Diving

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The possibility of encountering a shark can fill a diver with both fascination and fear. For many seasoned divers, nothing can top a shark-diving adventure as the ultimate underwater thrill. Of course, not all sharks are the predators movies portray them to be. According to experts, the majority of sharks that you'd encounter while diving, including whale sharks and hammerheads, are generally not dangerous. But because of the many types of shark-diving expeditions you can choose from, you'll undoubtedly witness some awesome behavior, from the teeth-baring aggressiveness of the great white shark to the dominance behavior of the female hammerhead, who performs a reverse flip with a full twist to warn off other females.

If a front row seat to such displays is what you're after, any number of outfitters will be happy to set you up. On the wild side are encounters with the deadly and fearsome great white sharks. Great whites are distributed widely throughout the world's oceans, but the hot spot is in South Australia. There, from the safety of a metal cage, divers can experience the fury of a 15-foot great white from just an arm's length away.
If sharing personal space with huge sharks is what you seek but you don't want to be confined in a steel cage, consider a whale shark adventure. Unlike their smaller cousins, 25-foot whale sharks are not carnivors but filter-feeders, filtering plankton from the water using gill rakers. Concequently they are actually quite docile and tolerant of divers. With their distinctive spotted grey coloration, whale sharks are among the most beautiful creatures in the sea. In recent years, Western Australia and Baja California have been reliable destinations for spotting whale sharks, although these mysterious giants can be elusive. Baja also offers diving with schools of hammerhead sharks—usually composed mostly of females—at a variety of sizes.

Published: 10 Sep 2001 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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