Scuba Diving with Sharks in Hawaii
Hawaii is one of the best places in the world for shark diving. That’s because there are about 40 different species of sharks found regularly in the waters around the Hawaiian islands.
Eight types of sharks are considered to be common even near the shore. These include the white tipped reef shark, the scalloped hammerhead shark, the tiger shark, the Galapagos shark, the gray reef shark, and the sandbar shark, to name a few.
Other species of shark can be seen frequently not far from shore, such as around the many coral reefs or underwater volcanoes that surround the islands.
A Spiritual Connection to Sharks in Hawaii
Sharks are so common around Hawaii that the ancient native peoples believed they had a spiritual connection to the species. Some believed that sharks would come as the spirit of their ancestors who came back to protect them, or an “aumakua.” Sharks are just one of the many marine life species that were thought of in this way.
This spiritual connection may explain why there have been very few shark attacks in Hawaii over the years.
Since records first started being kept about 184 years ago, there have been only 116 unprovoked shark attacks in the waters around the islands. The last time somebody was killed in a shark attack was in 2004 off the coast of Maui.
If you want to see sharks up close but don’t want to take any chances, your best bet is to enjoy a shark cage diving experience with Hawaii Eco Divers. For those of you interested in a more personal, or even more spiritual, encounter with these beauties, you can try freediving with the sharks instead! No cage necessary.
Species of Sharks in Hawaii
As mentioned, there are nearly 40 different shark species in Hawaii. Below are some the most common sharks found around Oahu and the other islands.
Reef sharks live (obviously) in reefs, which brings them close to the surface on many occasions. These beauties are rare in their ability to breathe while lying still – a trait not found in most sharks. Therefore, it is common to see a reef shark relaxing under a shipwreck or in a short cave.
Pictured is the whitetip reef shark! They are easy to spot and identify due to the white tip of their dorsal fin. These are common Hawaii sharks. They present no immediate threat to humans unless explicitly attacked.
Reef sharks can be identified by their unique shape: a broad, round snout and large eyes. The whitetip is one of many species within the grey reef shark family. These adorable creatures are known for being social rather than territorial, and can be found in groups up to 20.
Like the whitetip reef shark, the Galapagos is a requiem shark that is found globally. These creatures are much larger, often reaching 3 meters / 9.8 feet. They are often mistaken for reef sharks, since they come from the same family and appear very similar in shape.
Unfortunately, Galapagos Sharks are considered dangerous in the international community. They have been found to act aggressively towards humans, giving them their bad reputation. It is unfair to assume this of every Galapagos shark, however! Many of the attacks were instigated by the human threatening the shark’s home or babies.
The Tiger Shark is another requiem shark, although they are much larger than the other reef sharks listed. They are considered a macropredator since it can grow up to 5 meters / 16.5 feet! Tiger sharks are hungry creatures, with the widest food spectrum of all sharks – their prey is extensive and even, at times, includes garbage.
Young Tiger Sharks are equipped with dark stripes down their bodies that resemble those of a tiger. As they mature, these stripes fade, but their ferocity remains!
Defending Hawaiian Sharks
Sharks are an essential part of the Hawaiian ecosystem, both in and out of the water. It is vital to defend these beautiful creatures and protect their lives and habitats. While scuba diving with sharks is okay, be careful to respect their homes to keep them safe and thriving.
Hawaii Eco Divers partners with a few wonderful marine conservation groups on Oahu that work to protect and defend sharks. Consider reading more on their websites, or even donating to their cause!