For some, shark diving on the Northern California coast is a memorable and exhilarating experience. The thrill of seeing one of natures fiercest predators up-close and personal provides a rush like none other. Have the right dive gear (discussed later) for full enjoyment of your trip. Take advantage of experienced local tour guides. Shark diving remains a popular activity in various parts of the world, but experts debate its safety.
The Farallon Islands are well-known for shark diving on the Northern California Coast. Founded by Spaniards, the islands sit at the mouth of the San Francisco Bay. For a number of years during the gold-rush era, the island was home to a farm specializing in murre eggs. Murre eggs were similar to chicken eggs, but produced larger profit. The endeavor ended in 1881, when the United States government claimed ownership of the area.
Biologists on the Farallon Islands study diverse species that visit or reside in the area including pelicans, sea lions, elephant seals and great white sharks. The largest seabird breeding grounds in the United States are located on the island. Between the months of September and November, sharks are spotted hunting elephant seals in the surrounding waters. Great white sharks are attracted to the area due to increased numbers of elephant seals, a creature that was almost extinct until the early 1900s. Sea lions are another shark favorite.
Enjoy crisp underwater views with a diving mask. A 7 millimeter, or .27 inch wetsuit helps divers remain comfortable in cold Pacific waters. Hoods, boots and gloves are also advised. Weight belts add additional underwater bulk. Spare air canisters provide oxygen when divers need to resurface quickly. Do not bring fins, tanks, regulators or spear guns. For post-dive comfort, bring a towel and warm jacket. Diver Dan's (diverdans.com), is a scuba superstore in Northern California where customers purchase gear and scuba lessons.
Shark dives are conducted in the form of caged dives. Tourists are placed in a cage and submerged into the water. Meat is dropped into the water, encouraging sharks to swim nearby for excellent viewing opportunities. Diving cages are constructed from galvanized steel for maximum protection. Great White Adventures offers guests breakfast, lunch, beer and wine during their dive. The Cage Diver company departs from Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.
Before booking, guests should inquire with the company about participant age limits and equipment provided for the trip. Many do not require participants to have diving certification, unless they are under 18 years of age. Some provide wetsuits and weights. Participants should ask questions until they feel comfortable about the trip.
According to tour organizers, caged shark tours are safer than open water expeditions. Previous divers report that sharks are gentle, shy creatures. Environmentalists indicate the Farallon Islands hide a silent danger. Between 1946 and 1970, low-level radioactive waste was dumped in the area. Chemicals are slowly leaking into waters frequented by great white sharks. Increasing tanker traffic raises the possibility of an oil spill. In line with conservation efforts, a number of local dive tour operators no longer conduct shark dives.