What Is Shark Tourism?

Christina Edwards

Many areas with large shark populations have found that live sharks will generally bring in more money than sharks hunted for food. Shark tourism is an increasingly popular type of ecotourism that involves tourists observing sharks without harming them. Tourists can observe sharks from a boat, or from the water. Relatively dangerous sharks, like great whites, are typically observed from shark cages, while other sharks can be observed while scuba diving.

Great white sharks can be observed during eco-friendly tours.
Great white sharks can be observed during eco-friendly tours.

Shark meat is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, and hunting these animals was once very popular. Areas with large shark populations, however, now appreciate that live sharks often bring in more from tourists than sharks that are hunted for meat. Shark tourism involves visitors observing the animals rather than hunting them.

Tiger sharks can sometimes be observed during eco-friendly tours.
Tiger sharks can sometimes be observed during eco-friendly tours.

Several species of sharks are observed during this type of eco-friendly tourism, including whale, tiger, bull, nurse, and great white sharks. Some shark tourism companies may bait the sharks with chum, a mixture of blood and dead fish pieces. Many areas, however, have banned this practice, since chumming is believed to make sharks more aggressive.

The safest type of shark tourism involves observing sharks from a boat. During these trips, a tourism company will take tourists to an area with many sharks. Sometimes the sharks may be baited with decoy seals. Lucky tourists may get a glimpse of a shark breaching, or launching itself out of the water.

Cage diving is a popular type of great white shark tourism. Scuba gear is usually a necessity for these types of adventure tours. During these excursions, tourists are able to get into a shark cage that is lowered into the water. The top of this cage floats, and the bottom part is submerged in the water. Also, the metal used to construct these cages is very strong, and it can withstand being bitten or even rammed by a large shark.

More adventurous tourists can also choose to swim with sharks. To do this, tourists can either use scuba gear or snorkel equipment. Swimming with whale sharks, which are the largest and most docile sharks, is a very popular type of shark tourism. When diving in reefs, however, tourist may also get a chance to observe and interact with other sharks, including sand sharks, nurse sharks, and reef sharks. At times, more dangerous sharks, like great whites or hammerheads, may also swim up to divers during these underwater tours.

Scientists have failed to keep a great white shark captive long enough to conduct extensive research on the famed predator.
Scientists have failed to keep a great white shark captive long enough to conduct extensive research on the famed predator.

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Discussion Comments


The most shark tourism I've ever managed is seeing them in aquariums. I know the Georgia aquarium in Atlanta has a couple of whale sharks and I saw them there.

I know the tunnel aquarium in Auckland has also got a really good shark collection as well.

The last time I was there, they had a special thing you can do where you pay a bit extra and they let you swim with the sharks. They dress you up in a wet suit and let you go in with the smaller sharks that aren't likely to pose a danger to anyone.

I wasn't brave enough to do it, but it looked amazing.

It was really nice being in the tunnel and seeing the sharks and the rays swimming overhead. That's about as close as I want to get to actually swimming with them.

But I think it's fantastic that other people do it. Especially since it leads to the sharks being protected in their habitats rather than being exploited.


@umbra21 - The whale sharks do have teeth, just lots of rows of very small teeth.

I believe it relies mostly on having an extremely large mouth to draw in a lot of water in order to eat. And it mostly feeds on plankton rather than on krill which is a little bit bigger.

They also can't reach the speeds of whales. They never go all that fast. I think this is one of the reasons it's much more common for people to be allowed to go swimming with whale sharks than with whales.

I've even heard of some swimmers "catching a ride" on a whale shark. They are really gentle and just don't mind all that much what people do.

I guess that attitude comes from being so big and invulnerable without being strictly carnivorous.

That must be absolutely amazing, swimming with whale sharks. It's definitely on my to do list, although I don't know when I'll be able to travel anywhere that has whale sharks.


I have always wanted to go swimming whale sharks. They are supposed to be the largest kind of bony fish in the world.

And they just look gorgeous. They look like the starry sky with dark skin and white dots all over their backs.

They are completely not dangerous as well, at least in terms of trying to eat people. They live on krill I think, and filter water like humpback whales do. I don't even think they have teeth, at least not the same way that other kinds of shark do.

Of course, swimming with anything that large might still be dangerous. I went swimming with whales last year and no matter how peaceful they might be, it's still a frightening moment when something that large swims right at you.

They could hurt you without even meaning to. Luckily they aren't likely to come very close, if they are anything like the whales.

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