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Get eye-to-eye with sharks

“Welcome, please read our safety protocols before entering the building.”

Sound familiar? It’s a phrase you hear often these days, at doctor’s appointments, hair salons, gyms and yes, even at your local zoo. After all, safety has always been key for any fun experience. Those are the first words you’ll hear when you arrive for an Eye-to-Eye Shark Dive. But don’t worry, it quickly gets MUCH more exciting from there.

After acknowledging that you don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19, dive instructor Heidi Wilken welcomes you and your family (households only) into the South Pacific Aquarium through a behind-the-scenes entrance. You’re immediately met with humidity and feel like you’ve been transported to a tropical lagoon.

People in cage underwater watch fish
Watch sharks and fish glide past you during an Eye-to-Eye shark dive.

“Please be seated,” says Wilken, pointing to four chairs. “Now let’s talk about SHARKS!”

Wilken and all of the divers at the Zoo are incredibly passionate about the misunderstood species, and as they introduce guests to this experience, it’s hard not to be inspired.

“Our dive team members collectively have completed thousands of dives, the best of which have been with sharks,” says Wilken.

She explains that while movies like Jaws and Sharknado can portray sharks as terrifying creatures, they are really quite the opposite.

“There are more deaths by cow than there are by sharks each year,” she says.

It’s true! Look it up sometime.

But, unfortunately, for every deadly shark attack, up to 25 million sharks (most already considered threatened) are killed by humans.

Wilken goes on to explain how you can protect sharks in the wild, by not eating shark fin soup, checking your makeup and medicine for shark products and eating only environmentally sustainable seafood (how do you know if it’s sustainable? Check here).

“Any questions?” she asks.

Before your dive, Wilken wants to alleviate any fears or pre-conceived ideas of sharks that you may have. She continues to tell you about the types of sharks and fish you’ll be diving with, like hovering nurse sharks, sandbar sharks, a gliding sand tiger shark and zebra shark and silvery crevalle jack, all just a few feet away in the aquarium’s Outer Reef habitat.

See hovering nurse sharks, sandbar sharks, a gliding sand tiger shark and zebra shark and silvery crevalle jack, all just a few feet away in the aquarium’s Outer Reef habitat.

Last, but definitely not least, one more important thing for you to know: HOW to dive! Wilken demonstrates the basics of breathing surface-supplied air, important underwater communication signals and putting on a dry suit (designed to keep you dry while underwater). No experience is necessary, just some good listening skills!

Wilken and her team help you and your family put on your dry suits right over your street clothes (face coverings still on, please!).

“You probably won’t get wet under the suit, but no promises!”

One by one, the dive experts ask you to switch out your face mask for a regulator (a kind of dive mask!) and guide you into the underwater cage. The water is a comfy 74 degrees!

For the next 20 minutes, it’s just you, your family, one of our dive experts and the steady sound of your breathing underwater as you watch sharks and fish glide right past you.

“I spotted a nurse shark!”

“Did you see how close that zebra shark came to us?!”

“I actually felt relaxed underwater!”

The excitement and stories will last a lifetime.

After your dive, you’ll dry your face and hair (please bring your own towel) and be asked to sign a pledge to save sharks. You’ll be one of thousands who have participated in this innovative program since it began in 2013, agreeing to make the world a safer place for all sharks. Then, the dive team will send you home with a gift to help you remember your experience: a flash drive with GoPro footage of your dive.

Eye-to-Eye shark dives are now open for booking as a household.

What are you waiting for? Start creating memories for your whole family today. Click here to book a shark dive.