Shark Diving in O'ahu

Free-Diving with Sharks on the North Shore with One Ocean Diving

One of my bucket list items is cage diving with Great Whites (most likely in Australia, we'll see!), so when we decided to go to Hawaii I knew we had to reach out to One Ocean to go on a dive.

I'm a long-time fan of Ocean Ramsey and her commitment and passion for ocean wildlife conservation, specifically sharks. The media tends to paint them as mindless killing machines and there's a lack of education on how to safely interact with them (when unavoidable), and their very important position within our ecosystem. Without sharks, our oceans will die. It's crucial that we help to educate on why we need to protect our oceans, how over-fishing and certain fishing practices harm marine wildlife, and in turn, how that will ultimately affect human life.

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less." - Marie Curie

My neurologist and I would have a lot of chats about random things during our sessions as he was hooking me up to the machines or waiting for a certain treatment to run its course. I told him we were going to O'ahu and that we wanted to go free diving with sharks and he lit up and told me all about how his daughter had an amazing time with One Ocean. As if I had any doubts before, that definitely sealed the deal!

We arrived for a 7am dive (water is way calmer in the morning), got on the speed boat and rode 3-miles off shore to a drop off where a bunch of sharks like to hang out. We put on our fins and snorkels and hopped in the water once the safety divers gave us the okay.

Once you're under the water, it's so peaceful. When people ask me how the dive was, that's my immediate reaction - so much peace - even with 70+ sharks all around you.

There was one moment in particular that I'll never forget - I was on the end of the rope under the boat that our group was holding onto (the tide can be kinda strong so the rope is really helpful!), and as I did a spin, a 10 foot Galapagos shark was coming up closer for a little visit. It came up and swam about 12-15 feet away from me and we locked eyes as it gracefully swam by. Time stood still. It is the most breathtaking experience to interact with an animal you have such a high amount of respect for. I treasure that moment and will always be so thankful that beautiful shark came up to say hi.

Another cool experience happened again while I was on the end of the rope. The safety divers were spread around and taking guests out to do their individual free dives. I had just gone, so I was waiting my next turn back on the rope. I turned around and below me I saw a scalloped hammerhead swimming by. They're rare to see and an endangered species, so that was a very special moment for me! Especially since it felt like it was only me and the shark in that moment.

I was really hoping we'd get to experience some tiger sharks, but it was the end of tiger season and unfortunately there weren't any around that day. BUT, we got to see galapagos, sandbar, and I spotted that gorgeous critically endangered scalloped hammerhead as well.

We had an incredible experience.

When you first arrive you sign some waivers and they make sure you're fitted for all your gear (snorkels and fins, weight belts if you need it, etc.). They only take 6-8 guests per marine biologist/safety diver (max 12 on a boat), along with the driver who stays on the boat. On the 3 mile speed-boat ride out, a member of the One Ocean team shares safety guidelines - things like keeping your arms close to your body, making eye contact with the sharks, spinning around to always be aware of what's around you, extending your fins out if a shark does approach you to make space, etc. (even though with that many safety divers, they definitely don't let sharks get too close!).

Depending on what package you bought, they will take you one by one away from the boat and let you dive down amongst the sharks. They are of course keeping you safe the entire time and won't let you go too far down, since it pushes the group of sharks further down.

You can also get a GoPro and/or professional photography package, and an underwater photographer who is trained in shark safety will come on the dive just to photograph you and anyone in your party. We decided to do both (keep in mind the GoPro footage is completely unedited and it's of everyone in the group, so you'll have to have some basic editing experience if you want to make it look good). It's really nice to just go on the dive, make memories and focus on taking it all in, instead of having to worry about capturing the moments to remember later. Highly recommend getting photography as well if you're able to!

After our dive, we got back on the boat and on the way back to shore, a member of the safety diver team shares facts about sharks, why they're important to our ecosystem, some good documentaries to watch, and lots of cool educational things!

We really appreciated the team that took us out. They were fun, passionate, aware of everyone and their individual needs or concerns, they made sure everyone was comfortable, we felt totally safe the entire time, and overall they made it an incredible experience.

By the way, none of this is sponsored (we'll always disclose when it is), we just really love One Ocean! :)

Photos shot by @chiaraphoto, edited by us.

Some Fun Facts About Sharks:

+ In 2020, sharks killed 10 people, while people killed over 100 million sharks. That's 11,000 every hour, every day. Selfies are responsible for more fatalities every year than sharks.

+ Sharks keep our oceans healthy, along with the air we breathe, and fish we eat. They act as doctors picking off the dead and diseased. Without them, our ecosystem doesn't function.

+ Sharks have a super cool sensory system called the lateral line and the ampullae of Lorenzini that allow them to detect electrical output and movement around them.

+ Sharks grow slowly, breed late in life, and generally bear few young, the populations of many species of sharks are declining dramatically. Without more regulations, many species will become extinct.

+ Sharks are nocturnal, which means they are more active in the mornings.

Tangible Ways You Can Help Keep Sharks and Our Ocean Healthy:

+ Eat sustainable seafood caught by local fisherman, and reduce seafood consumption. Look out for long-line or trawling net practices as these create a lot of bycatch and kill other animals.

+ Reduce single-use plastic consumption. Plastic and microplastics end up in the ocean, and also the seafood we eat!

+ Do not consume shark meat and discourage shark meat consumption. Double check supplements and dog and cat food for hidden ingredients (i.e. squalane in skincare).

+ Discourage shark hunting tournaments. These are brutal and entirely unnecessary.

+ Look out for ingredients like squalene and squalane in beauty products that are not sourced from plants.

+ Don't buy shark teeth or jaws from stores. Sharks are often killed for just their jaws or teeth.

+ Use reef safe sunscreen when you enter the water.

+ Go diving with sharks. From One Ocean:"Shark diving is a great way to protect local shark species. Governments and locals alike are much more likely to set up conservation zones wherever sharks bring tourism revenue into an area. There’s a variety of dives you can do for any skill level and interest. Whether you go cage diving with Great White Sharks or simply snorkeling with Nurse Sharks, shark tourism will help support local conservation efforts and local economies."

+ Learn about sharks! Watch documentaries, follow shark accounts on social media, read books, etc.

Our favorite documentaries: Fin, Saving Jaws, Blackfish, Seaspiracy, My Octopus

Teacher, Our Planet, Mission Blue, Chasing Coral

+ Spread awareness on social media.

"1st: Research the subject to make sure you have the whole story and facts. 2nd:

Repost, share, sign the petition, or whatever it is and encourage others to do the

same." - One Ocean

Our Tips for Your Dive:

+ Do it scared!

Even if you're terrified of sharks or the open ocean, do it. I've heard countless stories of

people doing this dive to help them get over their fear of sharks/the ocean, and it's

helped them tremendously. They see that sharks aren't mindless killing machines, and it

helps to take that fear away.

+ Get the GoPro & Photography Packages

Focus on making memories instead of worrying about capturing the moments! Also,

sharks tend to be attracted to the small electrical output of GoPros, so keep in mind

you'll have to be a lot more aware if you bring one.

+ Find a quality wet suit/rash guard before you go.

This isn't required, but if you're like me, and you get cold easily, it definitely helps to

have the extra warmth! If nothing else, bring a rash guard, because there are jellies!

Plus, the human body loses heat much faster in water, especially in the open ocean! So

don't underestimate it - it's much safer to be warm and enjoying your dive, and not


+ Cage vs. Free Diving/Snorkeling:

We personally prefer free diving/snorkeling without the cage for dives like this because

you're able to get the full experience, you're not being rattled inside of a cage, and you

are able to interact with your surroundings a lot more. Now, when we dive with Great

Whites, we'll be in a cage, make no mistake lol.

+ One Ocean Diving will have snorkels, goggles, fins, rash guards, and snorkel defogger

While you can bring your own, they have these for you on the boat!

Connect with One Ocean Diving: