Shark Diving in the Farallones: FAQ
Do I have to be a certified diver to shark dive?
No. Each trip is staffed with dive professionals who will teach you everything you need to know. We use a floating shark cage and surface-supplied air, so the experience of shark diving is a lot like snorkeling. If you stand on the bottom of the shark cage, the surface of the water will be just a foot or two above your head.
What is the minimum age to shark dive at the Farallones?
This trip is not recommended for anyone under age 16. Younger divers or topside observers must obtain advance approval from Incredible Adventures. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or responsible adult.
A typical San Francisco shark diving adventure lasts from 10-12 hours, so it is a very long day that begins before sunrise. Our boat travels roughly 25 miles offshore, across very rough waters, so there is the potential for seasickness. We recommend our Bimini Shark Adventure for young shark fans. In Bimini, the dive site is close to shore, making the dive day shorter, and the waters are generally warm, clear blue, and calm.
Are there any health restrictions for cage divers?
All shark divers must be in reasonably good health and have enough upper body strength to get in and out of the shark cage, with minimal assistance. If you can pull yourself up and out of a swimming pool, you’ll be fine. If you are above average in height or weight, please inform Incredible Adventures, so we can verify if we have dive equipment that will work for you. If you have asthma or other breathing issues, you should check with your doctor to see if breathing compressed oxygen is recommended.
Is there a guarantee I will see a white shark?
No. If you don’t see a shark, there is no refund. We will take you to one of the best places in the world to see great white sharks, at the best time of year, but we cannot control nature. The water at the Farallones is murky and we are not allowed to use chum, so the success rate in San Francisco is lower than at other white shark dive spots. Trust that we want to see sharks just as badly as you do! We’ve been operating our trips since 2005, so we know where sharks are most likely to be spotted, and will use decoys to help lure them close. (For the best chance of seeing white sharks, book a multi-day trip to Isla Guadalupe, Mexico, where water visibility is excellent and the use of scent attractant is allowed. The sharks aren’t as big as the sharks in San Francisco, but they are still massive.)
Do I need to supply my own wetsuit?
No. You are welcome to use one of ours, at no cost. When you purchase a cage diving adventure in San Francisco, you will be asked to supply your height, weight and shoe size. This will help us to determine the dive equipment you will need. We’ll supply you with a 7mm wetsuit, hood, boots and gloves waiting for you on the boat. (If you shark dive in Mexico, South Africa or the Bahamas, you’ll need to supply your own wetsuit if one is required, or make arrangements to rent one through Incredible Adventures.)
We do ask that you supply your own dive or snorkel mask, if possible. We have some available for borrowing on the boat, but it is always better to have one of your own. We have towels available on the boat for use.
Should I be concerned about seasickness?
Yes. We strongly recommend taking an anti-seasickness medication like Bonine, Dramamine or Meclizine prior to your trip, even if you’ve never experienced seasickness before. You should be able to find the medications at any grocery store or pharmacy. It is also important to eat a light breakfast, since this will also help prevent motion sickness. (We provide breakfast, lunch and snacks on the boat.) The Baylis was built to handle big waves with ease, but there are days when the seas are “extra swirly” and even our experienced shark crew feels queasy. Most likely, you’ll be fine, but if at any time you don’t feel well during the trip, please inform a member of our shark team, so he or she can assist you.
Is it possible the trip will be canceled at the last minute?
Yes. This is why we make it mandatory that shark tour participants purchase trip insurance that includes cancelation coverage. In the event a trip is canceled due to weather, there is no refund. You will be required to reschedule for another available date, or file a claim with your trip insurance company. Our Captain carefully monitors official marine forecasts, including the wave data reported by offshore weather buoys, and makes the decision as to whether we can safely travel offshore. Sometimes there is enough information available to support canceling a shark trip, days in advance. Other times conditions are “borderline” and a decision is made to wait until the morning of the trip, to see if conditions have improved or worsened. Our Captain and crew love white sharks and the Farallones and want to get to the islands as much as you do. Safety, however, is our number one priority.
Why Do You Use Shark Cages?
Shark cages help to protect both divers and sharks from harm. Despite what some believe, sharks aren't killing machines out to dine on the first human who swims by. They don't patrol the ocean like "Jaws" just waiting for a chance to eat a surfer or swimmer. But, sharks can and do, very rarely and very accidentally, mistake a human for an elephant seal or big fish. We don't believe in taking unnecessary chances with our customers' lives. As an added benefit, when you’re in a shark cage, you can focus on looking for sharks and taking photos and do not need to be totally aware of your surroundings at all times.
Can I take good photos and videos from inside the Cage?
That depends. Are you a good photographer? Ha, ha. We've hired professionals and spent mega-thousands to design and build the best possible shark cages. The first priority with us is always safety, but equally as important when designing our cages was making sure there were lots of viewing windows for photographers. We want everyone to get lots of great images of sharks. We're personally collecting as many images as possible for educational and research purposes. The more people see sharks, the more they want to work to save them from extinction. To be perfectly honest though, water at the Farallones is known to be dark and murky, so capturing great underwater images can be difficult. For the best underwater photography of white sharks, we suggest a trip to Isla Guadalupe, Mexico, where the water visibility is much better and operators are permitted to use bait to lure sharks near the shark cages.
Is cage diving with sharks dangerous?
Yes. Diving with sharks is inherently risky and you could get hurt or even die. You will be required to sign a “Release of Liability”, assuming all risks. Now that we’ve met our legal obligation and warned you of the dangers, let us put things in perspective. We have a 100% perfect safety record. Sharks are at the Farallones to feed on seals. Not you. When you’re in the cage, one of our dive professionals will be nearby, looking out for your safety. You have a better chance of getting killed by a toaster than a white shark. Really.
Do you use surface cages or submerged cages?
At San Francisco’s Farallon Islands, a floating shark cage is used. This means that even if the cage were to break free from the boat (which has never happened and is NOT going to happen), it would continue to float. When you stand on the floor of the cage, your head is just a couple feet below the surface.
How do surface cages work?
Surface cages are supported by a system of floats. Divers are provided with weight belts that allow them stand comfortably on the bottom of the cage with their heads just below the surface. People breathe through our hookah-like air supply system. At the Farallones, we don’t use an actual air compressor, because the noise could potentially scare sharks and seabirds. Instead, we use air tanks, similar to those worn by SCUBA divers. Long hoses supply air through regulators to those in the shark cage.
Could I get trapped in the diving cage?
No one is allowed into a shark cage unless one of IA's trained dive staff is nearby keeping watch. Surface cages either have no top (because the top is above the surface) or have large openings for getting in and out. We always have your safety in mind. Losing a customer would be very bad for business!
Could the cage break free?
The cage is securely attached to our shark boat with lines. If a cage did manage to break free from the boat, which is extremely, extremely unlikely, the cage would continue to float until it could be retrieved and retied to the boat.
Is cage diving bad for sharks?
Just the opposite! Recently published scientific studies have found that shark diving is good for sharks, because it has a positive impact on shark conservation.
Is it illegal to chum the water for great white sharks?
Yes. In California it is illegal to attract white sharks without a government permit and at this time, permits are only being issued for decoy use.
How much does it cost to cage dive at the Farallones?
The cost to cage dive is $825 per person and includes the use of a wetsuit, hood, boots, gloves and weight belt. Breakfast, lunch and snacks are provided aboard the boat.
E-mail or call Incredible Adventures
today for further details: 800 644-7382