Delight in the Discomfort Zone: Five Jaw-dropping Destinations to Dive With Sharks
Whether it’s bottled-up energy or a new lease on life, the world is ready to dive into new experiences headfirst in 2023 – and travelers are seeking unique vacations that shock, surprise and delight. With nearly three quarters (73%) looking forward to experiencing ‘out of comfort zone’ travel that pushes them to the limits,* what could be more thrilling than scuba diving or cage diving with sharks? We have selected five of the best destinations for shark diving, as endorsed by its global travelers,** which all offer an ocean-bound escape and the opportunity for adventurous travelers to get up close and personal with these legendary creatures. From cage diving to snorkeling, there’s a water activity for every adrenaline level. And if sharks are not on the bucket list, there’s a host of niche experiences that will encourage travelers to push their travel escapades to the extreme.
This idyllic island off the north coast of Cebu is the only place in the world where travelers can dive with thresher sharks all year round. While these graceful and wide-tailed creatures can occasionally be seen in other destinations, Malapascua boasts a diving school that specializes in trips to see these endangered creatures up close. Other than being one of the best endorsed spots for shark diving, travelers also recommend Malapascua Island for its stunning beaches and tranquility: compared to other popular islands in the Philippines, this off-the-beaten-track destination is less commercially developed, and its authentic and untouched vibe make this tiny island even more inviting. The south is fringed with gorgeous sandy bays, and travelers can book exhilarating motorcycle tours to explore the island.
Where to stay: Tepanee Beach Resort provides rooms that come with their own private balcony, as well as a private beach for exclusive use by the resort's guests. After a day of diving, guests can enjoy a dinner prepared by the resident Italian chef, or relax in the spa that offers blissful massages and a therapeutic hydromassage pool. This intimate and welcoming resort is a Booking.com Travel Sustainable property, serving locally-sourced and organic food and offering island hopping tours and water activities organized by local guides and businesses, where guests will be picked up by boat at the resort.
The crystal-clear waters of the Red Sea and incredible variety of exotic fish, world-famous shipwrecks and vibrant coral reefs have made Sharm El Sheikh a scuba-diving paradise. The Red Sea is home to several shark species, including hammerheads and whale sharks, and its warm waters make it the perfect place to see these magnificent creatures in their natural environment. There are plenty of diving schools for those wanting a chance to spot a shark or two, alongside the plethora of sea life in the Red Sea. The city of Sharm El Sheikh on the east coast of the Sinai desert in Egypt has developed from a small fishing village to a major tourist destination with a family-friendly vibe in the last few decades, thanks to its amazing underwater scenery that appeals to novices as well as seasoned explorers – with all the best dive sites accessible by boat. Back on land, travelers can head into the desert where there’s a variety of exhilarating and unique activities awaiting, from a Camel Ride Experience to a Sunrise Quad Bike Safari, which is also highly recommended by local travelers,*** to conquer the sand dunes at dusk.
Where to stay: The all-inclusive Albatros Palace Sharm – “Aqua Park" resort is located on the seafront, and offers a private sandy beach with its own beach bar and six swimming pools connected by lakes, waterfalls and flume rides. Children are fully catered for at this family-friendly resort with a kids club and playground, and it couldn’t be closer to the underwater action with an onsite diving center where visitors can organize diving and snorkeling excursions and courses for all ages and levels. For the adults that want to try their hand at a shark diving experience, the resort is situated along the shore of the Red Sea with plenty of experienced diving schools to guide you to the right spots. After an adrenaline-fueled day, guests can relax at the spa or sit poolside and enjoy the live traditional entertainment.
Located in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand, this palm-fringed island takes its name from the abundant sea turtles that reside on its shores. Boasting a fabulous selection of dive sites, coral reefs and a handful of rock formations and shipwrecks, marine life such as whale sharks, blacktip reef sharks and hawksbill turtles is abundant. For non-divers, shallow sites such as Shark Bay offer fantastic snorkeling opportunities with reef shark and turtle sightings early in the morning and late in the afternoon, while free divers can push their limits with cavern swim-throughs at Green Rock. For a spot of adventure on dry land, travelers can take a vigorous hike up to one of Koh Tao’s dramatic hilltop lookouts for bird’s-eye views of its golden beaches and tropical forest.
Where to stay: Perched on a hillside, the Koh Tao Relax Freedom Beach Resort offers traditional wooden cabins with verandas and sea views. With its own private white sandy beach, it’s a stone’s throw away from the John Suwan Viewpoint and Freedom beach for a wide array of water activities. The onsite restaurant serves delicious Thai food from Tom Yum (hot and sour lemongrass soup) to Pad Krapow (spicy basil chicken). The Booking.com Travel Sustainable stay makes efforts to reduce food wastage and offers diving, snorkeling and fishing activities organized by local guides and businesses.
This city at the tip of Africa, crowned by the magnificent Table Mountain National Park, has a long-standing reputation for adrenaline-fueled outdoor activities. Cape Town delivers with lots of options: cage shark diving, bungee jumping and paragliding – all exhilarating ways to experience the city. Between June and September, there’s fantastic cold-water diving with cow sharks and seals in the kelp forest, while the nearby fishing town of Gansbaai – known for its dense population of great white sharks all year round – is an easy day trip away. Every day brings a new adventure in Cape Town: travelers can soak in the view from the summit of Table Mountain with a Mountain Hike, which according to local travelers is the best place to watch the sun set***, take a boat to Robben Island for an insight into the country’s history and explore the beaches, forests and verdant mountains along the majestic Garden Route. Push the out-of-comfort-zone travel to the max with an Atlantic Seaboard Scenic Helicopter Flight for fantastic bird’s-eye views of this diverse port city.
Where to stay: Nestled in the foothills of the majestic Twelve Apostles Mountain range, the Auberge du Cap Guesthouse offers suites and apartments with stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean. Guests can enjoy the salt water, solar-heated pool, and sip sundowners or a glass of South African wine on the well-positioned terrace to enjoy spectacular sunsets across the palm-fringed Camps Bay. The guest house is close to the many watersport activities and shark cage diving centers, while its garden backs onto the Table Mountain National Park where guests can enjoy invigorating walks.
Fernando de Noronha is one of 21 islands off the coast of Brazil, set in the Atlantic Ocean and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The main island of a highly protected archipelago ecosystem, travelers who visit will be met with unrivaled beaches and some of the world’s best diving. With crystal-clear waters and rich marine life – including the highest known concentration of resident dolphins in the world – a visit to this tropical paradise can’t be done without a dive to Cabeço da Sapata, an underwater mountain that’s environment is inhabited by turtles, vibrant fish and various sharks. While this site is only for highly experienced divers, heading out on a shallower dive might still mean sighting both hammerhead and basking sharks, both of which pose no harm to divers. Kayaking is a popular way to explore the archipelagos, a submarine volcanic formation that rises out of the seabed, while rock climbing and abseiling is available for those travelers seeking out-of-your-comfort-zone experiences on land.
Where to stay: All the rooms at Pousada Morena come with a private balcony and some with a whirlpool. With an infinity pool and sundeck overlooking incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean and the scenic Morro do Pico rock formation, this relaxed inn really is a special stay. A complimentary daily buffet breakfast is available full of tropical fruits and regional specialties for travelers to sink their teeth into, and the inn will arrange experiences such as tours and shark diving for guests to make the most of everything the island has to offer.
*Travel Predictions 2023 research commissioned by Booking.com and conducted among a sample of adults who plan to travel for business or leisure in the next 12-24 months. In total 24,179 respondents across 32 countries and territories were polled (including 1014 from Argentina, 1006 from Australia, 505 from Austria, 504 from Belgium, 1009 from Brazil, 503 from Canada, 1009 from China, 1010 from Colombia, 505 from Croatia, 505 from Denmark, 1010 from France, 1001 from Germany, 500 from Hong Kong, 1005 from India, 504 from Ireland, 504 from Israel, 1008 from Italy, 1003 from Japan, 504 from Mexico, 502 from The Netherlands, 1007 from New Zealand, 1009 from Portugal, 507 from Singapore, 1008 from South Korea, 1001 from Spain, 505 from Sweden, 508 from Switzerland, 500 from Taiwan, 504 from Thailand, 1006 from the UK, 1009 from the US and 504 from Vietnam). Respondents completed an online survey in August 2022.
**Endorsement data from Booking.com based on the most recommended and relevant destinations by global travelers for diving with sharks
***Based on local travelers input from Booking.com’s Travel Communities who have visited the destination in the past.