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The great white shark. The iconic marine creature that captures beating hearts with a unique mixture of both fascination and fear.
After travelling Australia and avoiding unwanted shark encounters, willingly jumping in a submerged cage to meet one may seem borderline absurdity. However, for many, the great white’s legendary prominence in childhood stories, the film industry, and mainstream media adds to the thrill of an encounter (alongside the jagged rows of teeth).
There are multiple factors to consider when planning a cage dive tour in South Australia for those looking to take the plunge.
Shark cage diving is highly regulated in Australia, meaning excursions are limited to specific locations. In South Australia, the Neptune Islands are a known hunting ground for great whites and one of Australia’s only sites where cage diving is permitted. A three-hour boat ride offshore, tours run from the small fishing town of Port Lincoln.
Most tourists who partake in a shark cage dive opt to base themselves in Port Lincoln for a few days. The town is based on the Eyre Peninsula, a region famous for its marine life and coastline. Whale watching, sea lion swims, and dolphin watching are popular activities in the area for those looking to get a full marine encounter fix. For the foodies, local seafood tasting should top your to-do list – you may wish to book a tasting tour at Coffin Bay Oyster Farm during your stay.
A handful of tour operators offer great white shark cage diving from Port Lincoln, but the leading two operators are Adventure Bay Charters and Calypso Star Charters.
The operators differ in their attracting the sharks: Adventure Bay Charters uses acoustic attraction and no bait or berley, while Calypso Star Charters is licensed to use berley. It is advisable to do your research around the sustainability of cage diving with sharks so that you can make a personally informed choice when booking an experience.
Both tours also differ in price and policies in the case of no shark sightings, so you may wish to compare these aspects before making your booking.
Adventure Bay Charters pride themselves as being the ‘only bait & berley free Shark Cage Diving tour in the world’, which may be a factor that you wish to consider after researching the sustainability of shark cage diving. Instead of bait, the crew uses music to attract the sharks - who are apparently partial to AC/DC. The company offers three forms of viewing the sharks:
The ‘aqua sub’ allows you to view the sharks underwater while staying completely dry – which may be an option for those who want to see great whites in their natural habitat but aren’t keen on diving in the cage.
A ‘surface cage dive’ allows you to view the sharks from the water using surface air supply and regulators. This option is ideal for those looking for the thrill of being in the water with the great white despite not having diving experience, as the equipment is suitable for beginners, and staff issue a full briefing before you enter the cage. Viewing the sharks from the surface means that you can exit the cage whenever you wish to.
You may want to consider an 18 metre down ‘bottom cage dive’ if you hold a PADI Open Water Certificate or Higher Dive Certification. This cage’s benefit is an immersion in the shark’s natural habitat, and it includes a 45-minute cage experience.
Adventure Bay Charters charge a standard Adult observer fee of AUD 350 regardless of shark sightings. If a great white is sighted, visitors can then pay a cage dive fee of $175 for a ‘surface cage dive’ or $100 for a ‘bottom cage dive’ – the ‘aqua sub’ is included in the observer fee. A park access fee and optional camera hire is an additional cost.
If sharks are not sighted, the observer fee is non-refundable, but you will not pay the additional cage diving fees.
Alternatively, Calypso Star Charters pride themselves as the ‘only one-day shark cage diving operator who is permitted to use natural fish berley to attract the Great White Sharks’. The operating captains are Advanced Eco Certified – meaning they conduct tours in an ‘environmentally conscious and sustainable’ way.
The company offers onboard or ‘surface cage’ viewing, with a standard price of approximately AUD 530, including unlimited cage dives and all park access fees. If sharks are not sighted, they offer guests an AUD 100 refund and a discounted return ticket aligning with the company’s ‘No Shark Policy’.
Like Adventure Bay Charters, the shark cage allows you to view the great white from the water’s surface using surface air supply and regulators. There is no diving experience necessary to participate, and you can exit the cage whenever you wish to.
When it comes to seasickness, the best cure is prevention. The Neptune Islands are approximately 3 hours offshore, meaning cage diving tours involve a whole day at sea. Purchasing motion-sickness tablets from a chemist is a cheap way to ensure that you enjoy the tour to its full potential.
Although you can rent underwater cameras onboard both tours, you will likely be more confident using your equipment. An underwater action camera can be purchased relatively cheaply and is ideal for exploring Australia, which boasts many snorkelling opportunities. Rather than paying to rent a camera, it could be worth buying a cheaper camera model for a similar price instead. A non-underwater camera is also a bonus as watching the great whites from the boat offers equally unique views. You can also spot other marine life such as pods of dolphins, seals, and other sharks from onboard.
Besides water temperature and weather conditions, you may wish to consider the time of year when looking at shark sighting patterns. Adventure Bay Charters, for example, recommends the summer months for more reliable shark sightings. You can access shark sighting recordings from both operators if you wish to maximise your chances of a sighting before booking.
If you wish to complete a ‘bottom cage dive’, you could consider becoming PADI qualified before booking your cage diving tour. It may also be easier to participate in a surface cage dive when you are already used to the equipment and the sensation of breathing underwater. Adventure Bay Charters offers a PADI course, but equally, centres to achieve PADI qualifications can be found across Australia – remember to check companies’ safety regulations and licenses before booking.
Practising sustainability is certainly a moral obligation when travelling, but researching operators is vital when ensuring your safety as well. By ensuring the company is licensed and up to date with safety requirements, you are investing in your experience’s overall quality.
In a country not particularly blessed with a reliable public transport network outside major cities, hiring or purchasing a car is highly recommendable when planning a trip to cage dive in Port Lincoln. The town is an approximately 7-hour drive from Adelaide, South Australia’s capital, and can be driven as a scenic road trip over a few days. This option also allows you to explore surrounding national parks, such as Coffin Bay, when you arrive in Port Lincoln.
If you do not hold a driver’s license or do not feel comfortable driving the trip to Port Lincoln, there are bus options available through Stateliner. The journey takes approximately 10 hours and costs upwards of AUD 100 one way. This option may require more advanced booking and planning as schedules are limited to a few buses a week.
Alternatively, for those short on time, domestic flights run from Adelaide to Port Lincoln. However, this is a considerably more expensive option – with flights costing upwards of approximately AUD 200 one way.
Once in Port Lincoln, you can opt for a morning pickup service as part of both tours - meaning a car is not necessary to reach the marina departure point from your accommodation.
Cage diving with a great white is undoubtedly a bucket list experience and an incredible opportunity to get up close to a magnificent predator. For more information on great white sharks as a species, you can access the following links below.
Are you looking for something a bit less scary than cage diving? Check out our article on surfing in Australia.Back to overview
We are Jacob and Taylor. Travel is our passion and we love sharing our experiences here at The Travelling Souk. Our hope is that you would be inspired by this little blog to try something new, embrace an adventure, and live life to the fullest.