Swimming inches away from sharks sounds like one of the most dangerous things you can do. But it doesn’t have to be – in fact, it can be an extremely exhilarating and incredibly rewarding experience, helping you get in touch with these fascinating marine creatures.
Of course, we wouldn’t recommend you jump into the sea unattended and get too close to them, which is why shark cage diving has emerged as a safer, more practical option. It involves being lowered into an underwater cage, attached to either dry land or a boat, so that you can get up close and personal with the sharks with a robust layer of protection in place.
And if you think that you’ll have to travel to Australia or the Caribbean to enjoy this most unique of extreme leisure activities, think again. There are several great shark cage diving locations across the UK, either in aquariums or offshore. This blog highlights why shark cage diving in the UK can be such an adventure, and the best places in this country to give it a go.
Why should you try shark cage diving in the UK?
Swimming among sharks can be an unforgettable experience, giving you the chance to observe them from a matter of feet away. As well as the opportunity to learn more about marine wildlife, there’s also the adrenalin rush of getting among one of the most feared animals on the planet.
By using UK facilities, there’s also the benefit of having shark cage diving facilities on your doorstep, and not having to combine it with the expense of a foreign holiday. This makes it possible to fit your dive around your normal schedule better, as part of a weekend away or even a day trip.
Depending on your location and time of booking, you can expect to pay between £100 and £150 for your shark cage diving adventure – but it’ll be well worth it.
What are the risks around shark cage diving in the UK?
If you’ve already done some research online, then you’ll have probably seen that sharks breaching cages can happen. But don’t think that cage divers are regularly attacked, bitten or eaten by sharks: in fact, there is only one recorded fatality of a cage diver due to a shark attack anywhere in the world.
It isn’t a regular occurrence, and in many cases the shark isn’t trying to attempt to attack the diver themselves. Nonetheless, while the risk of this happening isn’t entirely zero, shark cage diving’s UK providers have to meet stringent safety standards to minimise the likelihood of it occurring.
If anything, the bigger risk is around having an accident that isn’t related to the sharks at all. Your dive will naturally involve walking on slippery surfaces, entering and moving around in a steel cage, and being subject to the movement of a boat if offshore. You also need to be used to wearing an oxygen mask and breathing through it for long periods of time. All of these factors can lead to injury or emergencies.
Where are the best UK shark cage diving locations?
Four shark cage diving UK locations stand out as the best options, spread out across the country, and all with top-class facilities and safety to offer:
The Bear Grylls Adventure, Birmingham
Bear Grylls has developed a huge ‘oceanarium’ where you can swim with blacktip reef sharks, nurse sharks and a variety of tropical fish. Your visit includes an extensive warm-up and skills course for instructors to check you’re safe to dive, before giving you 25 minutes among the fish themselves. Located in the National Exhibition Centre, the Bear Grylls Adventure also benefits from unrivalled transport links, being easily accessible by road, rail or even air (it’s next door to Birmingham Airport).
Out on the Lincolnshire coast but safely ensconced within an aquarium, Skegness offers what has been described as the only shark cage dive in Europe that’s suitable for novices. They use full face masks to ease the breathing process for divers that aren’t experienced, so that everyone has the chance to explore blacktip reef sharks, zebra sharks, bat rays and unicorn fish. The mask also includes a communication system so that you’re in touch with your instructor throughout.
Newquay Sea Safaris
If you want to see blue sharks in the wild, then your best chance in the UK is off the north Cornish coast. This is the old-school way to go shark cage diving: into a cage mounted off the side of a boat taken 15-20 miles offshore, equipped with a snorkel so you can get below the surface. While this can give you the most authentic experience, it’s worth noting that sightings aren’t guaranteed, and your trip is subject to good weather and sea conditions on the day.
SEA Life Manchester
This centre in Manchester offers the best-value shark experience, with prices starting at £140 for a group of up to four people. It’s a snorkel experience rather than a full-on drive, and after a full briefing, you’ll get up to 20 minutes to swim among around 1,000 sea creatures. These include not only sharks and tropical, but also a couple of huge green sea turtles. If you’re looking for a more rounded marine adventure with family or friends, this may be your best bet.
Get shark cage diving insurance with SportsCover Direct
Whilst all of the above providers take the utmost precautions to keep you safe during your dive, there is always the risk of a non-shark-related accident, as is the case with any leisure activity. That’s why you should make sure you have good-quality, activity-specific insurance cover in place before you go.
At SportsCover Direct, we offer focused policies for shark cage diving that apply to both aquarium and offshore dives. Incorporating personal accident cover, public liability insurance and a number of other areas, we’re one of the few UK insurers that offer shark cage diving cover this comprehensive. Take a more detailed look at our policy options here.