Shark Week: A Rigorous and Couchless Itinerary

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It's Shark Week in America and most of us will be celebrating in the traditional fashion, lazing on the couch, beer in hand, flinching occasionally on behalf of a seal or hapless tuna. While this is a noble tradition and should be in no way criticized, there exists a more adventurous alternative.
It's Shark Week in America and most of us will be celebrating in the traditional fashion, lazing on the couch, beer in hand, flinching occasionally on behalf of a seal or hapless tuna. While this is a noble tradition and should be in no way criticized, there exists a more adventurous alternative.

Americans have many opportunities to get up close and personal with the wolves of the sea from the discomfort of outside their homes. From Long Island to San Diego, our coasts are, uncomfortably perhaps, dense with sharks so it is never too difficult to find one's way into fun-infested waters.

But seriously, be careful. Sharks are jerks.

For those ready to exchange channel surfing for real surf, we present an itinerary for a real American shark week.

Shark Week: A Rigorous and Couchless Itinerary

Hawaii's clear blue waters are an excellent spot for beginner shark wranglers looking to have a first encounter with the wolves of the deep. Hawaii Shark Encounters offers cage diving and snorkeling day trips to see large populations of Reef, Sandbar and Galapagos sharks.

The sharks aren't huge, but they are curious so these are guaranteed to be close-encounters of the surf shorts peeing kind. The occasionally larger, oceangoing shark may surprise lucky swimmers.

The Florida Aquarium offers certified divers a chance to get in its main tank with those snaggle-toothed Grey Nurse Sharks that are such a mainstay of oceanic attractions everywhere. This is probably the best way ever conceived for a tourist to get their picture taken with a shark. The animals are well fed and, short of punching one of them in the face, the divers would have to try pretty hard to provoke them.

Home to a slightly different sort of shark encounter, Cordova is famed for its fishing fleet and, in particular, for its Salmon Shark fishermen. Because sharks are endangered in many of the world's seas, fishing for them is generally a fairly destructive activity. Not so in Cordova, where the population of Salmon Sharks, a tough species consisting mainly of six-foot-long bruisers, has been trending up.

The thrill of having a shark on the line is nothing compared to the thrill of pulling a shark into the boat. Head offshore with Orca Bay Charters, and keep your fingers away from the sharks' mouths.

Long Island is known for its friendly surf, its unique style of dress (velour formal), and as the home of the Hamptons. Curiously, the tourist books often neglect to mention that the waters just offshore are shark infested. Divers who head out with Sea Turtle Charters are all but guaranteed to see Blue sharks.

These open ocean cruisers look sort of sweet and confused. They are neither. When ships sink, informed sailors worry about Blue Sharks, who are used to patrolling empty water and always eager for a bite. Getting out of the cage might be fun, but it is almost certainly not advisable.

Rhode Island has always been New England's creepy little brother. The state is eccentric and the marine-mania that seems to grip many residents predictably extends to diving with sharks. Snappa Charters offers visitors looking to avoid the staid cocktail parties of Newport a chance to watch Mako Sharks at close quarters.

Observing these energetic sharks is always interesting as they're known to jump out of the water and hurl themselves at cages. In these cold waters there is also the chance of seeing a giant Basking Shark, a species similar to the Whale Shark that can grow to over twenty feet long, but survives on plankton and poses no threat to humans.

Isla Guadalupe, an island off northern Baja Mexico, is White Shark central for much of the year and is easily accessible on boats that run out of Southern California. Great White Adventures offers tours of the islands for snorkelers and divers alike and the visibility is good enough that visitors are almost bound to see something interesting.

A few hours west of San Francisco, the Farallon Islands are anything but peaceful. This is a seal and sea lion hunting ground for Great White sharks, so the animals here are liable to be aggressive and there may well be blood in the water. The water here is cold, rough and open – this is the black diamond of American shark encounters. The best guides come from Great White Adventures, a group out of Emeryville that has been patrolling these waters for years.

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