Shark Dive Maui
The shark has long been protected and revered in traditional Hawaiian culture, and you can pay your respects to the apex predator at the Maui Ocean Center’s Open Ocean exhibit. At 750,000 gallons, what the tank might lack in size it makes up for in species — tigers, hammerheads, gray reefs, black- and whitetips all call it home.
» Contact Maui Ocean Center — Maui, Hawaii. Call 808-270-7075 to make a reservation, or visit www.mauioceancenter.com to find out more. » Time to Go Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays year-round. The 2 ½-hour encounter begins at 8:15 a.m. Dive lasts 30 to 40 minutes. » Price Tag $199 per diver plus tax. Price includes admission for one viewing guest. Besides tanks and weight belts, gear is not provided, so you’ll need to bring your own. » Insider’s Tip Because large shark species are involved, only two divers are allowed in the exhibit with the divemaster at one time. A safety diver is also never far away.
Journey With Gentle Giants
It’s fitting that a chance to dive with the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, should take place in the world’s largest aquarium. Not only will participants in the Georgia Aquarium’s Journey With Gentle Giants dive program spend 30 minutes in the 6 million gallon Ocean Voyager exhibit with four awe-inspiring whale sharks, they’ll also get to know Nandi, the only manta ray ever to live in captivity in the United States.
» Contact Georgia Aquarium — Atlanta, Georgia. To book, call 404-581-4000 or visit www.georgiaaquarium.org. » Time to Go The 2 ½-hour experience is offered daily at 3 p.m. and 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Bottom time is roughly 30 minutes. » Price Tag $325 for nonmembers, 10 percent off for members. Price includes all gear, admission to the aquarium, a T-shirt and a souvenir photo. » Insider’s Tip Guests who aren’t scuba certified can participate in the swim program, where they’ll snorkel in the Ocean Voyager tank instead.
Dive With Sharks
If the sharks at the Vegas blackjack tables aren’t quite fierce enough for you, try getting acquainted with some real sharks instead. Certified divers can now enter the Shipwreck exhibit at the Shark Reef Aquarium, found inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino on Sunset Strip. Inside this desert oasis you’ll meet seven different shark species patrolling the 1.3 million gallon tank, including Galápagos, gray reefs and sand tigers, plus sawfish and stingrays.
» Contact Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino — Las Vegas, Nevada. To reserve a spot, call 702-632-4555 or visit www.sharkreef.com. » Time to Go The three- to four-hour encounter is offered at 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Dive lasts 45 minutes. Reservations are limited, so book early. » Price Tag $650 for one diver and $1,000 for two. Price includes all gear, a video of the dive and admission to the aquarium for four friends (so they can verify that yes, you really did it). Participants must be guests at Mandalay Bay or THEhotel. » Insider’s Tip In the luxury spirit of Vegas, your comfort at Shark Reef is key: Snacks, water and even shower toiletries are provided during the dive, and so is chain mail (though the chances are extremely small that you’d ever need it).
Kids 8 to 13 can get a thrilling introduction to the world of diving at the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, and this one doesn’t take place in a tank. Participants learn scuba fundamentals in the aquarium’s adjacent Great Tide Pool, a 6-foot-deep rocky cove filled with starfish, decorator crabs and whatever sea life stops by. Few divers can say that their first dive was in a drysuit (even if they’re floating at the surface in full gear).
» Contact Monterey Bay Aquarium — Monterey, California. Call 866-963-9645 to reserve a spot. You can also visit www.montereybayaquarium.org to learn more about the program. » Time to Go Because of possible swells in the Great Tide Pool during the cooler months, Underwater Explorers is offered only June 13 through Sept. 7. Kids can join up daily at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. The experience runs 90 minutes. » Price Tag $79 plus aquarium admission ($17.95 for children 12 and under, $29.95 for adults). Price includes all gear. » Insider’s Tip No scuba training is needed, but for safety, both children and parents receive a briefing before the dive, and the participant/staff ratio is kept at 3:1.
A great option for the newly certified diver, Epcot’s popular DiveQuest allows guests to fin through the 5.7 million gallon Caribbean Coral Reef exhibit at the Seas With Nemo & Friends Pavilion (formerly called the Living Seas). They’ll encounter more than 60 species of marine creatures, from turtles and rays to sharks and dolphins. It’s a memorable experience and a great way to get some serious bottom time on a family vacation.
» Contact Epcot Theme Park at Walt Disney World Resort — Orlando, Florida. Call 407-939-8687 to book, or visit www.disneyworld.disney.go.com for more information. » Time to Go Offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Offered Fridays and Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Experience runs 2 ½ to three hours with 40 minutes of bottom time. » Price Tag $175 per diver. Price includes all gear. » Insider’s Tip Dive shops and groups associated with the industry can reserve spots on Friday and Saturday nights at 6:30 p.m. for a private experience in the exhibit.