South Florida is home to some of the best diving in the United States with it’s year round warm, clear blue water, great wrecks and reef dives. With Jupiter’s unique location being so close to the Gulf Stream, it is also one of the top shark diving destinations in the world. Not only does this location have large numbers of sharks, but it is also home to a large variety of high profile species such as the Tiger, Great Hammerhead, Bull, Dusky, Silky, Reef, Sandbar and Lemon Sharks. While there is no guarantee that you’ll spot sharks on every dive (since they are wild pelagic creatures), you will almost always see a great variety of sharks on every dive here.
The large Lemon shark population (lemon shark migration is from late December though March) makes for a thrilling cage-free shark dive year round, but each season brings in different species. Great Hammerheads and Tigers sharks pass by during their winter migration, and the Dusky and Silky sharks love to stop by in the summer when the water warms up. Dozens of big lemons, bull sharks, nurse sharks, and the occasional hammerhead regularly patrol the 90’ to 130’ ledge and 80’ wrecks. We’ve even spotted Whale Sharks and Manta Rays here. Massive Loggerhead Turtles and Goliath Groupers (aggregation and spawning is August to October) are regulars on these dives so get your cameras ready!
What to expect:
After analyzing your Nitrox tanks, the crew will load all your equipment onto the boat for you to set up for your first dive. The captain will give a boat safety briefing prior to leaving the dock. On the way to the first location the shark handler will give you a detailed briefing on shark diving procedures that will include the rules, location, profile and where you are to be during the dives. There is a maximum of 13 divers on the boat and everyone dives and stays together as one group. You will get a 15 minute warning to be ready to enter the water. If you are not ready in this time you may miss the dive so start gearing up early if you need extra time. All dives are drift dives so there is no decent line. It is critical that everyone enters the water and descends together in a timely manner so be sure of your buoyancy and weight needs.
Depending on conditions, this is typically how each dive goes:
The deep ledge. This is 90′-100′ reef with nice formations and drop offs. On this dive you can see a variety of sharks, turtles, Goliath Grouper, lobster and many game fish and tropical’s. This dive is also used to spear fish for the second and third dives. You will spend about 12 minutes near the bottom and the rest of the dive slowly ascending and enjoying the views. Gas mix for this dive is 34%-36%
Dives #2 and #3
These dives are usually on or near ship wrecks in 70′ to 80′ of water. You will have a little time to explore the wreck while the shark handler “calls” the sharks. Once the shark handler feels the sharks are in position he will call the divers to get in a position either on the sand or inside the rail of the wreck so that he can start feeding. It is not a shark feeding frenzy. A single piece of fish is taken from the crate and fed to the sharks, one at a time. There is plenty of fish and plenty of sharks. You will have hundreds of photos opportunities so don’t waste your camera battery in the first 10 minutes of the dive. Often there will be more sharks towards the end of the dive. Time on the bottom is about 20 minutes followed by a nice slow ascent for another 20 minutes. Often the sharks will follow the divers all the way to the surface. Gas mix for these dives is 36%
- The best place to be is in the water is just behind and a little above the shark feeder. The sharks know who has the food and they will concentrate in that area.
- Be familiar with your gear and know how much weight you need. It’s not the best time to be trying out new gear and computers. All eyes are on the sharks.
- Do not eat a large breakfast before diving, especially if you are prone to sea sickness. A bagel or muffin is good. There are pretzels, cookies, water and sodas provided free on the boat.
- If you are at all prone to sea sickness, take prevention (I find Bonine or Wallmart’s Brand -Equate to work the best) the night before the dive and again at 7.30am the day of the dive.
- Lunch, for the humans, is served on the boat between dives 2 and 3.
- You will be on the boat for 6 hours. Although there is a bathroom on the boat, it is not the best. There are bathrooms at the dock for your use prior to departure.
- Selfies are not allowed underwater. You need to remain vigilant at all times. Make a plan with your buddy to take photos of each other instead.
- If using a digital camera, bring a back up battery.
- Stay compact and don’t wave your hands around. To the sharks it looks like you have food for them.
- If at any time you feel the dive is not for you then don’t get in the water. A smart diver knows their limitations and sticks to them.