Shark Snorkeling in Florida!!!
The Most Exciting Small Group Activity – You Don’t Know About!
Want to create an unforgettable, life-changing family event? Go Shark Snorkeling in Florida!!!
Shark snorkeling is a thrilling experience that provides a unique opportunity to see these magnificent creatures up close.
1. What is Shark Snorkeling?
2. Is Shark Snorkeling Safe?
3. Florida Sharks
4. Shark Snorkeling Tips
5. The Best Shark Snorkeling Location – and it’s not the Florida Keys
6. Recommendations for Finding a Reputable Snorkel Operation
7. Snorkeling With Ryan at Shark Tours Florida
8. Local Food and Lodging Recommendations
9. A Few Last Things You Need to Know
What is Shark Snorkeling?
Florida is well-known for its abundant marine life, and one of the most popular ways to see it is through snorkeling.
Florida also happens to be home to many species of sharks, which can make some people uncomfortable getting in the water.
That is exactly why you should try shark snorkeling! It is a unique experience that allows you to safely encounter these amazing creatures in their natural habitat.
I started snorkeling and SCUBA diving on a regular basis after moving to Florida 10+ years ago. At the time my biggest fear was encountering a shark.
So How Is Shark Snorkeling in Florida Different from Regular Snorkeling?
“Regular” snorkeling usually centers around a reef, accessed either by beach or boat.
You always have a chance to see a shark while snorkeling but it’s not a typical experience.
Throughout Florida, the most common shark to encounter snorkeling around a reef are nurse sharks.
However, large groups of tourists splashing around in the water quickly scare off sharks (unless they are being fed).
Shark snorkeling takes place a few miles offshore, in areas where there is a diversity of pelagic shark species.
Pelagic sharks live in open waters, rather than only around a reef. They prefer warmer waters, and many species are migratory.
You will be surrounded by a professional safety team, who are trained to keep a close eye on both you and the sharks.
Is Shark Snorkeling Safe?
Snorkeling, SCUBA diving, & Swimming with sharks are popular activities in Florida.
Sharks are wild animals. Although shark dives are typically safe, there is always a small risk involved.
Even though most people think of sharks as dangerous predators, these creatures are quite shy and unlikely to attack humans unless provoked.
In my snorkeling/diving experience, sharks want nothing to do with us. They are easily scared off & will quickly turn and swim away.
A few years ago, I paid $200.00 to go on a bull shark dive, off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.
The bull sharks got scared off by our SCUBA bubbles and I didn’t see a single shark.
Shark bites are extremely rare, but regularly make the news because the subject generates higher ratings.
We are not a part of the shark’s diet or the ocean food web. In general, sharks do not like the taste of us.
The reality is very few human deaths are caused by sharks worldwide (usually less than 12 a year out of 7 billion people!).
In comparison, there are 800,000 reported dog bites and 300 deaths in the United States (yearly average).
You are more likely to be killed by jellyfish, falling coconuts, roller coster, vending machines, or falling out of your own bed than by a shark.
Surfers are an accidental shark target, and usually whom you hear about in the news.
Floating on the top of the water, with arms and legs dangling off the sides of surfboards – from a shark’s perspective – they mimic the shape of a seal or sea turtle. Both are shark favorite foods.
SCUBA divers, and free divers that spearfish can have more frequent shark encounters because sharks want to eat the fish they catch.
Sharks are opportunistic & intelligent. They recognize the sound of a speargun going off and will swim over to see if they can get a free meal.
Florida is home to at least 15 different shark species, from the small and harmless nurse shark to the majestic hammerhead shark.
However, not all Florida sharks are found in the same areas.
Some species, such as the nurse shark, bonnethead shark, and reef shark, stay close to shore where they find a home in our mangroves or coral reefs.
Pelagic sharks tend to stick to open waters in search of prey and can be migratory or resident sharks.
Although sharks are often feared, they play an important role in the ecosystem by keeping populations of other animals in check.
Without sharks, the ocean would be overrun with weak and sickly fish, leading to an overall decline in marine biodiversity.
Shark Snorkeling Tips
While there are no guarantees that you will see a shark in the wild, following these tips, will help you increase your chances of encountering
Don’t wear shiny jewelry or objects that could reflect light and attract sharks.
Wear dark clothing, sharks can see contrasting colors, especially yellow (Hence the SCUBA diving phrase “yum-yum yellow”)
Stay close to the group. Don’t touch or harass the sharks.
Stay still and avoid making sudden movements – this will scare off the sharks.
Listen and follow your shark tour operator’s instructions. They want you to have the best experience possible!
Don’t get excited and start chasing down the sharks with your camera or GoPro.
You will scare off the sharks and anger the other snorkelers who paid just as much as you did to be on the boat.
If you think you might get seasick or are prone to seasickness my recommendation is that you start taking Bonnie or Dramamine Light a couple of nights before you go out on the boat, then again in the morning or afternoon you go out on the boat.
The biggest mistake I see (and I often see people getting seasick) is not “pre-loading” their system and only taking one pill right before they get on the boat. If you want to read more about this check out my post 10 SCUBA Hacks You Need To Know. Many of these tips apply to snorkeling too.
The Best Shark Snorkeling Location – and it’s not the Florida Keys
The best shark snorkeling location isn’t Sharks Cove Hawaii or the Florida Keys. In fact, it is in a lesser-known area on the southeast coast of Florida.
The Jupiter/North Palm Beach area is about 2 ½ hours from Orlando and 1 ½ -2 hours from Miami depending on traffic. It is a lesser-known area for tourists but a popular local destination for snorkeling and scuba diving.
The waters around Jupiter/North Palm Beach are home to a variety of marine life, including sharks.
While snorkeling is largely associated with the Florida Keys, the Jupiter/North Palm Beach area is the best place to see many different species of sharks.
It’s easy to find tour operators/shops in the area that offer snorkeling trips to the famous Blue Heron Bridge and Peanut Island.
However, to see sharks up close and personal you need to go with an operator that specializes in shark snorkeling.
You might enjoy my watching video of a locally known Tiger Shark named Jenny swimming straight into me, it is my Instagram and/or TikTok @reesehwanderwild.
The video title is “3 Things You Don’t Know About Tiger Sharks”
Recommendations for Finding a Reputable Snorkel Operation
Check out TripAdvisor or call a few local SCUBA dive shops and ask for recommendations.
If you hear the same operator’s name, come up several times, that’s the operator/shop you want to go with.
Choose an operator/shop that is known for emphasizing safety over profit.
A quality operator/shop has safety procedures in place to avoid shark issues or they wouldn’t be in business.
Once you narrow down your search, call and interview each operator/shop about their safety procedures.
Snorkeling With Ryan at Shark Tours Florida
I am a passionate SCUBA diver but enjoy the simplicity of snorkeling almost as much as SCUBA.
Snorkeling is an easier option for family and friends – since you do not need a SCUBA certification.
Emerald Charters, a shark-focused SCUBA diving company in Jupiter FL is one of my favorite dive trips. If you want more information on this you can read my post about Shark SCUBA Diving in Florida.
If you want to see the video of Jenny, a local tiger shark (that has been migrating to the area every May for the last 10 years) swimming straight into me, check out my Instagram and/or TikTok @reesehwanderwild. The video title is “3 Things You Don’t Know About Tiger Sharks”
Liz, one of my favorite divemasters, at Emerald Charters recommended Ryan and his company
Shark Tours Florida for its strict safety protocols.
My top priority was a safe shark snorkeling experience. This was a special high school graduation gift for my niece, Kaley.
Ryan and his crew do not disappoint! We had an amazing experience. So did the rest of the people on the boat.
We had one silky shark hang out with us for over an hour and a half.
Shark Tours Florida takes groups of 6 or fewer out on their boat that leaves from a marina located at 255 East 22nd Court, Riviera Beach, Florida, at 9 am or 1 pm.
It is a three-hour shark snorkel tour (cue the Gilligans Island theme song here….). The price is $160.00 a person. The crew will also take photos and videos of your group for an additional charge.
You are required to wear all black. I have black scuba clothing but Kaley wore a black rashguard and yoga pants. Sharks notice contrast so wearing all black increases safety.
You are allowed to bring a camera or GoPro but for safety reasons, you must have an attached handle to hold on to, not just the camera. I didn’t read that part of the email and had to leave mine on the boat.
No experience is necessary but to get in the water you must be 12 years or older.
You can always choose to stay and watch from the boat if you decide that you are not comfortable getting in the water.
We had a grandmother on our trip who watched her granddaughter from the boat.
Because the snorkel lines are next to the boat, it’s easy to observe the sharks without getting in the water.
What to Expect
After boating several miles offshore, the crew set up lines from the boat for snorkelers to hold on to.
It is not required to hold onto the lines the entire time, you can swim near the lines but are not allowed to go past the two divemasters in the water with you.
Fish is used to chum the water and attract the sharks.
Two crew members, with over 8 years of experience in shark diving are always in the water with you. Plus the captain is watching from the boat.
You are in the water for approximately 1-2 hours. You do not have to stay in the water the entire time. You can go back and forth from the boat to the water.
Patience is key, it can take some time for the sharks to show up.
Different sharks show up at different times of the year.
Per the Shark Tours FL Website:
Our summer shark season includes:
Silky sharks, sandbar sharks, scalloped hammerheads, smooth hammerheads, bull sharks, dusky sharks, blacktip sharks, and more!
Our winter shark season includes:
Lemon sharks, tiger sharks, great hammerhead sharks, bull sharks, and more!
Local Food and Lodging Recommendations
I am a budget traveler.
However, on the southeast coast of Florida, it can be difficult to find budget hotels.
Know your hotel’s cancellation policy. Water activities often get canceled (with short notice) because of bad weather.
I almost always stay at the Super 8 Hotel in North Palm Beach. The address is 757 US 1, North Palm Beach FL. The phone number is (561) 899-6490.
It’s not fancy – but it is clean, in a good location, and has reasonable prices. Their “free” breakfast is still a “covid to go bag” so I bring my own.
However, the biggest benefit this property has to offer is its excellent cancellation policy (24 hours before).
The Draft House restaurant is within walking distance. It is convenient, casual, & rarely has a wait even for large groups. I eat here almost every time I stay at the Super 8.
Across the street from Draft House is a Mexican restaurant. I have only eaten there once before, but the fish tacos were good.
My first choice is to stay at the Jupiter Waterfront Inn, but they book up quicker and have a stricter cancellation policy.
The Jupiter Waterfront Inn address is 18903 Southeast Federal Highway, Jupiter, FL 33469. The phone number is (561) 747- 9085.
Restaurants in the area can be underwhelming, overpriced, or have long wait times.
For cheap eating, I find a Publix Grocery Store. Publix is a Florida grocery store chain, with a deli that has good quality food.
Almost always, I will search for a nearby Cuban Bakery. They are plentiful in the area.
You can’t go wrong with a Cuban sandwich in Florida. Plus, the coffee and guava pastries are always delicious.
A Few Last Things You Need to Know
Swimming with pelagic sharks is an incredible experience that is a great group activity.
It is important to remember that these creatures are wild animals and should be treated with respect.
Keep in perspective that you are diving in a natural ocean habitat. Sharks do not show up on command.
I have experienced snorkeling and diving with sharks at Disneyland & several aquariums (including the whale shark dive at Georgia Aquarium). They are good experiences too, but feel “manufactured”.
Nothing inside a theme park or aquarium is as exciting as interacting with sharks in their natural habitat.
If you see one wild shark, I consider it a success!
Then any more sharks that show up are bonus sharks. If you keep this in mind you will not be disappointed.
I promise it will be an experience you will never forget and maybe even make a shark lover out of you too.