One of the most adventurous dives of my life is hands down the Beqa shark dive in Fiji, where you scuba dive with several species of sharks — all without a cage.
A veritable sharknado of activity is right in front of your eyes: bull sharks and tawny nurse sharks swirling around in a chaotic-yet-somehow-organized frenzy, plus plenty of reef sharks at a shallower stage of the dive.
In terms of the rarer species of shark, we were lucky to spot one of the lemon sharks on the dive, though unfortunately I missed seeing any tiger sharks, which is still high on my bucket list!
I’ll admit, I almost didn’t do this Fiji shark dive. Not just for safety reasons (though of course, that was also a concern), but for ethical ones.
I’ve always been of the school of thought that feeding wild animals = bad news. And while the answer to that question is largely yes, there is some room for nuance, as with almost every situation in the world.
In this article, I’ll go into everything you need to know about this famed shark dive in Fiji’s Beqa Lagoon.
I’ll explain how the shark dive proceeds, the ethical questions around shark feeding and shark encounters, the safety precautions the team takes, and which dive operator I picked and why.
What Sharks Will You See on This Fiji Shark Dive?
The Beqa shark dive has counted 8 species on their shark dives, of which bull sharks is what the dive is most famous for.
That said, there are also sightings of the sicklefin lemon shark, silvertip sharks, tawny nurse sharks, silvertips, grey reef sharks, blacktip and whitetip reef sharks and rare but exciting tiger sharks!
While the lagoon in front of Beqa Island has most of Fiji’s sharks grace these waters, one notable absence is hammerhead sharks (but you can find schooling hammerheads during certain times of the year in Savusavu).
The sharks are present year-round and the tour runs all throughout the year — the main difference is water temperature (it was a chilly 25° C / 77° F in August!) and water conditions.
While normally August has pretty good visibility and isn’t too choppy, we unfortunately were there during some unusually stormy weather for the dry and cool season… but it was still worth it!
Which Fiji Shark Dive Operator to Go With?
After doing my research, I chose to go with Beqa Adventure Divers as my dive shop of choice for a few reasons.
Namely, I found them to be the most transparent about what their shark dive practices entail, laying out their guidelines very clearly and making it clear that they wouldn’t tolerate any deviation from their safety protocol.
For another, their work in conservation of both sharks and Fiji’s beautiful coral reefs has been commended by many external reputable sources as doing some of the best shark conservation work in Fiji.
You can read more about their efforts here, but here’s the TL;DR.
Their work led to the Fiji Shark Project, which eventually created the formation of the Shark Reef marine Reserve in 2004, Fiji’s first marine park area that was specifically dedicated to shark conservation.
10 years later, their continued work and advocacy made the Shark Reef Marine Reserve the first national marine park in Fiji in 2014.
A part of the fee of shark-diving is given to the local villages who have formerly fished in the areas that now make up the marine reserve.
Their conservation work has led to an over-fished area becoming once again a thriving hub for local fishermen who now fish outside of the reserve area.
They also work in close partnership with researchers and have been included in nearly two dozen scientific publications about shark conservation.
There are a few other dive shops in the Pacific Harbour area of Viti Levu in case you want to look into them instead. I didn’t dive with any of these shops so I can’t speak to them. Those are:
- Beqa Lagoon Resort
- Aqua-Trek Beqa
- Coral Coast Divers
- Barefoot Kuata Island Resort also offers shark diving, but they are located in the Yasawa Islands off the coast of Nadi, not in Pacific Harbour / Beqa Lagoon.
What Is the Fiji Shark Dive Like?
This section will describe my experience doing a two-tank shark dive with Beqa Adventure Divers.
I also did a two-tank coral dive with them the following day, so I could explore the beautiful hard and soft corals of the Beqa Lagoon, but I won’t go over that in this post.
Note that you will need to be PADI Advanced Open Water certified to do this dive as the max depth is outside of Open Water limits.
Your day out shark diving consists of two dives at the same dive site. The first dive goes as follows.
There are multiple stages at this dive, and you’ll want to monitor your air consumption carefully, as it starts quite deep. For me, this dive lasted 40 minutes, with a max depth of 29 meters and an average depth of 16 meters.
The dive starts deep, at 30 meters or 100 feet, overlooking an area of the dive site that the team has nicknamed “The Arena”.
This is a large open area where the bull sharks and other sharks, particularly tawny nurse sharks, congregate in large numbers around the trash bin full of tuna heads that has been lowered in to the ocean.
During this part of the dive, you are laying on your belly in front of a coral ledge, with dive masters stationed behind you with metal prods with a blunt edge, which they will use to redirect any sharks whose path is near the divers.
You’ll spend about 10 minutes in this area, or as much as the dive computers allow — your divemaster will be watching your dive computer and also checking in with you on your air consumption, as between the deep depth and the excitement of the sharks, it can be easy to blow through your air!
In fact, my dive buddy — who is more experienced than I am — found that she used a lot of her air at this stage of the dive, and it ended up shortening her dive experience by about 5-10 minutes.
She had to end her dive a bit sooner than the rest of us and go up with the divemaster who was assigned to accompanying divers low on air up to the surface safely.
The next stage of the dive is up a coral slope, where you level off at 10 meters or 33 feet.
This is the hand feeding portion of the tour, where the divemaster is hand feeding grey reef sharks and white tip reef sharks, as well as any other surprise visitors.
Finally, the most exciting safety stop you’ll ever enjoy! At 4 meters or 13 feet, you’ll be surrounded by both white tip and black tip reef sharks, at another hand feeding station.
These reef sharks like to get particularly close — and these are the least dangerous sharks on the dive! — so this is a really fun part of the dive experience.
This dive is a bit simpler, as it all takes place at one depth (plus a safety stop). We maxed out at 16 meters here, with an average depth of 14 meters, and a dive length of 37 minutes.
We spent about 30 minutes at depth, watching the never-ending swirl of bull sharks (including some huge pregnant mama bull sharks!) and tawny nurse sharks, also seeing some other visitors along the way.
It’s almost overwhelming to the senses to see this many sharks!
After watching the sharks while laying behind some stacked rocks and coral as protection, we eventually made our ascent up to the safety stop.
Meanwhile, several divemasters stayed down below to redirect any remaining sharks in the area and make sure we could conduct our safety stop safely.
This safety stop was full of current – it was crazy! Luckily, there are a rope we could hold onto to make sure we stayed at the desired depth.
After completing our safety stop, the shark dive was done — an invigorating pelagic experience like no other!
How Much Does the Fiji Shark Dive Cost?
I paid $425 FJD ($188 USD) for a 2-tank shark dive. It’s definitely more than I’m used to paying for dives, and more than I spent on a typical 2-tank dive in Taveuni, but there’s good reason for that.
Keep in mind that the $425 FJD cost includes several things — the fact that you will be diving with at least five divemasters, the cost of the feeding/provisioning, and the contributions that go towards supporting the local communities who have agreed not to fish in the reserve.
There’s also a $25 FJD fee for diving in the marine reserve and a $10 FJD fuel surchange, bringing it up to $460 FJD ($203) for the basic shark dive experience.
The fee is also not inclusive of any gear rental. I brought all my own gear, from my dive computer to my 5mm wetsuit to my regulator to my BCD to my fins and mask. All I needed was a weight belt and tanks.
If you need to rent gear, allocate an additional $50 FJD per day for full gear rental, or $30 FJD if you just need one item.
Is the Beqa Shark Dive Safe?
This is perhaps people’s biggest concern when it comes to the Fiji shark dive, and I absolutely understand why… most (normal) people avoid sharks, after all, not hurl themselves into a situation teeming with them.
Well, scuba divers are not normal people, and many of us absolutely adore sharks (while still respecting them as apex predators capable of causing serious harm).
I’ve dove with many sharks before, but they’ve all been more docile varieties — primarily nurse sharks in the Caribbean (which may as well be puppies, except for the fact that puppies roughly a bajillion times more likely to bite you), as well as reef sharks (both whitetip reef sharks and blacktip reef sharks) in the Tahiti and Moorea.
Generally speaking, sharks aren’t particularly interested in humans. It usually takes no more than mere eye contact for a shark swimming in your direction to quickly turn away.
Sharks are ambush predators; no matter their size, it’s simply not in their nature to go after an animal who is paying attention to it and staying still.
That said, the environment of a fed shark dive is quite different, as the sharks are actively smelling food and attempting to eat it.
This does change their behavior slightly, but generally, they remain more interested in the food (which is in a large recycling bin that is difficult but not impossible for them to open — think canine enrichment, but for sharks).
On my dive with Beqa Adventure Divers, the most respected shark dive operator in Pacific Harbour (more on that later), I felt very safe as there were at least five divemasters on the tour with us.
Each had a metal prod that they would use to safely redirect sharks who came close to any divers.
The metal prod is not pointy or anything that would hurt a shark — it is a metal rod with a blunt, flat protruding piece that can be used to bump the shark gently to move their head and thus change the direction of their swim path, as sharks can only swim in the direction they are looking.
During the entirety of the shark dive, you are semi-sheltered behind either a coral wall or stone wall, lying horizontally on the ground so that you can observe the sharks safely.
The Beqa team overweights you for this dive, so that you don’t have to worry about buoyancy issues and you can simply lie in a safe position while observing the sharks.
There is zero chance for you to personally interact with the sharks — this is merely an opportunity for you to watch sharks in the wild while surrounded by industry experts in shark conservation.
That said, I would be remiss to not mention any incidents that have happened during these shark dives. In my research, I came upon two incidents in Beqa Lagoon.
One was a shark bite in 2019 while diving with Beqa Lagoon Resort. The diver survived the bite but needed stitches after receiving an 8-cm long, 0.5-cm wound after a tiger shark bite. You can read more here.
Another was a death in 2011 that occurred while diving in the Beqa Lagoon, but it does not seem to be related to the shark dive, as it was attributed to a coral dive.
The diver who passed away was found to have died due to asphyxiation (likely due to running out of air) after a strong current separated her from her dive group. You can read more here.
As unfortunate as both incidents are, it’s important to remember a few key things.
1) Scuba is inherently a somewhat dangerous activity. DAN reports that there are around 4 deaths per 100,000 divers annually. In 80% of chances, this is due to drowning after a gas management failure.
2) Shark attacks are also quite rare and are actually rarest amongst divers compared to other water activities, including snorkeling, wading in water, and surfing. Sharks are less likely to attack divers than other humans because their full bodies are submerged in the water (so sharks can see the full size of a human) and their movements are more fluid and less jerky (less like common shark prey like seals).
3) There are about 70 shark attacks annually, again, mostly on snorkelers, surfers, and swimmers. Of that, there are usually about 5 deaths. You are approximately 7 times more likely to get hit by lightning than get bit by a shark.
Dives with shark feeding and hand-feeding have occurred in Beqa Lagoon since 1999, and as far as I can tell, there’s only been one bite incident among the tens of thousands of divers who have visited.
While that’s very unfortunate and my heart goes out to the diver who experienced this, that’s still a rather good track record for an area so teeming with bull sharks and tiger sharks, which are two of the species most associated with shark attacks on humans.
Is the Beqa Shark Dive Ethical?
Shark dive experiences have long been controversial, as people are understandably concerned about the potential ill-effects of feeding sharks and whether or not that leads to sharks associating humans with food and thus increasing shark attacks.
Another ethical concern is whether sharks become reliant on the feeding provided by shark dive guides and end up abandoning their natural behaviors and habitats in exchange for easier food in familiar waters.
I researched this quite heavily before deciding to my shark dive in Fiji. I found this helpful peer-reviewed scientific paper which points out a few key findings about the bull shark population specifically in Beqa Lagoon.
1) The paper found that the bull sharks were not reliant upon the feedings provided during shark dives. While the bull sharks studied did spend more time in the marine reserve on feeding days, they also spent time there on non-feeding days, and they’d also disappear for the marine reserve area for weeks on end, hunting elsewhere in that time.
It’s important to realize that the sharks are not fed a huge quantity of food on these dives, and the food is not meant to supplant their diets. They are merely fed tuna heads, which are part of their natural diet but are not incredibly dense with calories, so that sharks are still motivated to hunt and keep up their normal behaviors.
2) The paper also found that there are some significants benefits to the establishment of long-term sights for shark tourism, as they also provide a place for researchers to collect data, research shark behavior, and come to conclusions about how to best preserve important ecosystems (particularly mating and birthing habitats) for sharks.
After weighing all the evidence, I came to believe that the benefits of shark tourism in Beqa Lagoon outweighed any potential negative effects, and that’s why I chose to go on this shark dive adventure.
That said, I understand every person has a right to their own opinion, and I encourage you to do your own research on the matter rather than take my opinion as the one true answer.
I am merely a diver who likes to geek out on sharks and conservation work — I am not an expert in the industry or a biologist. I made my best choice with the information out there.
I wanted to share what I found in my extensive research with other people considering doing the Beqa shark dive in Fiji.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to think about the safety and ethics of this Fiji shark dive, and see if the benefits outweigh the risks.
For me, I chose to do the shark dive, but I respect others with a different point of view on the matter — I felt the same way before I dove into the research myself!
Allison Green is a former educator turned travel blogger. She holds a Masters in Teaching and a B.A. in English and Creative Writing. Her blog posts merge her educational background and her experience traveling to 60+ countries to encourage thoughtful travel experiences that both educate and entertain. She has been a speaker at the World Travel Writers Conference and her writing, photography, and podcasting work has appeared in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, CBC Canada, and Forbes, amongst others. Now based in the San Francisco Bay Area where she grew up, she has also lived in Prague, Sofia, and New York City.