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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 21 March, 2024
Expert travel writer: Alex Robinson

Like great whites and tiger sharks, bull sharks have a fearsome reputation. Getting within metres of these apex predators on a carefully controlled dive is astonishing: and in the clear, calm waters off Playa del Carmen, it’s as safe as any such encounter can be.

While bull sharks are present along the Riviera Maya all year round, dives are possible only October through March, when the more placid females enter shallower waters right off the mainland.

To dive you will need an Advanced Open Water Certification. Choose a responsible dive shop, who don’t use bait – which can be dangerous, and who follow strict distance regulations.

Logistics

Price from: £150
Minimum age: 16
Age suitable: 16+
When: All year around
Duration: 6-8 hours

Getting there & doing it

The closest (and cheapest) departure point is Playa del Carmen; though it’s also possible to leave from Tulum or Cancun. Dives take place at Jardines Deep, less than ten-minutes by boat from Playa.

Choose an experienced dive operator who know these dives well like Ko’ox, who don’t take risks with bait (bull sharks have attacked spear-fishing divers in other locations), who work as a tight group and who use full-length wetsuits and prohibit divers bringing anything bright or flashy (which attracts the sharks).

Divers require a minimum Advanced Open Water certification and should be skill-fresh before this dive. The sharks prefer water around 30 metres deep. There are often strong currents on the descent and ascent and it’s essential the party move as a tight group.

Two tank trips usually comprise a shark dive followed by a more tranquil visit to a nearby reef.

When to do it

Trips run between October and March, with the best chance of seeing the sharks in December and January; try to avoid the wetter months of October and November. Boats depart at dawn, and return mid-afternoon.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with

Ko’ox Diving

Ko’ox Diving

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Responsible, experienced dive operator offering all manner of Mayan Riviera trips from bull shark dives to caves, and open water, cave and free diving training up to instructor level.

Destination guides

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Mayan Riviera

Talc-white beaches, reefs teeming with life, ruined temples in misty rainforests – the Riviera Maya offers a family or romantic beach holiday with a dash of Indian Jones adventure.

Round-ups

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Round-ups that include this experience

13 Best places to swim with sharks

Get in the water with the so-called ‘man-eaters’ – great whites, tiger, bull and hammerhead sharks – to appreciate these magnificent but sadly maligned creatures .