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Swimming with sharks

by Mark Smith, Web and Opinion editor

Sharks - the ocean’s most-feared predators. The simple mention of the word is enough to make international tourists flee the beach in horror. Although sharks can pose a danger to swimmers and surfers alike, there is a safe way to view these amazing creatures without the fear of being eaten.

North Shore Shark Adventures has been operating on O'ahu for two years. It is the first shark tour business in Hawai'i and offers thrill-seekers and sea life enthusiasts a unique experience viewing sharks from the safety of a steel cage.

Click on image for more photos


Sound interesting? If you should decide to sign up, your tour will begin at the Haleiwa Boat Harbor and will last for two hours. After a safety briefing with Captain Joe Pavsek, the owner and founder, you will head out on a 26-foot Anderson cruiser to a location three to four miles offshore. Once there, the cage is dropped into the water (don’t worry, buoys on the side of the cage keep it afloat) and the excitement begins.

After you’re in the cage, it will be pushed a few feet away from the boat and the water will be baited with chum (pieces of dead fish). The water is clear, with visibility of up to 200 feet or more. Within a matter of seconds, you will see sharks ranging from 5-15 feet long.

It’s a good idea to bring an underwater camera for the trip, but if you should forget, you can purchase a one-time-use camera on board the boat. The sharks seen on this tour include gray reef, Galapagos, sandbar, hammerhead, and on rare occasions, tiger sharks. Depending on the time of year, while enroute to the location, sea turtles, dolphins, and humpback whales can be spotted. On a recent shark tour during the whale season, one customer, while swimming in the cage, was able to hear the sound of whales communicating in the distance.

Feeding of sharks has become a major concern in states such as Hawai’i and Florida. Both states currently have a ban on feeding sharks within state waters due to safety concerns for swimmers and water sports enthusiasts. This does not affect North Shore Shark Adventures because the tour takes customers beyond the three-mile limit (

Sharks have always been feared and respected in Hawaiian culture. According to Hawaiian folklore, each of the islands has a patron shark god. For O'ahu, the shark god is called Kamohoali'i and he is believed to reside in a cave several miles from Pearl Harbor. He is also believed to be the leader of Hawai'i’s shark gods, as well as the eldest brother of the volcano goddess, Madam Pele.

Boat tours take place between the hours of 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. and cost $60 per person. If you’re interested in getting into the shark cage, the regular cost is $120, but North Shore Shark Adventures offers a college student discount rate of $65 and a military rate of $75. The full package allows you up to 30 minutes in the cage. For an extra $30 you can get a DVD copy of your adventure.

Pavsek has been surfing and diving in the Haleiwa area for over 30 years. He has worked on aircraft salvage recovery in Hawai'i’s waters and has made regular appearances on television’s Let’s go Fishing. North Shore Shark Adventures has received recognition around the world and has been featured on the British Broadcasting Channel (BBC), ESPN Outdoors, and Canadian Wildlife Television.

When he’s not busy throwing people to the sharks, Pavsek works as a private investigator and artist. His art is still on display at galleries throughout Honolulu.

For more information, or to sign up, go to or call and schedule a tour at 228-5900.


Profile: Local sharks

Courtesy of, here is basic information about some of the common inshore species of sharks seen on North Shore Shark Adventure tours.

Galapagos: These sharks have large dorsal fins and range from 10-12 feet in length. Their diet consists of bottom fish. They are known to inhabit outer reefs, deep water, and inshore drop offs. Galapagos are aggressive to humans.

Sandbar: This species is characterized by sloping foreheads and large dorsal fins set towards the front of the body. They range from 5-6 feet in length and eat reef fish and crustaceans. They are known to inhabit shorelines and harbors. Sandbar sharks are not aggressive towards humans unless provoked when people invade their feeding and breeding areas.

Hammerheads: This breed is well known for their hammer-shaped heads and range in length from 5-15 feet. Their diet consists of reef fish, other sharks, rays, and crustaceans. They are found in both deep and shallow waters and are common in shallow waters during the spring and summer. They are common year round in Kane‘ohe Bay. Hammerheads are aggressive to humans.

Gray Reef: These sharks are distinguishable by their dark-margined pelvic and caudal fins. They range from 3-7 feet in length and feed on fish and crustaceans. They inhabit deep water near reefs and are aggressive towards humans.

Tiger Sharks: Tiger sharks have dark gray bars on their sides. They can grow between 12-18 feet in length and eat a variety of marine animals. They inhabit deep waters during the day and come inshore at night and are known to attack swimmers and surfers. Tiger sharks are the most dangerous sharks in Hawaiian waters.

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