• Get close - but not too close - to a popular ocean predator


    Discovery Channel's Shark Week - by now a venerable summer tradition for many - starts Aug. 10 this year. Though watching sharks on television may be the closest that most people ever want to get to them, there are options for those who want to meet the intimidating creatures on their own terms. Shark diving is one adventure travel activity that offers all the thrills of an up-close animal encounter without the danger, and a number of aquariums throughout the U.S. can put you in close contact with the ocean's most feared hunters. Unlike many international dives, these all take place within the actual aquarium, giving guests an inside look at the sharks' built habitat without disturbing the natural homes they came from.

    Long Island Aquarium
    For those who are just getting their feet wet in the world of shark dives, the Long Island Aquarium may offer the best beginner's experience. Participants are surrounded by all kinds of sea creatures, but held safely in a dive cage, according to the aquarium, so there's no danger of getting too in touch with nature on the trip. In addition to the sharks that draw most visitors, the dive aquarium contains eels, fish and a 300-pound turtle named "Jaws."

    Georgia Aquarium
    The Georgia Aquarium's two shark encounters do away with the cage and let participants meet the sharks face to face. One program offers the chance to swim at surface level with a snorkel or other breathing equipment, while the other is a full SCUBA dive, letting guests see the aquarium as the sharks do, according to the organization. The surface swim is open to anyone over 12, but to experience the dive, guests will need to have proof of open water SCUBA certification. Gear is provided, but more experienced aquatic adventurers can bring their own equipment as well.

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