Diving in a shark sanctuary is the perfect way to promote long-term sustainability of a marine reserve as well as a way to support the local economy of a community that has chosen to protect, rather than hunt, its sharks.
Raja Ampat is an archipelago in the western province of Indonesia, comprising over 1,500 small islands. In 2010, Shark Savers worked in collaboration with Misool Eco Resort to establish a sanctuary for the entire 17,000 sq mi of Raja Ampat protecting all sharks, rays, turtles and dugongs in the area.
Dive Highlight: Epaulette sharks at Misool Eco Resort. Located at the heart of the Coral Triangle, Raja Ampat boasts the majority of the world's reef-building corals. In an area the size of two football fields, scientists discovered more than six times as many coral species as live in the entire Caribbean Sea. Raja Ampat's reefs are home to over 700 species of mollusks and over 1,400 species of fish. Counted among those is the newly discovered 'walking' epaulette shark, commonly seen on night dives.
A small Pacific Island country east of the Philippines, Palau created the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009 when it protected all 230,000 sq miles of its waters from shark fishing.
Dive Highlight: Reef sharks and mantas at Blue Corner. With only nine inhabited islands out of more than 300, Palau is a quiet island paradise teeming with tropical fish, turtles, manta rays and sharks. Palau's most popular dive site, Blue Corner, is recognized as one of the best in the world due to its concentration of marine life. A prevailing current carries one of the largest schools of fish in the world into a channel formed by a vertical wall of hard, soft and fan coral. At high tide, hundreds of reef fish congregate on the plankton-rich water, attracting wahoo, barracudas, tuna, hawksbill and green turtles, eagle rays and dozens of beautiful reef sharks.
The Bahamas, an archipelago of more than 700 islands scattered throughout the Western Atlantic ocean, declared nearly a quarter million square miles of their waters as a shark sanctuary in 2011, prohibiting any commercial fishing of the animals as well as banning the possession, sale and trade of shark products.
Dive Highlight: Caribbean reef sharks in Nassau. With its clear, healthy coral reefs pristine waters, 100ft visibility and dive sites including great wall diving and blue holes, and its abundance of reef sharks, the Bahamas have become known as one of the world's best places for divers to encounter sharks in their own natural environment. Sharks can be found in literally all waters around the islands, including lemon sharks, nurse sharks and hammerheads.
The central American republic of Honduras moved to protect both its Pacific and Caribbean coastlines when it declared its entire 92,665 sq mi of waters as a permanent shark sanctuary in 2011 after a year-long moratorium on commercial shark fishing.
Highlight: Whale sharks in Utila. Utila is known as the Whale Shark Capital of the Carribean - one of the rare places in the world that Whale Sharks pass close to shore. Bordering the enormous Mesoamerican reef, second only in size to the Great Barrier Reef, Utila has a rich and varied coral fringing reef, off-shore sea mounds and coral heads populated with an abundance of reef fish, sponges, lobsters, turtles, dolphins and many varieties of rays.
Southwest of India in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives archipelago became a shark sanctuary in 2010 when it banned all shark fishing and trade of shark products anywhere in its 35,000 sq mi waters.
Dive Highlight: Reef Sharks in Ari Atoll. With over 26 species of sharks and dive sites with names like Hammerhead Point, Ari Atoll is known for its abundance of marine life and large population of sharks. Spectacular night dives showcase Grey Reef Sharks on the hunt, and "thilas," atoll lagoons with pinnacles of vaulting rock, have walls encrusted with sponges and soft corals that feeds schools of fish and brings a plethora of White Tips, Hammerheads, Whale Sharks, mantas and eagle rays.