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Frequently Asked Questions
WHERE ARE YOU GUYS?
Answer: We are based in Bluff which is small port town located right at the bottom of the South Island, New Zealand. We are 25 minute drive from Invercargill, 2.5 hrs drive from Queenstown and 3hrs from Dunedin. Bluff only has one main street and you'll find our booking office smack bang in the middle, two doors down from the supermarket.
ARE YOU GUYS ON STEWART ISLAND?
Answer; No.. we are in Bluff right at the bottom of the South Island. Although we no longer offer drop offs at Oban, Stewart Island/Rakiura, the Captain does aim for a return to Bluff Port by 5pm so those heading south can catch the last ferry to the island.
I'VE NEVER DIVED, CAN I GO IN THE CAGE?
Answer: We offer an 'introduction to Underwater breathing' training session the tour with our Dive Lead. This is designed to give new divers confidence with using the dive equipment and an opportunity to dive with a professional in the cage before the FUN stuff happens! We want you to be confident, comfortable and get value for money for the day.
I DID MY SCUBA TRAINING YEARS AGO, ITS BEEN A WHILE, DO I NEED TO DO THE TRAINING AGAIN?
Answer: We are certainly happy to have you go through the 'Introduction to Underwater breathing' training session the tour with our Dive Lead as a refresher. But in most cases, its like riding a bike - you never forget how to use a reg. Our dive team are on hand throughout the day and are there to support you. Remember to bring your old Card, log book or any written proof of your training, as this will allow you to dive on an Experienced Diver fare.
IS THERE FOOD?
Answer: Morning tea and a complimentary light lunch are on offer to humans during the tour. Lunch varies from day to day but may include packed sandwiches, savories or the famous Southland Cheese rolls. Tea Coffee, Cup-A-Soups, fruit and biscuits are available for morning tea. All water on the vessel is filtered. Special diets should be self catered, especially medical based diets as our vessel travels to a remote location.
WHAT SORT OF SHARKS DO YOU SEE?
Answer: There are plenty of sharks in the Foveaux Strait, but we park up where the bigger ones go. Over the summer months Great White Sharks are our most common sightings, but when the waters are warmer we also see Mako, Blues and the odd lost seven giller.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING?
Answer: Divers should bring togs/bathers, a towel, warm clothing and determination! Experience Divers, please bring your proof of Dive Training/Certification. You are most welcome to bring own mask, however during Covid19 Traffic Level Response we recommend using our dive suits as all other items are chemically sanitized during operations. Sightseers should bring a sun cap, warm clothing, great eye sight and a loud voice for yelling 'Shark!' Everyone should prepare for sea sickness, bring a camera, polarized glasses and any special dietary requirements you might have.
HOW DO I GET FROM INVERCARGILL TO BLUFF?
Answer: Bluff is a 25min drive, from Invercargill. Most of the common rental car providers are located at Invercargill Domestic Airport. Although there is no longer a public bus service, Shuttle services are available or maybe cycle on the Bluff Cycle way (1.5hrs).
WHAT IF THE WEATHER IS BAD?
Answer: Welcome to Southland! <<insert crazy Bluffy laugh here>> Weather is key, but although we go out in rain, hail and snow, wind is a big factor for crossing the Foveaux Strait. Our dive location is nestled in a group of islands to its generally calm, but getting there is half the adventure! Weather assessments are done 72hours, 48hours and 24 hours prior to trip. If the Captain decides to postpone departure or cancel, we will contact you ASAP.
WHAT IF COVID MESSES WITH MY TRAVEL PLANS?
Answer: We are trying to be as super flexible with Covid impacts as we can – so, if you are unable to travel due to Covid19 Travel restrictions (this includes you being in isolation or being ill) then talk to our team on +64 3 2127112 ! We can offer solutions based on the government regulations/mandates in place at the time. Our standard cancellations policy stays for all other scenarios.
DOES ANYONE TAKE PHOTOS?
Answer: Yes, you! The best view of the sharks is in the cage - and thats where were want you! Shark Experience do not offer professional photography services on any tours, however we do have GoPro and Underwater Cameras available for hire (best to reserve these) and we encourage you to bring own too. We do record footage of sharks for our Identification Program, and if its of good quality we are always happy to share it.
HOW CLEAR IS THE WATER DOWN YOUR WAY?
Answer: Its not bad, some days its amazing! . Depending on the tide... the weather... the general sea conditions we get between 10m to 20m visibility.
WHATS THE WATER TEMP DOWN THERE?
Answer: Anywhere between 10 to 14 degrees calcium. We did have one day in 2022 when it was 15 degrees.! In true Southland form - sometimes its warmer in the water than it is on deck! We keep you sorted with a 7mm wetsuit but bring extra warm clothing!
HOW MANY SHARKS DO YOU SEE ON AVERAGE?
Answer: It varies! they are wild animals and they do want they want! We have a Shark Sightings Calendar that is updated daily ( NC= No Charter) and this shows how many Great Whites we can identify that day, but generally there may be more, we just cant keep up!. Its uncommon to see the same sharks all season or even in a week.
WHY DO THE SHARKS COME HERE?
Answer: We'd love to say because of us! but we just aren't that good! Our dive site is located in the Northern TiTi Islands about 45 minutes voyage from Bluff. We anchor near a seal colony that has been in on the uninhabited island for generations. Seals + Sharks?... well that's another story.
HOW BIG ARE THE SHARKS?
Answer: They come in all shapes and sizes. In the early in the season, we tend to see the curious wee boys (3m to 3.5m) and slowly as the months progress, the boys get bigger (3.5m to 4m) and then the Big Gals arrive!.
WHEN DO THE SHARKS COME BACK?
Answer: Some of them are here all the time! Great Whites have been roaming Southland/New Zealand waters for a very long time. They come they go... some return every year, some just come visit seals while passing. Stories about Sharks off the Foveaux Strait go back generations.
HOW BIG IS YOUR BOAT?
Answer: The Southern Isle is a 17m alloy beastie who was designed for and roams the Foveaux Strait since her launch. She handles the bigger waves, is cover in shark pictures and has the odd comfort (a shark cage, a toilet, 2 showers, a kitchen, a viewing platform, changing room etc) She's not as big as Bluff Hill Motupohue, but she stands out in a crowd.
HOW SAFE IS THAT CAGE?
Answer: Im going with SAFE! Its custom designed to accommodate divers and sightseers (see the nice fence on the top?). Its been approved following some strict guidelines by the dudes that know safety. Its bolted to the vessel so although you are still under water you are not going anywhere without a boat. Its roomy enough for five divers at one time and has easy access ladders to get in and out.
THAT BIG QUESTION ABOUT SHARK CAGE DIVING:
IS SHARK CAGE DIVING LEGAL IN NEW ZEALAND?
Answer: Yes. Shark Experience operate as a Shark Cage Diving tour company legally.
The Wildlife Act 1953 was put under the microscope following a court case where a commercial dive/fishing group took the Department of Conservation to court over water safety matters. The legal action and interpretation of this old bit of legislation meant that our industry had to change how it operated - so we did. All Cage Diving Tours conducted by Shark Experience between September 2018 and October 2019 were done so without Incentive Baits for the purpose of enticing sharks. As it worked out... .... Mother Nature amazed us with a 94% sighting rate for the 2018/2019 season. Curiosity and a wee bit of patience was meant everyday was different. On the 11th October 2019.. .the Supreme Court of New Zealand made a decision that changed all of that again. Shark Experience fought that battle, financed that battle and did so with conservation and sensible tourism in mind.
Shark Experience will continue to operate with the original industry Code of Practice in place. There are some older and very out of date websites out there that are yet to be updated.... so if you have any questions - just call! Phone: + 64 3 212 7112
Photo Credit: Catherine Travers 2020 Great White Shark Edwards Island
No Shark Sighted Policy
Shark Cage Diving "No Shark Sighted Policy" with Shark Experience
Your shark experience relies on the cooperation of an unpredictable, magnificent wild animals. None of the animals we deal with are trained. When dealing with any natural event or animal, there are no guarantees. Shark Experience follows strict industry-imposed guidelines when dealing with sharks and our staff are trained to adhere to these guidelines. Our crew will do everything it can to provide you with a Shark Experience within these guidelines.
In the rare event that you do not get to see a shark, as a Shark Cage Diver and Sightseer, you will be offered a ‘Return Trip Voucher’ to travel with Shark Experience at no cost for another chance to have your moment with nature. If sharks are not sighted on the redeemed voucher tour, a Return Trip voucher is not issued for that tour.
- Return Trip Vouchers cannot be transferred into another person’s name.
- Vouchers are not redeemable for cash.
- Vouchers are valid for a period of 365 days from the date of issue.
- Extensions may be granted on medical grounds or in extenuating circumstances by contacting our office prior to the voucher expiry.
Please check out our Terms and Conditions to find out more about our Cancellation, Refund and Booking Terms.