Over the last decade or so, there has been an increase in the number of great white sharks that migrate to Cape Cod waters. While some people feel shock and terror as a result, others are amazed and curious about these giant fish. If you’re in the latter category, you might want to see the sharks for yourself.
Luckily, you can choose from a variety of Cape Cod shark tours — all of which make safety a priority.
What You Should Know About Great White Sharks
You already know that great white sharks are marine predators, but you may enjoy your Cape Cod shark tour more if you’re armed with information. First of all, they aren’t the mindless killing machines as portrayed in the 1975 film “Jaws.” In fact, only 33% to 50% of the average 100 annual shark attacks worldwide are attributed to great whites.
Despite that, great whites are the biggest predatory fish on the planet, growing to an average 15 feet long and weighing more than 1 ton on average. Some of them grow longer than 20 feet and weigh 2.5 tons or more. They have several rows of up to 300 triangular teeth, too.
In general, great whites prefer cool water along coastlines, like around Cape Cod. Regardless, there’s been a rise in shark sightings because the seal population has climbed over the years. As the sharks mature, they develop a bigger appetite, and their favorite prey becomes seals and other small marine mammals. That’s why most great white shark attacks on humans aren’t fatal, and any fatal attack is likely because the marine predators mistake people for prey, according to research.
In appearance, great white sharks are slate gray on top, which helps them blend in with the rocky sea floor. Their bellies are white, which is where the name comes from. Shaped like torpedoes, they have powerful tails and can swim up to 15 mph and completely breach the surface of the water — similar to whales — while feeding.
Rising Interest in Cape Cod Shark Adventures
Thousands of people have been interested in Cape Cod shark tours for decades because “Jaws” was mainly filmed from Martha’s Vineyard. But with the shark population increasing since 2010, the shark ecotourism game has changed.
In summer 2018, there were two great white shark attacks off the coast — one of which was fatal, the first in the state since 1936. Since then, officials have improved equipment and training for first responders and lifeguards to keep public beaches safe. When sharks are spotted close to the shore, swimming beaches temporarily close.
Meanwhile, many businesses and charter boat operators have started to embrace Cape Cod’s great white shark reputation. Some businesses have amped up the availability of shark-themed merchandise — such as clothing, jewelry, popular stickers, and more. Charters are now offering boat tours alongside fishing, seal, and whale watching excursions. A state marine biologist told Associated Press that this shark tourism industry could be beneficial for studying the fish, as long as the tours are done responsibly.
And they are. Most Cape Cod shark tour operators stay at least hundreds of yards offshore to avoid changing the fish’s natural behavior and encouraging them to swim into shallow water near beaches.
Best Cape Cod Shark Tours & Adventures
With these great white shark details, you can really enjoy a shark tour. All of the tours below are only available between July and November because that’s the time of year great whites are in Cape Cod waters.
While great white sharks may be the focus of many tours, other sharks that swim around the peninsula include blue, mako, porbeagle, and thresher sharks.
Dive Bounty Hunter
There’s only one operator (that we know of) that offers shark cage diving operations off Cape Cod — Dive Bounty Hunter. Departing from locations in South Yarmouth, Nantucket Island, and Martha’s Vineyard, the company has a super strong cage that it custom built for viewing sharks from underwater. Masks, snorkels, and wetsuits are provided, but you can use your own gear as well. Those who don’t want to get into the water, though, can still get a good view of the powerful silhouette from the boat cockpit. Each trip lasts more than 6 hours dock to dock.
White Shark Tours Cape Cod
Operating from Sesuit Harbor in South Dennis and Bass River in South Yarmouth, White Shark Tours Cape Cod with Captain Cullen Lundholm offers private charters to observe sharks in their natural habitat. A spotter pilot flies over the 27-foot Conch boat to assist with sightings and offer the best great white shark viewing experience possible. The company boasts seeing multiple sharks within meters of the boat on each trip, which lasts about 3 hours.
Jail Break Fishing Charters
Offering two different Cape Cod shark tours, Jail Break Fishing Charters operates out of Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich Port. The Bluefin Tuna/Shark Tour takes you on a fishing excursion for bluefin tuna, one of the most aggressive and fastest fish in the ocean. Shark fishing is allowed too, just not for great whites. The Great White Shark & Seal Tour, though, takes you on a sightseeing tour of these marine creatures and doesn’t include fishing.
Stick N’ Rudder Aero Tours
For a look at great white sharks from the sky, book a flight with Stick N’ Rudder Aero Tours, which flies from Chatham Municipal Airport. This 55-minute sightseeing flight covers the lower region of Cape Cod and Monomoy Island, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll see the giant fish. However, you’re guaranteed to see gorgeous beaches, lighthouses, and seals.
From Chatham, the world’s premier destination for viewing great white sharks, BlueWater Entertainment offers shark tours alongside its whale watching, fishing, and other boat cruises. You have the option between taking the tour with a spotter plane or not. Paying the extra for the spotter plane, though, greatly improves the chance that you’ll see great whites and other sharks.
Atlantic White Shark Conservancy
Located in Chatham, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy has a few shark-related boat adventures. The Receiver Excursion is a 1-hour cruise in Chatham Harbor that involves retrieving a shark receiver and analyzing the data to see if a tagged great white has passed through the area. The Private White Shark Expeditions give you the opportunity to see the apex predators and learn about them.
The AWSC does more than offer shark watching tours. It’s a nonprofit shark research group dedicated to educating people about sharks, as well as improving proactive shark safety measures and researching these fish. You can take an in-depth look at great white sharks at the Shark Center, which has interactive exhibits, virtual reality experiences, and video displays.
Of the many charter boat operators on Cape Cod, Monomoy Sportfishing in Chatham has the most experience running great white shark tours. As a matter of fact, it’s the peninsula’s original Great White Shark cruise business. The company works with a professional spotter pilot. During the 2-hour tour, the boat captain can communicate privately and in real-time with the spotter pilot to get as close to the sharks as safety allows.
Although seeing great whites isn’t guaranteed, Monomoy Sportfishing boasts a more than 99% success rate. And, if you want to see more than great white sharks, it offers a 4-hour combo tour with whale watching.
Down Cape Charters & Boat Rentals
From Harwich, Down Cape Charters & Boat Rentals offers Cape Cod shark tours through Shark Alley. This area is a stretch of open Atlantic water along the coast of Nauset Beach, Chatham, and Monomoy Island. Every cruise lasts about 2 hours on the Bellamy, a U.S. Coast Guard inspected vessel. An experienced, licensed captain and a private spotter aircraft lead the hunt for the great white predator.
A naturalist guide provides interesting facts along the way about shark anatomy and physiology, conservation efforts, and the peak shark sightings over the last 10 years. Also, the tour includes viewing the seal colony population and learning about the delicate balance between seal conservation and the safety of the public.
Dragonfly Sportfishing is another operator that offers Cape Cod Great White Shark Tours with assistance from a private spotter plane. Before each 2.5-hour tour, Captain Mike Bosley and his team assess sea conditions, recent sightings, and weather to give you an accurate probability of seeing these marine predators. If you want to extend your time on the 23-foot SeaCraft, you can for an additional per-hour fee.
Staying Safe While Swimming in Cape Cod Waters
Cape Cod shark tours offer the most amazing experience that you can safely get with great whites. However, it’s possible to see these predatory fish from dozens of beaches along the outer arm of the peninsula. Nauset Beach on Cape Cod has the most shark sightings, so it’s wise to know if a shark is near when you’re in the water.
Basically, sharks could be nearby if you see a patch of dark water with white dots flying up in the air. This indicates that a school of fish is in a feeding frenzy. The commotion and resulting bloody chum can attract investigative sharks.
If you’re nearby, you could be mistaken for food. You should remain calm as you head to shore, sticking near other people as you do. Sharks are more intimidated by groups of people (and prey). If a shark is coming at you aggressively (which is very rare), use any objects nearby — like rocks or Boogie boards — to strike sensitive spots on the shark, such as the eyes and gills.
Getting Rest for Your Excursion at Candleberry Inn
When you plan a trip to such a popular vacation destination and want to enjoy Cape Cod shark tours, you need your beauty sleep. Our beds at Candleberry Inn feature Matouk bedding, so a good night of sleep is practically guaranteed. Every morning, we serve a first-class breakfast to give you energy for your adventures ahead. On top of that, our central location in Brewster is within a short drive of many things to do on Cape Cod.