With around 440 documented shark species around the world, there are so many unique specimens to get excited about, with many of them making appearances for snorkelers and scuba divers while exploring the world's best diving destinations. Given their fascinating nature, intense beauty, and sometimes, mind-boggling size, it's no wonder seeing sharks often finds its place at the top of divers' activity rosters. In fact, a lot of scuba divers purposely plan entire diving vacations geared toward finding and observing these magnificent creatures. However, just where exactly can divers meet these highly sought-after aquatic animals out in the wild? From Southeast Asia and the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas, the following locations are some of the best dive sites in the world for encounters with sharks, promising once-in-a-lifetime experiences deserving of the most discerning adventurers' bucket lists.

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13 Monad Shoal, Malapascua Island, Philippines

  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Best Time to Dive: November to June

The Philippines consists of around 7,640 or so islands, so there's no lack of unique spots to scour in search of the myriads of shark species that call this idyllic tropical archipelago home. There are many hundreds of shark diving sites to discover, which means this nation is perfect for repeat dive tourists to come back time and tie again to check out the next batch on the itinerary. From numerous reef sharks to the mightiest yet gentlest giant of the sea - the majestic whale shark - the Philippines is globally famed for its prolific shark activities. However, one particular dot on the map is more celebrated than others, especially for its frequent offerings of thresher sharks.

Monad Shoal in Malapascua - a tiny island reasonably accessible from Cebu City - is one of the world's best thresher shark dive sites, providing the most reliable sightings of these impressive creatures in comparison to anywhere else on the planet. At a depth of about 30 meters, divers rest on a sub-sea ridge and watch as a number of threshers come to the site's cleaning station, where little cleaner fish offer their services, ridding the sharks' skin of dirt, debris, and parasites. Due to the depths at this site, a basic open water certification won't be enough since it only trains and certifies divers to a maximum of 18 meters through most scuba training agencies, like PADI. Divers will need to hold an advanced diver certification at the least if they want to visit Monad Shoal, enabling them to dive up to 30 meters; however, a deep diver certification would be ideal in order to get the most out of this exciting dive, which allows those certified to descend to a maximum of 40 meters - the deepest permitted by recreational diving standards.

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12 Shark Dive, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Best Time to Dive: July to September

The locals call it 'the best shark dive in the world, and although this coined title hasn't been made official, it's definitely not far from the truth. In this section of Beqa Lagoon near Viti Levu's southern coast, some of the best and most prolific shark action has been observed by divers for almost a decade. Even on a regular day, around 50 sharks are said to make an appearance and this colorful reef site - and that's an average! Overall, a variety of different shark species come, such as silvertip, black tip, whitetip, nurse, lemon, and gray sharks, as well as the very occasional tiger shark. However, the headliner here are the bull sharks, which have helped make this dot on Fiji's diving tourist tracks noticeably more pronounced in recent years. Plus, even beginners and those with less experience can join the shark fiesta here.

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11 The Canyons, Rangiroa, French Polynesia

  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Best Time to Dive: January to March to see great hammerhead sharks, or June to July for gray reef sharks

The Canyons in Tiputa Pass is regularly cited as one of the best shark dives in French Polynesia. Divers usually start this drift dive in the mouth of the pass when an incoming current whizzes by before heading to an underwater cavern, where they sit in waiting for gray reef sharks. Afterward, divers continue through the pass, stopping to gaze at sharks along the way in a number of canyons peppered about the site. Strong the currents may be, which makes this marine mecca better suited to advanced divers, but epic sharks abound as a result; these firm drifts bring in over 200 gray reef sharks between June and July, in addition to a few great hammerheads, whose presence is typically limited to the first quarter of the year.

10 North Queensland, Australia

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Best Time to Dive: June to August

As one of the top shark diving spots on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Osprey Reef has achieved global recognition thanks to its encounters with silver tips, gray reef sharks, and even wobbegongs, among many more impressive marine offerings that thrive throughout this vibrant coral reef. Naturally, exploring this part of the Great Barrier Reef's bustling ecosystem is best done by liveaboards, which can cover a vaster area and visit more dive sites in any given time period, although land-based dive operators are a good option too.

9 Fuvahmulah, The Maldives

  • Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Best Time to Dive: January to May

Tiger sharks of Fuvamalah are present year-round, and as such, sightings are almost guaranteed for every dive. No matter the season or weather, these huge sharks congregate and permit close encounters with divers, but that's not the sole reason this pelagic pot is becoming one of the Maldives', or rather, the world's best shark dives. Other sharks and pelagic species visit this epic site as well, including thresher sharks, who come all year round to Fuvahmulah house reef's numerous cleaning stations. Some of these cleaning stations are about 40 meters deep; however, when the ocean conditions are just right, especially at high tide, the sharks come to the stations at around 12 to 15 meters, even granting beginners a show starred by pelagics.

Other shark species to be seen here include whale sharks between January and May in particular, although they do pass by throughout the year. Scalloped Hammerhead shark schools also frequent the site, again, all year, but with the highest probabilities between October and April, particularly in the new moon and full moon period. Another shark seen at Fuvamulah's amazing dive sites are Silvertips schools, often seen feeding with the island's resident tiger sharks, and also gray reef and white tip sharks, with common sightings of baby white tips sleeping inside reef overhangs. What's more, this part of the Maldives is one of the very best places to witness massive oceanic manta rays from March to May, as well as the elusive black oceanic manta (also known as the manta morph), a full jet black gargantuan ray sporting a smart outfit of pure darkness resembling a US stealth air bomber as it glides effortlessly through the water.

Related: The Best Time To Visit The Great Barrier Reef & Other Things to Know

8 Pyramid Rock, False Bay, South Africa

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Best Time to Dive: May to August

Great white shark diving and the heart-pumping sardine migration initially put South Africa on divers' itineraries. However, what many now hold the country dear for is its cow shark dive sites, with it being one of only two locations in the world to dive with them. In Pyramid Rock's shallow kelp forest, this rarely seen shark species is quite common to encounter, with reports of over a dozen of them appearing at any given time since they're social feeders. While it's incredibly exciting to see such high numbers of this super rare shark, divers mustn't forget that this dive site is cold; therefore, a thick wetsuit of at least 7mm or perhaps even a dry suit for the most thermally challenged will be necessary.

7 Tiger Beach, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Best Time to Dive: October to January

Celebrated for sublime sugar-soft beaches and idyllic Caribbean climate, the Bahamas is renowned worldwide as one of the best beach vacation designations. However, off the shores, it's also known as a top shark diving hotspot. Snorkelers and scuba divers alike can come face to face with myriads of reef sharks, oceanic whitetips, and hammerheads in the waters around the Bahamian islands - but the real magnet are the tiger sharks. Home to the legendary dive site, Tiger Beach, divers coming to this part of the planet are almost guaranteed encounters with these impressive beasts of the sea, which show up every day at this spot, alongside other gorgeous shark species, including lemon sharks, nurse sharks, and Caribbean reef sharks. Divers typically wait on the site's sandy bottom in groups as the soup of sharks circles around them, affording a truly extraordinary diving experience like no other in the world. Thankfully, Tiger Beach as a dive site is shallow and current-free, making it accessible for beginners who might only hold an open water diver certification.

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6 Bajo Alcyone, Cocos Island, Costa Rica

  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Best Time to Dive: June to November for epic marine life encounters, or December to May for ideal ocean conditions

Distanced from the mainland of Costa Rica, Cocos Island frequently appears top of the list of the planet's best shark diving spots. In this location - which is currently only accessible via liveaboard boat - there are a handful of excellent dive sites to explore; however, shark lovers focus their attention on the best of the bunch - Bajo Alcyone. Home of an underwater pinnacle rising from the depths up to 25 meters, the site draws in dozens upon dozens of reef and hammerhead sharks - particularly the latter's scalloped kind, who put on a surreal show for divers lucky enough to park themselves underwater at this spectacular site and observe the action.

5 Pipín, Jardines De La Reina, Cuba

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Best Time to Dive: December to April

Cuba's Jardines de la Reina (or The Gardens of the Queen in English) may only be accessible by liveaboard, but it's absolutely worth it. This stunning protected area boasts untold beauty, where numerous shark dive sites await. At one particular wall dive site, Pipín, it's been reported that up to 30 silky sharks and Caribbean reef sharks can be seen on a single dive - and that's certainly something to call home about in terms of shark numbers. Fortunately, the Cuban government has afforded these sharks protection for a number of years, and who have now developed a curiosity for divers after having increased encounters with them. As such, many of the resident sharks come close to divers, more so than they ever did before.

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4 Gladden Spit, Placencia, Belize

  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Best Time to Dive: March to June

This list would be incomplete without mentioning Gladden Spit near Placencia - an open ocean dive site in breathtaking Belize. This sensational site is better suited to intermediate divers as it's a little more out of the way, but it's worth practicing those diviner skills for. Why? Whale sharks! That's right; the ocean's biggest fish is attracted to these parts to dine on the tasty fish eggs released by populations of spawning snappers. For the highest odds of meeting this gargantuan spotted marine creature, it's advised to dive either just before or just after the full moon, so divers should try to time their visit right if they want life-changing encounters with these beings.

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3 Gordon Rocks, The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Best Time to Dive: June to November

Three destinations comprise the 'Shark Triangle,' and The Galápagos Islands is one of them. Along with its two sharky siblings that form this iconic triangle - Cocos Island and Malpelo - The Galápagos's Wolf and Darwin Islands offer dramatic schools of scalloped, smooth, and great hammerhead sharks, with one site being more renowned than others for its populations of these amazing fish. More specifically, a globally famed site called Gordon Rocks contains an eroded crater located close to Santa Cruz Island, where powerful currents entice lingering walls of hammerheads into one place, granting divers the exclusive opportunity to get up and close to these remarkable marine animals.

This experience is indeed undeniably otherworldly, but divers must not forget that currents here are exceptionally strong, so they need to keep their wits about them and not let the excitement of being in the presence of intense numbers of hammerheads go to their heads. Given the intensity of the currents, the dive sites in this part of the Galápagos Islands are best suited to advanced divers with experience of highly kinetic currents. Ideally, a drift diver specialty certification wouldn't go amiss, either.

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2 San Diego, California, USA

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Best Time to Dive: June to November

From celebrity-spotting to SoCal's surfing scene, Southern California boasts multiple accolades for various esteemed niches. However, those who aren't divers might not be aware that it's one of the very best places in the world to see the speedy shortfin mako shark. These super-fast sharks are amazing creatures with lightning speeds who hunt their prey out in the open ocean. Following their prey leads them to the coastal spots and kelp forests of San Diego, where they're commonly observed in tandem with sleek blue sharks as well.

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1 Jupiter, Florida, USA

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Best Time to Dive: December to April

Like California, Florida is famed for fantastic things, but Jupiter can wipe the decks with most of them when it comes to sharks. Globally favored for its annual migration of lemon sharks during winter, Jupiter has become a shark hub for those who find themselves in the Sunshine State. These gorgeous yellow-tinted sharks - which can grow more than 4 meters (13 feet) in length - tend to gather at wrecks and deep underwater ledges all the way from Jupiter to Palm Beach, especially from December to late March, when they follow the nutrient-rich waters of the Gulf Stream. To add to this fascinating annual phenomenon, Jupiter is also a year-round magnet for other shark species as well, including hefty bull sharks!