No, we tailor our tours to the season to give the absolute best chance of great white success.
With our 50 years + experience, we have found the greatest success by running a variety of itineraries that take daylight hours, typical weather and likely shark activity into consideration. With daylight saving (October to March) in Spring and Summer, we offer tours as short as 2-3 nights long. Typically the weather is more favourable at this time of year and the beautiful long summer nights are just a joy!
The BIGGEST sharks of the year are often seen in Autumn and Winter. April into June is usually the best time to witness giant mature female great whites. As we head deeper into this season the tours have a longer itinerary. This takes the shorter days and typical weather in to account, so to give best chance of success we run our various 4 to 10 day expeditions. This additional time onboard gives us flexibility as to when we get down to and get back between the shelter of the mainland and the sheltered anchorage of the Neptune Islands. Such tours are relatively less expensive to reflect the relative time spent with great white sharks. We only choose the most productive days to spend with the sharks, and look for alternative diving or shore based activities on other days.
Depending on the season, some longer itineraries also target inshore coastal species including the world largest giant cuttlefish aggregation, Australian sea lions, and leafy sea dragons. Please see individual product itineraries for inclusion details.
This often asked question doesn’t have the same answer for everyone! Please consider all of the information below, put together by Andrew Fox, after an unparalleled 40 years of experience diving with great white sharks.
There are actually some good aspects to be said about every month of the year. The best times are decided from a whole combination of factors including current trends of shark reliability, shark numbers, average shark size, potential productive weather, water temperature and water visibility.
In over 50 years of cage-diving history Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions has experienced changing seasonal patterns in shark activity at all of the various locations we have operated. We now work exclusively within the Neptune Islands Marine Park, at both the North and South Island Groups and we will no doubt see ongoing unpredictable changes in shark activity patterns.
The Neptune Islands are a unique location in the world, in being able to produce reliable great white shark diving throughout any month of the year. With our multi-day itineraries and ocean floor cage facilities, Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions also enjoys the industry’s highest success rates in year-round productivity.
Below we look monthly trends in shark numbers, reliability, sex, size, and the prevailing operating conditions. This information should help people choose the best time for their individual needs. Again we repeat that in regards to both the shark activity and the weather, that we do often experience unpredictable exceptions to these general rules every year.
Over the last 10 years, September to late-January has frequently delivered record high numbers of sharks, along with high reliability. In 2018 we saw a surprising unseasonal reduction in sightings in late October/early November and in 2019 the sharks were surprisingly scarce (in the previously near 100% successful time) of late November and December. In the 2 other occasions in our 50-year history when this same pattern occurred, the next 5-10 years rebounded to recording high reliable shark numbers.
The period from late March to June has also proved extremely reliable for sharks with the very unusual exception of June in 2018. The month of June itself has only ever missed out one other time (for a short time) in the last 20 years. Other than these 2 blips, this has been (and we expect to continue to be) an excellent time. The month of May still enjoys 100% success of seeing sharks on any day in over 10 years.
The highest numbers of sharks do correspond closely with the reliability of the sharks (above) however, record numbers are recorded more so between September and January in recent years, and generally the months of May and June (as an average over the last 20 years).
The very largest sharks seen are usually mature female sharks, which can measure over 5m long. These super giants are most likely to be seen in late autumn and winter here, with maximum sized super giants peaking in June.
Large adult male sharks measuring over 4m long arrive randomly year-round at the Neptune’s, but perhaps peak in August to October. These old boys are often more consistent and “photogenic” than the typically more cautious giant females.
The brightest sunniest weather at the Neptune Islands is usually experienced between the months of October and April.
The warmest water temperatures for the Neptune Islands is found between December and May when water temperatures rise up to 18-20C. Offshore currents do however maintain temperatures between 15-20C throughout the year.
Most Unreliable Month
Traditionally March did often prove to be the most unreliable month for shark sightings. Ironically March is also the best and most productive month for weather. However, in the last few years, mid-March onwards has delivered satisfying shark productivity including 2019.
In recent years the wonderful summery month of February from late January) has recorded a significant lack of shark sightings on most days, however this year proved to be a very nice time to be on the water with February 2019 dates giving 100% success. The current trend is to be optimistic for Feb and March in 2020. Our multi-day itineraries combined with the great weather at this time are a great recipe for success.
Over the last 10 years, August has often also occasionally proved unreliable with hit-and-miss results combined with an increased potential for generally poor weather. For this reason we are looking to have special longer variable itineraries in July and August, and these are down-priced to allow for any bad weather and/or any slow shark days. This month is also one of the very best to get the chance to experience our mature female sharks over 5m long and perhaps even a super giant approaching 6m in length.
Water Visibility and Temperature.
Although striking clear water visibility of up to 30m or more can be found throughout much of the year at the offshore Neptune islands, the very clearest waters are often found from August to October when the water is at its coolest of about 15-16C.
Swimming with Sea Lions
Apart from the shark viewing activities, and depending on each group’s wishes, nearly all tours taken between September and May should at some stage have very favorable conditions for swimming/diving with Australian sea lions at Hopkins Island. This activity is normally planned on the first or last day of the tour.
Island cruises and Shore Party Tours
The October to April timeframe, with typically lower swell, (these are the “long-wave swells” that are not noticeable in wave height) is also conducive to more shore party landings on the mainland or at the Neptune Islands during the tour. Otherwise we explore the seal colony or other remote islands and bays by tender boat or from the mother ship.
Other Shark Species
In addition to experiencing great white sharks, The September to May timeframe has higher chances of seeing mako sharks and bronze whaler sharks.
Length of Tours
Most dates outside of our summer months have a minimum length of 3 nights duration to allow for the shorter daylight hours experienced and to help overcome any potential for poor weather at this time. These longer trips then give us the wonderful flexibility of avoiding the need for frustrating cancellations that might otherwise compromise shorter length tours.
The fairer weather and longer daylight hours over summer allow us to confidently and successfully run some shorter itineraries and still achieve the high level of satisfaction we are renowned for. Various shorter 2 and 3 night itineraries are possible options from December to March.
Our expedition vessel is large and stable and a comfortable sea boat built to handle the open ocean and get safely between the sheltered anchorages between the Neptune Islands and the mainland. It is these 1-2 hour crossings in open seas that can be most challenging to people particularly sensitive to seasickness.
Although most people recover well once we get to our safe anchorage we suggest particularly sensitive people look to choose a date between the generally fairer seas of October to April.
Another option (if you have the liberty) is to look at long-range weather forecasts up to a week or more ahead of any tour date available and book any positions still available at short notice. A problem with this option is most dates do book out some months ahead.
Port Lincoln is situated on the beautiful Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.
Adelaide International Airport is Australia’s fastest growing airport. It is serviced directly from many international destinations and all major Australian cities.
For those with a little more time, Premier Stateliner offer a return bus service from Adelaide to Port Lincoln.
For those driving, it is an approx. 7 hour drive from Adelaide to Port Lincoln. Between the months of May to August, those driving can stop off at Whyalla to dive and witness the worlds largest spawning of mating cuttlefish. Snorkelling and diving gear is available to hire from Whyalla Dive Services.
To attract sharks we use a natural tuna fish mix. Although the Neptune Islands are a natural feeding ground for great white sharks, we have found that a form of shark attractant is still required. Over our 50 year history, we have tried many things and the natural tuna scent is what gives us the best results. All interaction with the sharks is carried out by our trained crew and a strict code of conduct is adhered to.
The Neptune Islands Marine Reserve houses Australia’s largest fur seal colony. Several thousand New Zealand fur seals along with a small number of Australian sea lions and many other bird and reptile species call the islands home. And it is the seals that brings the great white sharks to the islands. The sharks do not live at the islands, their presence can be for a few hours to a few weeks at a time. Their appearance is also seasonal and with our research and shark identification we know that the same sharks return to the islands at the same time of year from their vast migrations around Australia. In summer, the seal pups are born and the bull seals arrive to breed. This is the only time of year we see the bull seals, as after breeding they leave the islands for their solo lives. Left behind are the pregnant mums with their newly born seal pups. It is throughout the winter months the seal pups learn to swim in the sheltered shallows around the islands. We often only see specific sharks in summer or winter, very seldom both.
The Neptune Islands are home to thousands of long nose fur seals which provide a significant natural feeding source for great white sharks making this location a reliable year round destination to view great white sharks. We understand it’s unreasonable to expect great white sharks to always appear as
soon as we drop anchor (though this does sometimes happen) and we also understand there is different weather and shark seasons throughout the year. To better ensure reliable viewing we offer different itineraries for different seasons of the year. Our famous multi-day overnight tours utilise both ocean floor
and surface cage dives, giving our expedition members superior diving advantages including the highest success in seeing great white sharks and in achieving quality images and video. We get to enjoy the entire expedition with sunrises and sunsets, as time is spent actually out on location with no wearying daily transfers. In addition to this, while onboard the industry’s largest vessel, we carry a maximum of just 12 guests, allowing plenty of un-rushed and un-crowded cage time for everyone. In many months we do enjoy a success rate approaching 100% most years, however some months tend to have more reliable long-term success than others. Please see the Best Time of Year section here for more details.
Absolutely! There is no diving experience required for surface cage diving or of course, viewing the sharks topside from the boat. We have qualified dive professionals onboard who look after all our new surface cage diving guests. Our dive crew will ensure you are briefed and comfortable before getting in the cage. Plus, with our small guest numbers, there is no pre-determined time that you must get in the cage. Guests can relax, watch the sharks from the surface and then when YOU are ready, we’ll get you in the water. Surface cage time is unlimited and we look for all guests on-board to get fair and equal shark time. Our pricing also reflects your activities on-board, so you can join us as at a cheaper rate than the ‘ocean floor diver’ price.
You are very welcome to bring your own diving equipment but all diving needs for diving with the great whites can be hired onboard. This can be ordered at the time of booking.
For a Great White Night Expedition, this is your what to bring checklist:
□ Warm clothing – Fox Expedition clothing available for purchase on board
□ Comfortable flat shoes
□ Dive certification card (divers must show qualification to participate in the ocean floor cage dive)
□ Dive gear – can be hired onboard, see website for more info
□ BCD if wanting to dive/not snorkel with Australian Sea lions
□ Sunglasses – polarized recommended
□ Batteries – for cameras
□ Sunscreen and hats
□ Personal medical and toiletries
□ Seasickness tablets
What you do not need to bring:
□ Towels for personal use and diving
□ Please do not bring any alcoholic beverages onboard as we have a ‘Ship’s Bar Only’ policy.
□ Food/snacks – Snacks are provided complimentary
□ SCUBA tanks, fins or weight belts
Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions is required by the South Australian Government to hold a licence to operate at the Neptune Islands and to pay licence fees. These licence fees go towards research and ongoing management of white shark cage diving, including the monitoring of interactions of white sharks and tourism at the Neptune Islands. You can read more about the management of our industry on the Department of Environment’s website here.