Three miles off the coast, the guides hand over the snorkels, and then it's time. Tour members climb down into the floating cage and slip just beneath the water's surface. There they peer through large poly glass windows into the deep blue ocean as swimming shapes, perhaps hazy at first, pull into focus.
When the tour-goers finally glimpse the creatures, it might not exactly be love at first sight, but one thing is for sure: after spending time face-to-face with a Galapagos, sandbar, or tiger shark, they'll leave that protected cage with a whole new appreciation for these carnivores of the deep. That's of the utmost importance to Hawaii Shark Encounters, since the company hopes to turn each person they meet into a "shark ally," an advocate for the animals' global conservation.