Shark Tour Operator Recounts Swim with Great White

Great White Sharks in Hawaiian Waters
Jimmy Hall swims with a great white shark in December of 2005.
Jimmy Hall swims with a great white shark in December of 2005.

(KHNL)  Reported by Elizabeth Hillyer

It is extremely rare to see a great white shark in Hawaiian waters and it is even more unusual to get a photo. But Jimmy Hall not only took a photo of one, he got out of the shark cage, took incredible video and even touched the great white. He calls it the best experience of his life.

KHNL News 8's Beth Hillyer spent the day with Jimmy Hall and the crew of Hawaii Shark Encounters to find out why Jimmy went face to face with perhaps the scariest creature on earth.

When I first saw video of Jimmy swimming with the great white, I admit I thought he was crazy. But having gone diving with him, well I have learned he has been swimming with sharks most of his life. And he considers them magnificent animals, not man-killers.

When you go diving with Hawaii Shark Encounters you see more than a dozen sharks but last December there was only one. At first those in the shark cage they mistook it for a humpback whale.

"When she first showed up the people in the cage were yelling, there's a giant shark here," said Jimmy Hall. "Oh my God, it's a great white and we ran forward to get our cameras so what the people in the cage thought there is a giant shark saw crew panic and run away."

He climbed inside the cage and was stunned by her size.

"We saw a white shark in Hawaii which is incredibly rare and then we saw one so big it would be rare even in South Africa, Guadalupe Island where they see white sharks," said Jimmy Hall, "then she was calm the water was clear I could get out and interact with her."

Hall calls the encounter, "one of the greatest gifts of my whole life."

To understand Hall you must know a little about his childhood. He grew up in the ocean. "I was always in the water trying to take pictures with my camera the rule was if shark bigger than me have to get out of the water."

Well he obviously broke the rule when swimming with the great white. He has had encounters with local tiger sharks also known for their ferocious attacks.

And he has caught a ride beside an enormous whale shark.

Among sharks, great whites are the most ferocious, and most feared, but Hall feels great whites don't deserve their bad reputation.

"I was able to get out and swim with this giant great white shark. People are just terrified but you can see she's not the mindless killing machine some people like to think."

He captured amazing images and even reached out to touch her.

"Being that close to a shark that big was very humbling very emotional probably the high point of my life," said Hall.

He wants the folks on his tours to understand the importance of the endangered sharks to our environment.