Bucket List Travel | Great White Sharks of Guadalupe | Shark Diving
Ever since I can remember, my one and only bucket list item has been to cage dive with Great White Sharks. I don’t know if it was seeing the film Jaws that generated this enthusiasm but whatever it was, this month it became a reality.
I began researching in October and immediately found loads of trips leaving from Gansbai in South Africa. My feelings were that there were so many commercial trips leaving for the same spot, it would not be a real insight into the world of the sharks, more of a sharky X-Factor!
Guadalupe Island vs South Africa Shark Cage Diving
Further research led me to read stories of murky water, crowded cages and dubious baiting practices in South Africa. Back to square one — where else in the world could I experience this but seeing the sharks on their own terms. Good old Google led me to Isla Guadalupe, off the coast of Mexico. Again I found a few companies offering trips, but the one which stood out was Horizon Charters America’s Shark Boat which was the only one to offer a shark guarantee. If you didn’t see a shark on your trip, you could return for free. Paying $3000+ dollars and travelling half way round the world, this was very appealing to me. I rang the office and their enthusiasm for sharks rubbed off on me and before I knew it I was signed up and on my way! It is not an easy journey to dive with Great White Sharks at Isla Guadalupe. For me there was a 11 hour flight to Las Vegas followed by a couple of days of R&R (and gambling!) then an hour long flight to San Diego. On joining the boat in San Diego, there is an eight hour trip to Ensenada in Mexico to clear customs then another 18 hours to Isla Guadalupe. We were fortunate to have some of the calmest seas that the crew can remember — for this I was very grateful!
The MV Horizon, Guadalupe Shark Diving Since 2000
The boat, which is home for the five day trip is the Horizon, she’s been taking shark divers and non shark divers to Guadalupe island since 2000. She is a beautiful vessel, not fancy but perfectly suited to the needs of 16 crazy shark fans and a seven man/woman crew. On arrival on the boat at 9pm on the first night, it was a case of getting to know our fellow adventure buddies, having a safety talk from the Captain and also the Dive Master Lalo Saidy on what to expect and then to bed for a rest while the boat made her way to Ensenada. Clearing customs took no time and we were on our way. Our escort out of Ensenada was a huge pod of Pacific White Sided Dolphins who escorted the boat for several miles. An uneventful day of fitting wetsuits, reading, gossiping and sleeping followed and again we were all ready for an early night in preparation for what was to come the next day.
Guadalupe The Arrival – The Shark Adventure Begins
I woke early, feeling the boat come to a stop and hearing the engines shutting down. Along with a couple of other bleary eyed travellers, I made my way on to the deck and got my first glimpse (albeit in the dark) of the vast wall of rock that is Isla Guadalupe. The sea was jet black and I could only imagine what was going on beneath the boat! I surfaced for the second time along with my other fellow divers at around 6am in time for a cooked breakfast and safety briefing and then before we knew it, it was shark time! The first shark we saw from the boat was even before the cages were put in the water and the level of excitement on seeing that first dorsal fin was incredible. Little did we know what was in store for the rest of the day!
Shark Divers and Cage Divers Bond Over Sharks at Guadalupe
With 16 divers and four divers per cage taking hour long rotations, it was soon time for my team to enter the cage for the first time. I had an amazing group of cage buddies including Tracie and Munro from Vancouver and Gary from West Virginia. We got on brilliantly both above and below the water. As non-certified divers, Tracie and I both received individual help from Dive Master Lalo to ensure we were comfortable clearing our masks and replacing the regulator underwater and then it was shark watch!
Seeing our first Great White from a distance will be something I will never forget. They move so slowly and gracefully, quite unlike the media would have you believe. The first hour was over in a flash, and we had seen a shark. Could it get any better — oh yes!
Day Two Shark Cage Diving Guadalupe
During our second rotation of the day, we came face to face with Lucy. Lucy is an adult female Great White Shark around 17 feet in length and as Lalo so nicely put it, he is not the most careful shark! Her broken tail fin and numerous scars are testament to the scrapes she has been in at Guadalupe island.
After a full day of diving, we sat down to one of many amazing meals on board (Mark and Naomi the cooks do the most incredible job of feeding everyone despite not being anywhere near a shop for the entire trip) We were fortunate to have Maurizio, the Islands Shark researcher come on board to talk to us about the sharks and his adventures to the bottom of the sea bed in a small submersible. A few beers and comparing tales and photographs from the day and everyone was ready for bed!
Days two and three were quieter on the action front but even so, our rotation saw at least five sharks on every dive and it was nice to be able to identify some different sharks. Sharks are identified by their white markings on fins and gills and permanent mutilations. We had a book on board to help us identify the individuals. After two rotations each on the third morning, we set off for the return trip to San Diego. On our way out of Isla Guadalupe we saw the elephant seals which the sharks like to eat (I never realised they only had to eat around once every two months. Hardly crazed killing machines!)
The journey back was calm and it was a chance to relax and enjoy the company of our new friends before arriving back in San Diego. It was sad to say goodbye but an amazing experience and I made some great new friends. The trip did not finish when I got off the boat as I had sea legs for 24 hours after getting back to the more ruthless sharks in Las Vegas!
I would like to say a massive thank you to all the crew of the Horizon — Spencer, Cary, Mark, Nick, Mark, Naomi and Lalo for making such a memorable trip.
Cheers, Bev Downie