Diving with great white sharks is something everyone should do at least once in a lifetime. I had wanted to do the Guadalupe trip for a long time and finally had the time and opportunity.
I met up with our group of divers at a small San Diego hotel close to the border where we boarded a bus that took us down to Ensenada, Mexico. Getting through customs was a little bit of a nightmare because of all the equipment but we finally made it and were on our way to the Port of Ensenada. What I remembered as a bustling tourist town had taken a turn for the worse because of the drug issues. Not a lot of Americans wanted to risk the thought of kidnapping or being hassled by the Federales. If you go down to Baja long enough you’ll have your own stories which is a shame because it has really impacted the economy and taken a huge hit on the tourist industry. We stayed in town long enough to get some fish tacos before boarding the Andrea Lynn, the vessel that would take us to Guadalupe Island.
I slept through most of the night but in the early morning hours I sensed we were close to our destination. This was my first shot of Guadalupe Island…home to a sizable Great White Shark population from August to January.
Upon arrival there was a scramble to get the cages into the water and make the most of the day. Two cages were attached to the back of the boat and another cage was lifted over the side of the boat and allowed to drop about 15-feet below the water line.
So what’s it like? Amazing! Waking up and being the first one in the cage every morning on shark watch! The first shark spotted started the rotation. It was fantastic because there were times you’d see a little blob just on the outskirts of blue that would slowly grow larger and larger and you could see it coming. Other times you’d be looking out into the blue and then because the peripheral vision with the mask isn’t the greatest you would all of a sudden look to your left or right and there was a 14-foot Great White Shark right in front of you. You really don’t need morning coffee when that happens. It’s the perfect morning wake-up jolt.
The thing I will always remember is not the length of the sharks (they were big!) but the girth is what really surprised me. They were like large torpedoes in the water. Slow. Graceful. And dangerous if you didn’t have a cage between you and them.
They seemed to check us out just as much as we checked them out. They’d slowly swim by the cage just taking things in and investigating. So close sometimes you could reach out and touch them. My connection came with a shark nicknamed “Skid” because of a long skid-type scar on his back. He swam so close and as soon as the teeth passed I reached out and gently touched him. I just wanted to be able to say, “yea, I touched a Great White Shark. No big deal.” But really, it was!