Water Temperature: 18-21°C/65-70°F
Willing to share option available on liveaboards
Can be combined with Sea of Cortez
Since the moment Peter Benchley’s film Jaws was released there can be few people who have not heard of Great White Sharks. Benchley himself referred to these super-predators as “natural perfection”. Now it is time for you to meet them face to face!
Your first sighting may be from a distance, as the shark gracefully sashays and sways from side to side out of the blue, making her way towards the cage – and you. She is elegant, huge, sleek and well muscled. Ignoring the bait, and with mouth ajar displaying an incredible set of sharply honed triangular teeth, she swerves and turns just less than a metre from the cage, checking out the divers, eye to eye, as she passes. Still calm, and with no variation in the speed of her swimming, she leaves the adrenalin-rushed divers breathless with heart-pounding excitement. They can hardly believe that they stared this ‘Prima Donna’ of the shark world in the eye. That they looked, for a brief moment in time, straight into the deep, dark, unfathomable eyes of a Great White Shark!
Guadalupe Island, 40 kilometres (25 miles) long and 8 kilometres (5 miles) wide, lies 354 kilometres to the south of San Diego, California, off the coast of Baja California, and is Mexican territory. The island is home to colonies of Northern Elephant Seals, California Sealions and endemic Guadalupe Fur Seals. Back in 1925, the island was established as a Nature Preserve and in April 2005 it was granted Biosphere Reserve status, limiting the degree of human presence allowed. With the help of underwater photographers, over 50 individual Great White Sharks have been identified and catalogued since 2004 using scar and colour patterns and fin marking. The same individuals re-appear time after time, though ‘new’ individuals appear and disappear, some joining the ‘regulars’ while others just swim off into the ocean. Tagging and satellite tracking has shown that some of the ‘locals’ from Guadalupe have turned up in the Farallon Islands of California and even some 3,800 kilometres away in Maui, Hawaii!
South Australia and South Africa have traditionally been the locations for Great White encounters. Visibility in both locations can often be poor with water that can be green and murky. Now, at last, there is an opportunity to see Great White Sharks in crystal clear blue water and water that is reasonably warm. Don’t miss out on this extraordinary experience!
The weather between July and October is usually warm, sunny and calm with clear blue days and temperatures ranging from 14-24°C. Because of the relatively cool water temperatures and lack of physical activity, divers should wear a dry suit or a 5-7mm wetsuit.
Nautilus Explorer has four large cages which were professionally designed and built with full engineering certification. Cages are square or rectangular, each offering space for several divers. Each cage has wraparound bi-level viewing openings that allow photographers unobstructed views (without corner posts) while either standing up or kneeling on the sealed cage bottom. Two cages will float behind the boat and two submersible cages will be attached to booms on either side of the boat, offering 360° views of the shark action. The sharks often swim under the boat at depths of up to 16-20 metres. The submersible cages go up and down every half an hour from 0630 until the light begins to fade. Bold divers can stand on the upper deck of the submersible cages, outside the bars: Great White encounters do not get any better than this!
An unlimited supply of surface air is available (by hookah system) which means that you don’t have to be a certified diver to enjoy the shark encounters! Rental gear is available by advance reservation.
From early September to late October, Nautilus Explorer offers 5 nights trips to Guadalupe Island, starting and finishing in San Diego, with 3 full days of Great White Shark encounters. Trips commence at the Ramada San Diego Airport hotel. Check-in for the cruise should be before 1830 (please dine before checking in as dinner on this night is not included). The coach is scheduled to depart at 1900 for the 2-hour road transfer to Ensenada, Mexico, where you will join Nautilus Explorer. Transit time to Isla Guadalupe is around 19-20 hours and the passage is usually smooth. There will be 3 full days of cage diving allocated on a ‘1 hour in, 1 hour out’ basis, though by days 2 and 3 keen divers and photographers can usually get even more cage time if they wish. Cages are usually in the water by 0630 and are withdrawn around 1830 on days 1 and 2, but are drawn out of the water by 1700 on day 3 to facilitate departure. Diving or swimming outside the cage is, unsurprisingly, not allowed. The boat arrives back at her berth in Ensenada between 1500-1600 on the last day of the trip and you will then be transferred to San Diego Airport or the Ramada.
It is a tremendous privilege to dive with the Great White Sharks of Guadalupe and a conservation fund was created in January 2006 to provide direct action to help protect this particular population. The fund is under the auspices of the International Community Foundation in San Diego (www.icfdn.org). US$150 of every trip fee is donated directly to the fund.
The cages used by Solmar V include a 2-man cage that is lowered to 20 feet (6 metres) to give a different perspective on the sharks.
Between late July and mid-October Solmar V offers a series of 4 nights cruises to Guadalupe Island, with three days of cage diving with Great White Sharks. The programme commences with a luxury coach transfer from San Diego in California to Ensenada in northern Baja California, where you join Solmar V at noon. From there Solmar V sails overnight to Guadalupe Island arriving the following morning in time for the first of three days of cage diving. She sails back overnight on day 4, arriving back at Ensenada by mid-day on day 5. The coach transfer back to San Diego will have you there by between 1600-1800.
COMBINATIONS: Why not combine Guadalupe’s Great White Shark experience with a conventional scuba diving trip to the Sea of Cortez? The diving around La Paz in southern Baja California reaches its zenith between August-October, as this is the best time of year for encountering Manta Rays and Whale Sharks, while the ever-present California Sealions are as playful as ever and the schools of Scalloped Hammerheads are still in the area, albeit at greater depths than in winter. Talk to us about the possibilities.
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