Meeting The Great Whites Of Guadalupe
When thinking about scuba diving in Mexico, one immediately imagines pristine, colorful reefs and sedate, laidback tropical dive sites. 250 miles southwest of Ensenada in Baja California however lies Guadalupe Island, an incredibly special destination that offers underwater adventures of a very different kind. The island, which can only be reached by liveaboard, has gained a reputation in recent years as one of the very best places in the world to encounter the ocean’s most impressive apex predator, the great white shark. Guadalupe shark diving takes place from a cage, allowing divers to come face to face with the planet’s largest great whites in absolute safety. As a lifelong shark fanatic, I recently made the long journey to Guadalupe, where I quickly discovered that cage diving there is unlike cage diving anywhere else in the world. Because the island is so remote, operators stay there for several days, which means that unlike day-trip cage diving charters in South Africa and Australia, divers are able to spend many hours in the water with the sharks. The visibility is far superior to other great white viewing destinations, often boasting a staggering 100 feet of crystal blue clarity. It is this unparalleled visibility that makes Guadalupe the most popular destination for wildlife cameramen, and the conditions are a true photographer’s dream. Most importantly, the sharks that inhabit the island’s waters are some of the biggest in the world reaching lengths of up to 20 feet.
The three days that I spent with the great whites of Guadalupe were almost surreal in their perfection. I spent the vast majority of those days submerged in the aquarium-like waters of the island, spellbound by the constant procession of sharks that seemed to appear seamlessly from the blue one after another. They were drawn firstly by the chum thrown into the water by the boat’s crew, and attracted even closer by tuna heads threaded onto thick rope and pulled towards the cage. They were enormous, not only in length but most impressively in terms of their girth as well. Despite their size and their proximity to the cage, I never once felt threatened by them; instead, I felt endlessly captivated by the sheer majesty and latent power of these ocean monarchs. The great whites were astoundingly beautiful, their large dark eyes unfathomable as they passed within inches of the cage. The topside conditions for the duration of my time at Guadalupe were idyllic, the hot Mexican sun beating down on the deck and providing necessary warmth after hours of immersion in the cool waters of the Pacific. Most of my exposure to sunlight however happened from several feet below the sea’s surface- I was loath to leave the realm of the great whites behind and preferred instead to marvel at the way the sun filtering through the water cast fractured reflections across their broad grey forms.
Guadalupe cage diving is truly a uniquely incredible experience. For those already obsessed with sharks, it is the ultimate environment for encountering the most impressive shark species of all. For those not yet converted to shark fanaticism, it is the perfect opportunity to exchange fear for wonderment and to understand firsthand why these magnificent animals should be conserved, not condemned.