Travel consultant Mat Howell recalls his recent adventures to dive with the great white sharks of Guadalupe, Mexico.
Guadalupe is a remote volcanic island that lies 150 miles off the west coast of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. Home to the ocean’s most iconic and often misunderstood predator, this region of the Pacific Ocean is sometimes referred to as ‘White Shark Café’ and for good reason.
Accessible only by specialist and experienced liveaboard operators, between the months of July-November unforgettable encounters with these most captivating of animals are commonplace. Although the myth of the indiscriminate killer shark exists in the minds of many, it’s rare to find a scuba diver that still holds onto this outdated notion, and so trips that offer the opportunity to come nose to nose with the world’s largest macro-predatory fish attract divers from across the globe.
It’s true that white sharks do not seek out people as prey but it would still be ill-advised to splash around in these waters and so all activities take place safely behind bars. The Nautilus Fleet includes 3 purpose-built vessels, The Nautilus Belle Amie, The Nautilus Under Sea and The Nautilus Explorer, that operate in Guadalupe, each with two submersible cages that are lowered to a depth of 10m and hang from each side of the stern. Typically 3 submersible ‘dives’ using surface fed air are offered per day to certified divers only. Two surface cages are also available for divers and non-divers alike from 6 am- 6 pm and so a huge amount of time can be spent in the water to increase the likelihood of encounters.
During our trip in August, we saw sharks every time we jumped in the cage. Between July and September, it’s more common to see males and although typically smaller than females they can certainly reach an impressive size. We were lucky enough to share the water with a celebrity of the shark world, none other than ‘Big Bruce’. A confident and curious male close to 5m in length, Bruce is pretty much as big as a male Great White will get with some very rare exceptions. He has appeared on a number of documentaries and contributed to the scientific data that is collected and shared around the world, thanks to his electronic tag.
Awe-inspiring, captivating, intimidating…the White Sharks at Guadalupe are all of these things but they are also effortlessly graceful and unquestionably intelligent. Individual personalities were plain to see as some took time and patience to approach the cages whilst others were far more confident, even bold enough to give us the occasional nudge and bump.
For me, the thrill of diving is, for the most part, the sense of freedom it provides as I love the feeling of exploring an underwater world. Seeing Great Whites has always been on my ‘bucket list’ but in the weeks leading up to our trip I had some concerns that I might actually get bored or at the very least feel contained with ‘cage fever’…not a chance!
From the first sighting, every descent in the submersible cage was as thrilling as the last, filled with anticipation and excitement. It’s fair to say that I am hooked and have vowed to return; after all, it will always be a special place for us ever since I proposed to my girlfriend in the cage with Big Bruce cruising by!
Mat is an experienced Divemaster and travel consultant with an appetite for adventure. You’ll find him as close to the action as possible both above and below the waves; over the years Mat has been charged by a hippo, chased by a lion, stalked by a shark and stung by a Portuguese Man Of War!
To find out more about diving with Great White Sharks contact us on 01353 659999