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dannygoesdiving This is a blog & photo journal of the trips that I (Danny) and Jo (wifey) have taken over the past few years.

Guadalupe - Great White Sharks

MEXICO | Thursday, 15 September 2011 | Views [660]

With the roadtrip at an end I headed to San Francisco airport for a flight to San Diego, arriving 2 hours early I was told my flight had been cancelled !  I was rushed through onto a flight that was leaving in 20 minutes, I made it but my luggage didn't, thankfully it arrived on a later flight that evening.

Next morning I met the fellow guests for the trip before boarding a bus to take us over the border into Mexico to the port of Ensenada where the 'Solmar V' liveaboard was departing - our final destination was to be Guadalupe.

Guadalupe is considered one of the best spots in the world for sightings of the Great White Shark, possibly because of the large population of both Northern Elephant Seals and Guadalupe Fur Seals that inhabit the island.

Thr initial journey was uneventful, however, crossing the Mexican border was like entering a different world not just a different country.  There was rubbish everywhere, the road initially ran parallel to the US-Mexico border, on one side were graffiti covered breeze block housing, whilst on the other side there was a barren no mans land, then a huge barbed wire topped concrete wall, complete with floodlights and guard towers - it was all rather surreal. The coach journey was a little over an hour and although the wall was eventually replaced by the ocean the scenery never really improved.  We arrived at the coastal town of Ensenada where the boat was waiting for us, once aboard we had to wait for the armed personnel to board and check our passports and luggage before being permitted to depart. After guest introductions (all American bar me) and staff introductions (all Mexican bar the expedition leader), we were shown our cabins.  I was in a fortunate position of having a cabin to myself which was a real bonus, especially considering the cabins size, it would have been crowded to share, especially with a stranger. We departed at about 1pm and with a 250 mile voyage ahead of us, were not scheduled to arrive in Guadalupe before 8am the following day, the seas were calm with long swells and so the rest of the day was all about relaxing.  The food had a Mexican flavour (during the entire trip) and with beers being all included it was not too dificult to while away the hours.  I slept well on the overnight passage and awoke to see Guadalupe looming in the distance. The volcanic landscape looked rugged and uninviting with no sign of vegetation ( we were told it was a little more fertile on the otherside of the island), it is largely unihabited with a few lone fishing camps which are seasonally occupied.  As we got closer we could see 2 other liveaboards already on the leeward side of the islands, approaching the shoreline the 'Solmar' dropped anchor and the crew started to prepare the cages. Initially the 2 surface cages were lowered at the rear of the boat, each of which could accomodate 4 divers using surface supplied air.  The water was baited (with fish indigenous to the area) and the first batch of divers entered the water.  I was in one of the first groups, once in my 7mm semidry, complete with hoods, gloves and booties i climbed into the cage.  Initially I felt a little ungainly as you wear alot of weight and feel a little out of control.  Peering through the cage I looked into the greenish water and waited .... and waited.  Our hour came to an end and we exited not having yet seen a GWS, it was however quite amusing seeing a birds legs rapidly moving underwater as it swam around trying to steal some of the bait. I went onto the upper deck and watched the next group enter the water, within about 15 minutes a shape appeared in the water ... My first sughting of a GWS.  I impatiently awaiting for their hour to end so I could get back in the water, within a few minutes of entering I got my first sighting, it was huge, just appearing, then disappearing in a matter of seconds.  I had a couple more sightings during the hour before exiting for lunch.  I spent the rest of the afternnon in and out of the cage, the visibility deteriorated during the day but there was usually a shark or two approaching the cages as they were attracted by the bait.  Late afternnon we headed out on one of the ribs for a 'booze cruise', drinking margaritas we headed closer to the shoreline to see the colonies of baby fur seals playing in the safety of the tidal pools. After a tasty evening meal and a couple of glasses of wine it was time to sleep.

During the night one of the other liveaboards had left and so we moved to where they had been as it provided better visibilty, the waters were an enticing blue instead of yesterday murky green.  Instead of going into the surface cages, myself and one other guest started the day in the submersile cage, the cage is lowered down to about 30ft so that you can get great 360 degree action.  Once lowered the accompanying attendant opened the cage hatch and we climbed outside on top of the cage.  To me this was the highlight of the trip, to be outside the cage ( although be able to easily reenter it) felt very liberating.  At one point I counted 9 GWS in the vicinity and they easily came within 20ft of us whilst we were outside the cage.  It was fantastic to look up at the surface mounted cages as thats where the feeding action was with the sharks darting up to take the bait, it also gave a real perspective of their size when viewed next to the cages.  I got to go back in the submersible again that day and spent a number of hours in the surface cages, with better visibility all day and far more shark action it was a full on adrenaline day.  When not underwater I spent time on the upperdeck watching the action from the surface. Another boat trip in the late afternoon saw us viewing the elephant seal colony as well as more fur seals.

Woke during the night not feeling to hot and several visits to the bathroom confirmed that all was not well!  Skipping breakfast I spent another couple of hours in the surface cage, the submersible could not be used as the boat was swinging too much.  There was a little less action than the previous day and not feeling anywhere near my best I called it a day.  All cages were out by 3pm as we headed back to port.  It was a rough overnight passage with most people not having a good night.  Arriving back at port we boardrd the bus and headed back to the border.  A long border check and back in the USA and finally San Diego.

Despite being ill on the last day, it had been a trip of a lifetime - not too many people can say they have had the opportunity to dive with the Great White Shark.

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