Trip Report:
Guadaloupe White Sharks, 2004

My Great White shark adventure began as I landed in San Diego, and I was picked up at the airport by Larry and Kerry, who arrived a few hours earlier. We headed over to the Vagabond Inn at the marina where the boat was moored and checked in. Slowly, everyone began to show up and we met at the pool to discuss the trip. After a few beers across the street at a dive bar, and I do mean a DIVE of a bar, we headed back to our rooms to get a good night's sleep before departure the next morning.

We got up the following morning and brought our stuff over to the boat, right behind the motel, and met some of the staff. We loaded up, got a briefing on the "do's" and "don'ts" of the boat (of which there seemed to be a lot of "don'ts" apparently because they wanted to keep us all from being eaten by hungry sharks) and then we headed out. The captain told us about a storm that was supposed to miss us by about 400 miles, and we gave it no further thought as we enjoyed calm seas. We had about a 24 hour ride ahead of us to make it 200 miles from San Diego to Guadalupe (pronounced "Gwa-da-LEW-pay"). Within 2 hours we passed the Coronados Islands (already we were in Mexico) and conditions were perfect. After dinner we turned in for bed. In the middle of the night I was awakened by a massive wave that nearly knocked me out of bed. We had been hit by the storm we thought we would miss. We had 15 foot seas. The rest of the night was agony, as most everyone was seasick and the seas pounded us mercilessly. I hung on tightly to my bunk and tried to sleep.

By 11 AM the following morning (two hours late, 26 hours after we lefft San Diego), we arrived at Guadalupe and anchored the boat in the lee of the island for some lunch. It was nice to have calm conditions. The captain informed us that even though it was calm in the lee, it was still windy in the shark spots and we likely wouldn't be able to get the cages in the water. Everyone was bummed out to say the least, but so tired from the crossing that many just wanted to get some sleep.

Within a few hours, the wind had calmed down although it continued to rain. A river of runoff created a silty area in the bay that was spreading. (Keep in mind, this is for an island that only gets a couple inches of rain in a year and it had probably just had two years worth of rain in two days.)

The captain gave us the go-ahead to put the cages in the water, but we couldn't go to the best spot for sharks. We decided to just try where we were. We started chumming and put the cages in the water immediately. I was part of group A and got in the water around 3:30 PM. We had two medium sized (12 foot) white sharks occasionally circling the boat and cages, but they were pretty skittish and keeping their distance. We were lucky because within the limited amount of time we had while there was light, everyone got a chance to get in the water and see the sharks before it got dark.

We had a hearty dinner and went to bed early, ready for day 2 shark action. We woke up the next morning around 7 and the captain moved the boat to the best shark spot on the island. I filmed the cages being placed in the water while most of the divers got a nice hot breakfast. I'm more of a cereal kind of guy anyway.

At last we started chumming and got people in the cages. Normally, the chumming is done with a mixture made from powdered fish and/or beef meal that it mixed with water in a trash can and pumped overboard through a sprayer that looks like an alligator. (Hey, I couldn't make this stuff up!) The wind was still blowing a bit, and that tends to blow the chum on people, so they decided to use some buckets of frozen chum lowered down on ropes. Fortunately the sharks really love the white buckets full of chum. They started going for the buckets much to the delight of everyone. Within an hour we had two sharks again.

Throughout the day, each group got 3 turns in the cage. They divided the boat into four groups of 5 divers. With two cages, each holding five divers (with surface supplied air) there can be 10 divers in the water at a time. So each group of 10 gets an hour, they they climb out to warm up and change batteries/tapes/film while the next group goes in. With a water temperature of about 70 degrees, it gets cold pretty fast sitting there not doing much. The sharks tend to vanish for 5-10 minutes, then re-appear, usually from below, right when you least expect them. The crew dangles tasty pieces of tuna off the back of the boat on ropes with a float. When the shark goes for one of them, they pull the tuna closer to the cage so people can get pictures. The goal is not to feed the sharks, but to NOT feed the sharks and merely tantalize them and keep them interested without filling them up. They are fast though and they frequently get the tuna before anyone can pull it away.

Midway through the day, a large cloud of sediment showed up. Patric called it "Mung". Basically, the surf stirs up sand and silt in the shallows and it washes out deeper where it reduces the visibility. Our vis went from 50 feet to about 20 feet within minutes and shark diving was pointless. Larry, Carl, Daniel and I went in the cages during the "mung" storm to report back when the vis cleared. It took about an hour, and we went back to shark diving, now thoroughly cold!

The sharks are very tough to predict. They always come at the cages from below, where you least expect them, and manage to do it from the direction you aren't looking. But in spite of the challenges, we were able to get some decent shots in fairly clear water of the sharks going after the bait. One thing that impressed me was how quickly the sharks could be attracted to the boat if we were in the right spot. It took days in Australia, but it only took a couple hours in Guadalupe.

By the third day, the weather was getting very windy again, and we had to go seeking shelter to the south of the island. Once there, we found amazingly clear water, at least 100' of vis, but no sharks at all. It's not that big an island, but the sharks definitely have their favorite spots. So we had one good shark out of three with really good shark action. In spite of the bad weather, everyone saw White sharks and got pictures. Judging by the clear water in the calm areas, I can only imagine how amazing this place is with perfect conditions. I will definitely return to Guadaloupe again to give it another try.

Jonathan Bird

More trips with Jonathan...

The incredible majesty of Wolf Island!

All of the pictures here are from guests on the trip, not me (I was shooting video). Check out their awesome pictures!

Our cool group, plus staff, after some shark divin'!

View of the port cage, from the top. Divers breathe from regs on hoses, rather than tanks. This really helps make the cages more spacious.

The island of Guadaloupe

Guadaloupe in the morning, before the cages are launched.

Tossing the bait, a small tuna. Stand guts!

View from the cage

A beautiful black and white shark portrait.

Just for a little size comparison...that is a 5 gallon paint bucket. This shark is way bigger in diameter than a 55 gallon oil drum!

Another nice close swim by.

"Did you see the size of that thing????"

A shark goes after the tuna.

Another close swim by.


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Last Update 12/20/04