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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Great White Shark Diving!

When I was asked about my vacation plans I told my friends & colleagues that I was headed to Mexico for a dive trip.  They smiled and said, “That sounds nice and relaxing.” To a non-diver, the words “Guadalupe Island” means not a thing. They figure it is just another vacation destination in Mexico.

Not until the very last work day did I give up any details.  As I finished my shift I said, “I hope I get some good photos of the Great White Sharks there.”  At first there were glances around the silent room, each coworker looking to see the reaction of the other, each assuming I was kidding.  Then one shouted, “Oh my God, you are not kidding!”  Shock & disbelief fell over the room.  Warnings about the dangers of those blood-thirsty apex predators with razor-sharp teeth, and tales of scuba divers being dismembered, or swallowed whole, and of course the movie “Jaws”were all mentioned.  Did I mention “Shark Week” just aired on a TV special this week too?

Explaining that sharks are not interested in hunting or eating humans, AND that I would be protected by a metal cage did nothing to ease their concerns. Someone said, “Can’t you just go visit one at the Aquarium on Cannery Row?”

Well, I made it back in one piece thanks to a very knowledgeable  and professional crew aboard the Solmar V. Safety of both diver & shark is priority and I would recommend this trip to any diver who wants to see these awesome creatures in their natural habitat.  We had about 8 different Great White sharks show up during our 3 day stay at Guadalupe Island.  We even had some breaches which was a spectacular show.  We had a great group of people on board as well which made the trip a lot of fun.  I would love to do a trip to Socorro in the future to view & photograph the Giant Mantas.

The great thing about Guadalupe Great White Shark diving is that you only need to bring your 7mm wetsuit, hood, gloves, boots, and mask.  No regulators, snorkels, tanks, or fins needed.  The 2 cages attached to the stern are 8′ deep.  The cage diver wears a harness (provided) with about 50lbs. of weight or so.  I wore 40lbs and felt like a burro trying to climb in & out of the moving, floating cage.  It was a little less than graceful, but I managed.
  They have a Hookah system so that it is easy to stay submerged for a long time while observing sharks or taking photos. The water temp was about 65 which is warmer than I am used to here in Monterey.  The air temp during the day was 75-80/nights down to the 60’s.  The vis was about 60′-100′ depending on what the tide blew in.  When the sun was out, the rays penetrated deep beneath the surface. This made the water column illuminate like a huge fiber-optic lamp. It was mesmerizing.  The light rays would sparkle on the otherwise drab, grey shark hide creating
a beautiful dappled appearance.  It was like no other experience I have had diving.    
  Certified divers may also utilize the submersible cage which descends on a crane system down about 40′.  You still use a Hookah system for your air supply.  This lets you observe the big picture as the sharks circle around the surface cages, the ship, and the bait.
If you go shark diving, be sure to go on The Solmar V.  They are the only outfit licensed to bait the sharks.  The Great Whites swim so close you could reach out and touch them………..BUT I kept my hands to myself in spite of the temptation.
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Cozumel was my first warm water destination after logging about 60 dives in cold water  between Monterey and the Channel Islands in 2005.

I was so enchanted by the warm breeze, 80 degree water, and 100+ foot visibility that I wanted to move there.  Cozumel was literally a dream come true.  I have had 2 recurring dreams since childhood.  One is that I can fly in my dreams, the other is that I can breathe underwater.  As I swiftly glided along with the current with my dive buddies I suddenly realized that these two dreams had become a reality.

Now, 6 years and over 200 dives later I returned to Cozumel to enjoy some drift diving as a more experienced diver, as well as owning a better underwater camera.