This is the Superbowl of shark encounters. You come face-to-face with the ocean's most awesome predator—a creature that routinely devours mammals larger than yourself. What makes this encounter even more awe-inspiring is the fact that it takes place with predictable regularity in clear, calm waters, where sunlight reveals every detail of this sleek, magnificent hunter. This is why a meeting with the great white sharks of Guadalupe Island remains one of the most sought-after and prized marine life encounters on the planet.

The clear waters of Guadalupe Island create ideal conditions for viewing great white sharks. Photo courtesy BigAnimals Global Expeditions
The clear waters of Guadalupe Island create ideal conditions for viewing great white sharks. Photo courtesy BigAnimals Global Expeditions

Guadalupe Island is a remote volcanic outpost located some 150 miles off the coast of Baja California. Rising from deep water, this island sits at the juncture of warm southern currents and a cool northern upwelling that brings a steady flow of nutrients to support huge schools of fish. The island's shores are havens for Guadalupe fur seals, Californian sea lions and northern elephant seals. This abundance of potential meals is what brings the white sharks, which gather around the island from late July through the end of January each year. Populations of more than 250 sharks have been counted in these waters, but it isn't just the numbers that make this the superstar of great white encounters. Unlike other white shark destinations such as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, where both air and waters are colder and water clarity is limited, Guadalupe Island offers underwater visibility of 100 feet or more, calm seas and water temperatures that range from the high 60s to low 70s.

Shark encounters take place from boats anchored in the calm waters of a bay. Photo courtesy BigAnimals Global Expeditions
Shark encounters take place from boats anchored in the calm waters of a bay. Photo courtesy BigAnimals Global Expeditions

Since Guadalupe is a marine preserve and seal sanctuary, visitor access is limited, and only a select number of charter boats are licensed to conduct shark viewing activities. Trips typically begin in the Mexican port of Ensenada and reach the island after an overnight cruise. After anchoring in a protected bay, crews will begin to bait the waters and deploy shark cages. These cages may be rigged to float on the surface, or suspended at a depth of 20 to 30 feet. Divers wear conventional scuba gear in the submerged cages, while surface cages are often equipped with hookah regulators on long hoses with surface-supplied air. This allows for longer in-water times and the comfort of tank-free diving.

An aerial view reveals two great white sharks approaching the cages deployed off the stern of the dive boat Islander. Photo courtesy BigAnimals Global Expeditions
An aerial view reveals two great white sharks approaching the cages deployed off the stern of the dive boat Islander. Photo courtesy BigAnimals Global Expeditions

The sharks typically show up within a few hours of baiting activity, and will often continue to circle the boat through the day. It's common to have two or three sharks at a time approaches the cages and interact with divers. Submersion in a deeper cage can provide stunning photo opportunities, while the surface cages provide a front-row seat to the baiting activity, and a chance to get within mere feet of these huge fish. An even more amazing interaction is offered on trips hosted by Amos Nachoum of BigAnimals Global Expeditions. Based on his many years of experience reading the behavior of these sharks, he provides a limited number of opportunities to free swim with great whites during trips to Guadalupe Island.

Divers use surface-supplied air when viewing from shallow cages. Photo courtesy BigAnimals Global Expeditions
Divers use surface-supplied air when viewing from shallow cages. Photo courtesy BigAnimals Global Expeditions

The months of August through November are considered the best time for a white shark trip. The males show up first, and in the greatest numbers. These sharks are quite active and will put on a good show. The big females arrive later, and the best time to see these big mamas is during October and November. Guadalupe is a mating hotspot for great whites, and the females often bear the scars of mating behavior that involves the smaller male biting his potential partner around the gill area and holding on as the courtship is consummated.

Divers in a submerged cage are treated to a visit by four sharks.
Divers in a submerged cage are treated to a visit by four sharks.

We have partnered with the premier boats and tour operators offering great white shark trips to Guadalupe Island. This includes a special relationship with Amos Nachoum’s BigAnimals Global Expeditions and representation of the Nautilus and Solmar fleets. Cage diving with great whites is one of the most thrilling underwater activities in the world, and it is an adventure that even novice divers can enjoy. To begin your great white shark adventure, give our expert agents a call at 800-330-6611 or send a note to sales@caradonna.com.

Get a preview of what to expect at Guadalupe Island by watching this short clip.
Get a preview of what to expect at Guadalupe Island by watching this short clip.