In September, I was lucky enough to experience the Great White Shark dive in Guadalupe, Mexico. I went out with Great White Adventures on board the Solmar V. This dive adventure starts off in San Diego, California, where you can be picked up at one of two hotels. It's probably best to stay the night at one of the hotels, as transportation to Mexico leaves at 9 am. The bus takes about two and a half hours to reach the docks for the Solmar V in Mexico.
The boat ride out to Guadalupe was around 22 hours, and it was a very rocky ride. I usually don't get sea sick, however this trip out was different. Once on the boat, divers are welcome to fish off the back of the boat, lounge around or watch TV in the dining room. There is a great selection of movies and documentaries to watch during the trip. After a nice dinner and chat with fellow divers, I was off to bed.
I woke up to an anchored boat in Guadalupe, Mexico, excited and nervous to get in the water with the Great Whites. After breakfast and a thorough briefing, the first set of divers geared up for their first hour in the cage. The boat has a maximum limit of 16 divers, the surface cage can hold 8 divers and there is another cage which goes deeper to around 40 ft in the water and can hold 4 divers. For the first half of the day we only used the surface cages, so we could get used to being around the sharks. Each lot of 8 divers would stay in the cage for about an hour then we would switch out.
It's best to bring a 7 or 8 millimeter wet suit as you are not moving underwater, you are simply sitting in a cage watching these magnificent creatures. Once you are ready to enter the cages, you are outfitted with ankle weights to keep you weighed down in the cage, along with a 40 or 50 pound harness. This way you can easily move around in the cages and not have to worry about buoyancy.
My first time entering the cages I became very nervous. Even though I had watched divers for almost an hour, I was definitely uneasy. The boat uses a hookah system so you can stay down for as long as you want. I was able to stay down for almost four hours once, but got very cold from not moving around. I would not recommend doing this.
After a few days, it was easy to be in the cage alone or with only one other diver. The cages that are lowered to 40 feet provide an entirely different experience from the surface cages. At the surface the sharks are lured in with Tuna that sits very close to the cage, along with a milk crate full of fish that sits between the cages and the boat. The sharks come in and around the cages and even bump into them. It's a much more engaging experience on the surface. The lowered cage however, exposes you to an almost sublime experience. You watch the sharks swim above and around you. They don't come close to the cage, but simply dally with you from a distance. It's at depth that you get a real sense of their size. Strangely, at no point was I ever worried about a shark attack.
Once I shared the same environment with them, I had a really hard time understanding how people all over the world are so afraid of these creatures. Harmless obviously isn't the term to use, but the word did cross my mind.
-- Nadia Aly, Scuba Diver Life