Posted on Wednesday, 2 September 2015
Lying 220 miles South west of San Diego, Guadalupe Island has become a mecca for Great White shark diving in the Eastern Pacific. Approx. 120 square miles in size with a population of under 30 people, this remote volcanic Island attracts not only White sharks and tourists but a rich abundance of other marine life. Famous for its mature sized sharks and incredible water clarity, operators use live-aboard boats for multiple day cage diving at this incredible location. The Island of Guadalupe has also become a biosphere reserve that is protected and managed by Mexican organisations as well as supporting on-going research of on-site scientists, further aiding the education and protection of the Great White shark population that visit.
Great White sharks were sighted at the island as far back as the 1970s by fisherman and spear fisherman however it was not until the mid 1990s when sport fishing became popular at the Island that good numbers were seen regularly. Towards the end of the 1990s, dive operations started and the location has since become one of the most sought after destinations to see a Great White shark. Regulations are now in place to protect the wildlife and the numbers of the sharks are now believed to be on the rise not only at Guadalupe but also along the Californian coastline.
The Great White sharks begin to arrive at Guadalupe around late July. Typically, this is the time when you see young males who we are led to believe arrive to feed off the abundance of schooling fish in the area. As October comes around, the Island sees the arrival of the massive mature females who coincide their arrival with that of the huge Californian Elephant seals which come here to pup. Come January, the sharks depart the island and go on various migratory routes along the eastern pacific. It is also theorised that Guadalupe could be a mating ground for female White sharks before migrating up and down the Californian coast line and into the sea of cortez on 2 year migratory cycles.
As well as Great White sharks, Guadalupe Island also sees large and varied amounts of game fish including huge Yellowfin tuna, Yellow tail, White sea bass and Halibut. The northern most beaches on the Island are home to breeding colonies of Northern Elephant seals and Guadalupe fur seals; both species were hunted to near extinction during the early 1900s. Fortunately, enough individuals managed to elude sealers to ensure the survival of both species. Now thriving, together with colonies of Californian sea lions they are easily viewed from the boats whilst cruising the shoreline. Other wildlife encountered are Common dolphin, Humpback, Pilot, Grey, Blue and the rare Beaked whale plus an abundance of seabirds. Mako, Blue, Hammerhead and even Whale sharks have also been sighted here as well as Manta rays.
Over the years the operators have got to know many of the sharks and have become fond of them. An ongoing ID database catalogues all sharks here since 2001 and has now documented 200 individuals. Some sharks have been sighted at Guadalupe for 15 years, including two very popular animals “Bruce” and “Biteface”. In fact, due to the amazing visibility and such distinctive characteristics, many operators are able to tell each shark apart as soon as the animal visits the boat. Some of the Islands other most famous residents include: “Bella”, “Sarah”, “Johnny”, “Chugey”, “Mystery”, “Lucy”, “Gunther”, “Emma”, “Tzitzimitl”, and it’s most famous shark of all “Shredder”. Operators have come to know these individuals due to their varying characteristics and completely unique personalities.
Now operating each year from July – December, shark expedition boats depart from San Diego for multiple day trips to shark cage dive at Guadalupe Island. The boats are long range vessels that are designed for the open water crossing of the pacific and once anchored in the islands sheltered north east bay, shark cage diving commences. Multiple cages using a hookah system with huge sharks in incredible diving conditions make for a fantastic wildlife encounter. Research trips, specialty expeditions as well as film productions are all ongoing as well as regular tourism trips throughout the season.
Apex Shark Expeditions will be running specialty expeditions to Guadalupe in 2016. During these trips, guests will spend multiple days cage diving during peak season at the island. The trips are all inclusive and no dive experience is needed. Guests will be able to spend up to 15-18 hours underwater with the Great White sharks and will be educated on the marine life by both Jimi Partington and on-site shark biologist, Mauricio Hoyas. For further details, check our expedition out here.