Uncle Max wants to go swimming with sharks when he visits this year. “It’s a metaphor made literal!” he marvels.
Shark Diver (855-987-4275) runs several adventures, including a five-day trip to Guadalupe Island, about 175 miles west of Baja, to get close to great whites. “We board in San Diego,” explains spokesperson Cindy Michaels, “but because we cross into Mexican waters, you will need a passport. It takes about a day to get there and a day to get back; you’ll get about 12 to 15 hours in the water over the two and a half days we’re there.”
“We’re open to the public,” continues Michaels, “which means you do not have to be dive-certified to do this. Air is supplied through a hookah line that runs to the boat; we give you a tutorial on how to breathe with the regulator. We also outfit you with wetsuits, booties, gloves, and masks; all you need to bring are clothes and flip-flops. The cages hold four or five people, and they’re not completely submerged — but you’ll have about four or five feet of water overhead. The great thing about surface cages is visibility; when you have daylight, you can see about 100 feet, and the sharks are right there. Our season runs from August to October; in the earlier part, you will see a majority of male juveniles ranging from 8 to 15 feet. Then in October and November, you see the larger females, between 18 and 30 feet. We also offer a full guarantee: if you do not see a great white, then we will take you out again at no extra charge.” Price is $3195 to $3395 per person.
Shark Diver travels on the 85-foot Horizon. “It sleeps 30, but we take only 18 for shark trips. Bathrooms and showers are communal, and we have eight four-person staterooms with private bathrooms. We have two chefs onboard serving things like prime rib, lamb, and pasta dishes, and they can make meals to order.”
San Diego Shark Diving Expeditions (619-299-8560) also offers five-day trips to Guadalupe Island. Owner Doc Anes notes that besides the surface cages, he also carries a submersible cage that can be dropped to 35 feet, “and for that, you do need to be dive-certified.” Up where there’s daylight, “visibility runs 80 to 120 feet. The sharks are drawn by the scent we put in the water, and they swim right in front of the cages. They’re curious animals and will occasionally nudge one to see what it is.”
San Diego Shark Diving Expeditions’ season runs July–mid-November. They have three boats to choose from, ranging from 88 to 140 feet. Accommodations vary by boat, from simple cabins with shared bathrooms and showers to premium private suites with private baths and flat-screen TVs. Some boats even have on-deck hot tubs. “And no matter which boat you book on, the food is fantastic. And our chefs are happy to accommodate special requests — vegan, lactose-intolerant, etc.” Prices range from $2829.75 to $4404.25. Food is included, but only Islander booking includes dive gear.
SD Expeditions (858-707-5666) owner Nick LeBeouf worked the long-range shark tours for five years before deciding he didn’t want to live on a boat. Now he runs one-day, cage-free snorkel shark-diving trips just 15 to 30 miles offshore. “You’ll see different species. Blue sharks get pregnant in winter and spring; they like the colder water. Mako sharks, which are the fastest sharks, are more prevalent in the summer and fall. And hammerheads come in the summertime, following the tuna. When the sharks come, we’ll put one person in the water at a time into the water — depending on which boat we take, we can have 6 to 12 guests — as long as everyone is comfortable and the shark is comfortable.” (Speaking of comfort, wetsuits are provided.)
Trips depart at 9 a.m. and return at 5 p.m. “Our location on a given day is mainly based on water temperature and the chlorophyll readings we get from our satellite imaging. Once we get where we’re going, we use chum buckets as an attractant, and then we wait. It can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 4 to 6 hours. We can’t guarantee results, but we would not run these tours if we didn’t think we could get sharks, and we do give a discount for return customers.” Cost is $350 per person.