...Good for: Visibility, large animals, underwater photography...
...Not so good for: Wrecks, reef life and health, small animals, non-diving activities...
A small island in the Atlantic Ocean some 165 miles (265 km) south-west of Ensenada in the upper region on Mexico's Baja California, Guadalupe is not a liveaboard destination in the usual sense. You won't see colorful reefs here, or watch schools of fish, or take nice macro photographs. You don't even need to pack your fins. Guadalupe is all about diving with one creature - the great white shark.
From the safety of a cage you can enjoy some of the world's best encounters with these awesome apex predators. There are only a few spots of earth where great whites can be seen in such numbers and in such intimacy. And possibly nowhere in the world that has these shark encounters, has such great visibility of 100 to 150ft (30-45m) as Guadalupe Island. That explains why scuba divers who love sharks come here and take photographs that become their pride and joy, reminding them of these unforgettable moments.
Uncertified divers are restricted to surface cage activities with air hoses, while certified divers can partake in the submersible cage diving with scuba tanks. Over 170 different sharks have been counted in the viewing area by one liveaboard boat.
Guadalupe is a rocky and extinct volcanic island, 17 miles (25 km) long, north to south, and 6 miles (10 km) wide, with several islets dotting its coastline. The island itself has a population of just over 200 people, including goat farmers, fishermen and Navy personnel. But it is its population of 10,000+ Guadalupe fur seals (Arctocephalus townsendi) - their only major breeding site - and northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) that attract the sharks. The island has been a seal sanctuary since 1975 and is a designated biosphere reserve.
There are no dive sites at Guadalupe to speak of. Cages are lowered into the water at different spots around the island where the operator thinks the best shark encounters are likely to be after assessing the conditions of the day. From the safety and comfort of the cage, you will spend all your wet-time checking out the awe-inspiring sight of great white sharks cruising past and coming towards you. Even spotting them from the liveaboard is a thrill, so imagine seeing them in the crystal clear waters of Guadalupe.
Depending on your choice of liveaboard safari, you might even be able to exit the cage and stand with just a single hand-rail between you and these awesome creatures!
The Guadalupe season is from August to October, when the ocean is calmest, and colder sea temperatures of 66 to 72°F (19°C to 22°C) are to be expected at this time of year. There is more chance of rain in October. Great whites, tuna, Guadalupe fur seals and sea lions are most frequently sighted during the August, September and October period.
Liveaboards depart from either the city of Ensenada in Baja California, Mexico, or from San Diego in California, U.S.A. For more information on the cruise options, and all the travel information you might need to visit Mexico, read our section:
The island is 165 miles (260 km) off the west coast of Mexico's Baja California peninsula and the boat journey time to the island is 18 to 20 hours, so daytrips from the mainland to visit the sharks are out of the question. Most of the liveaboard trips include 3 or 4 days of cage diving.
Review our map below of Mexico, showing the location of Guadalupe. Here, you will find information on how to get to Mexico, and then on to Guadalupe Island.
Depth: Surface or submersed cages at various depths
Visibility: 98 - 148ft (30 - 45m)
Surface conditions: Can be choppy
Water temperature: 66 - 72°F (19 - 22°C)
Experience level: Non-certified and certified divers
Number of dive sites: >1
Distance: 165 miles (265 km) from Ensenada, 177 miles (285 km) south west of San Diego
Recommended length of stay: 5 - 6 days