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Diving at Guadalupe

Cage Diving With Great White Sharks

A small island in the Atlantic Ocean some 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 colourful 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.

The great white shark of Guadalupe Island, Mexico - photo courtesy of Eric Hanauer

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 (30-45m/100-150 foot) 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 acivities 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, 25 km long, north to south, and 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.

Dive Site Descriptions

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 encounters are likely to be after assessing the conditions of the day. From the safety and comfort of a 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 water.

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!

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How to Dive Guadalupe

Cage diving in Guadalupe with great white sharks - photo courtesy of Sea Escape

Liveaboards depart from either the city of Ensenada in Baja California, Mexico, or from San Diego in California, U.S.A. The island is 260 km (165 miles) 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.

Diving Season

The Guadalupe season is from August to October, when the ocean is calmest, and colder sea temperatures (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 seen throughout by divers throughtout the the whole of August, September and October.

Reef Summary

Good for: Visibility, large animals, underwater photography
Not so good for: Wrecks, reef life and health, small animals, non-diving activities
Depth: Surface or submersed cages at various depths
Visibility: 30 - 45m
Currents: Mild
Surface conditions: Can be choppy
Water temperature: 19 - 22°C
Experience level: Non-certified and certified divers
Number of dive sites: >1
Distance: 265 km from Ensenada, 285 km south west of San Diego
Access: Guadalupe liveaboard cruises
Recommended length of stay: 5 - 6 days

Useful References

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