Monday, March 14, 2011

Shark Cage Diving Trip Report - Guadalupe Island 2010 "White Shark City"

When we got the phone call from Jan Millhauser this year, we knew we had a special mom on the phone.

She was interested in taking her 19 year old daughter shark diving.

What a mom!

Even rough seas could not keep this NY mother daughter pair down for too long when it came to meeting the "Man in the Grey Suit."

This is Jan's 2010 Shark Trip Report:

Ariel wanted to go dive with great white sharks for her graduation from high school. We researched for many of hours till we found “Shark Diver” and they were rated 5 out of five. I have to say the rating was accurate.

We flew on Jet Blue from JFK on an 8:30 am flight that got us to San Diego around 11:30am, after wrestling with local hotels and a mean front desk clerk and a quick trip to the Gaslamp district we got our ride to the dock where we were greeted by a friendly and kind “Horizon Charters” crew who were totally in control and knowledgeable. My fear of claustrophobia and not being able to get to the head (bathroom) in time in case the sea sick patches were not sea worthy was on my mind.
As we were walking to the “MV Horizon” (boat’s name) the crew Mark and Kyle were joking with Ariel and I making me feel like all was going to be just fine. This was the first time either of us had been diving, let alone 210 miles off the coast with white sharks!

The 84 foot Horizon had two very large cages on the deck. Upon boarding we met some of the other crew and passengers. Everyone was friendly and supportive. There were a few others with the same fears as I had.

There was Alec (whom I kept calling Eric, he took it in stride) and Lisa his wife from England, Marcus from Ireland, Mark from Canada, Jeff from Tennessee, Steve from Maryland, William from San Diego (who was originally from Panama until he moved to CA at 16; army brat), John from NY with his father Bob from Chicago and Ka-Hay from Hong Kong (best line “I was like what the f@!% is this shit?) That broke the ice for all.

Customs came on the boat went through all the official stuff and then took off for the 16 hour journey to the Guadalupe Islands. Mark and Beth the kitchen crew made us delicious pancakes for breakfast. On the way there we saw whales sprouting but we couldn’t find them so we continued on after a few minute detour whale watching. Spinner dolphins joined us for a while playing in the wake of the Horizon. Two more meals, diving lecture, getting fitted for our wet suits, a few laughs with the rest of our dive partners and of to bed.
We woke up with cages being put into the water and Mark and Beth were taking breakfast orders we had arrived after months of preparation to Isla Guadalupe.

All of a sudden we hear “White Shaaaark”(Ariel was the first person to spot the shark) everyone darted out onto the deck to watch a beautiful great white shark swimming around the boat. It took all the energy of the boat crew to keep all 12 of us from jumping in the water to swim with the shark. His movement in the water was so graceful it was like watching a ballerina dance at Lincoln center. We ate breakfast, lectured on safety rules of appropriate cage entry, exit, picture taking and NO hanging out of the cage for pictures which I must say only a few of the divers actually followed that rule (not Steve, Ariel or myself; we were a naughty shark cage team.)

Martin the Dive Master made a scheduled one hour in the cages one hour out with a half hour for lunch so we got in the cage several times on the first day.
We saw 14 different great white sharks over the 3 days of cage diving.

On my second dive a large great white was coming head in to me and I was just about to do the most “not allowed move” by kissing his snout when my regulator hose broke off my mouth piece and I had to get out of the cage till it was fixed. After I got out Kyle and I were on the side of the boat talking when two sharks had a fight and both breached right in front of us. Of course neither of us had a camera to get it on digital but it will be in our minds eye forever.

I had a few more really close encounters with a few white sharks but none close enough to actually kiss. Most of the sharks came within 1 – 2 inches from the cages.

We were allowed to get in the shark cages before our rotation if we got up early enough. There were a few seagulls swimming in front of our boat when a great white shark came up from underneath it and lifted the bird and its nose right out of the water that someone got video of!

Very cool.
We saw a few sharks 10 – 20 feet below our cages swimming around. We spent one dive where all we saw were mackerel while we prayed for a shark but none came. Steve our dive mate fixed our hoses when they got tangled; we took pictures of each other and played hand games while we waited in the cold water -down time after a hot shark first day. We ate dinner exchanged memory cards to see each other’s video and pictures. The camaraderie was at an all time high and no one refused to share their amazing shark pics.

I got up early to get into the into the cages early and got a wonderful show. A sea lion came up under the boat and to visit our cages. Then he got a visit from a young great white about 9 feet and the seal and shark where playing tag with the seal doing most of the chasing it was amazing. After my allotted time and the first rotation came in a second great white shark came to join the game and we saw a little bit of the play looking down into the water from the boat deck. On our rotations first dive we saw a few great whites not close up but not far either. The second dive we saw nothing and the third dive Ariel and I decided to shower and just watch from the deck, read and relax. It was a very smart move because some rough current was coming in and the cages plus boat started to rock.

Before we left Captain Spencer said we were going to be heading into rough waters. A few of us loaded up on the bonnine and other sea sick pills plus vied for position on the rear deck for a view of the horizon. When we left Captain Spencer drove by the shore so we could see the sea lions and elephant seals then headed back to Ensenada Mexico to go through customs.

Overall we had an indescribable experience that words cannot do justice to. Great white shark diving is an experience that must be done first hand to understand the feeling of euphoria.

Jan and Ariel 2010 Official Shark Divers!