I have been scuba diving for one half of my life. (I trained in 1990 in an area of Southern California where my instructor made us crawl on hands and knees out of the dive location).
Since that time, I have had the intention to go shark cage diving with Great Whites . I have completed small trips locally to see sharks, mainly Blues and Makos, though not Great Whites. This last year, I developed a list of “50 things to do before 50”. Shark Cage diving now became a real goal, let alone to be part of the celebration leading up to turning 50.
I landed on a trip with the Nautilus Belle Amie with Ken Kurtis and a group of others Ken put together from the Los Angeles Area. Throughout the summer I never put much thought to the trip, except that I was going. I had many other events going on prior to July 31st.
I had been on other Live aboard dive trips and had an idea of what to expect, however the trip on the Belle Amie burst all my expectation bubbles not only in the diving but also in the area of service.
Bubbles of expectations:
Service: The Captain and Crew were amazing in their service. From the moment that we were to board the bus in San Diego to the late night drop off in San Diego, the service made me feel comfortable and relaxed. The group was escorted on the bus, through Immigration activities at the Border and onto the boat. Throughout the diving days we were given clear, concise directions, explanations and assistance. (Basically, all we had to do, in a nutshell, is get dressed for diving and go!)
Assistance: The Crew were always (and I mean always, including rough seas on the return to port) smiling, pleasant, asking if they could get us something and always willing to provide support, no matter what it was.
Team Work: The crew on the July 31st trip all worked well together. They always were pleasant with each other, laughed and joked with each other as well as worked in a seamless and tireless fashion to support each other and the guests on the trip.
Food: It felt to me that there was always food available to divers. Continental breakfast, breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner and dessert were served every day. The food was all made from scratch and rivaled most “fancy restaurants” in my local area. Since I have food allergies, the Chef also provided similar meals for me that were amazing and delicious! I am still amazed that the boat provided such meals!!!
Sharks!!! (isn’t this why I came!)
I prayed for sharks prior to leaving Southern California as you never know if they will come or not. However, the trip didn’t disappoint!!! Every dive, every day a minimum of 3 sharks came around. Wooohooooo, is all I can write as the excitement and profanity I expressed on the boat cannot be put into written word!!! Up close, down below, all around… there they were and here they came! Took my breath away, really. (though not till I got home) . The animals are large. They are beautiful, striking and stealth. (they would hide in the shadow of the boat and then, poof! There they were, within a few feet of the cage!!!) Graceful. How can something so large be so graceful????
Through the course of the 3 days, I began to see the same sharks come back by seeing the different markings on the sharks. Spots on the underbelly, dorsal fin shapes, tags, barnacles, fish hooks in mouth. Amazingly beautiful and large animals. However, being in awe of the sharks I still needed to remain cautious and respectful with the fact that the animals were much larger than I was AND could take a bite out of me if I were without the cage. Divers do look like seals/sea lions while being in neoprene.
The later afternoon time (think happy hour) the juvenile male sharks would get a little more agitated and their energy became much more intense. Though, I am not sure that perhaps Peter and his underwater dancing abilities have something to do with it! The sharks in this time would often come to the surface bite the back of the boat of the top of a cage and then do it again. Seeing the sharks at the surface, with dorsal fin and tail fin out of the water is amazing sight and exciting sight to see!! What a thrill!!!! Even at the surface the sharks were long and large!!
What an experience!!!! The Belle Amie and her Captain and Crew made my bucket list adventure worth the 21 hour ride over to Isla Guadalupe and the 30 hour return (we had rough seas, though I understand wasn’t normal nor expected).