This trip exceeded all expectations. Sharks, sharks everywhere. The crew was fantastic. We plan to repeat this trip for sure.
My favorite thing to do in life is scuba diving. So much so, that when my wife and I first met over 16 years ago, my first order of business was to get her certified so that we could dive together. When we were young and didn’t yet have kids, our annual vacations were centered around diving. When I proposed to my wife, I did it on a liveaboard dive trip right after our first dive. Over the years, in addition to our frequent day trip dives in Southern California, we were fortunate enough to do 4-5 liveaboard trips in some pretty great destinations.
As much as we loved to dive, when we settled down and had our two lovely daughters, our exotic dive trips were quickly put on hold. Life, work, etc. all got in the way. So when my 40th birthday was coming up, I knew I wanted to do something fun and it had to be dive-related. It´s always been on my bucket list to dive with great whites. I thought to myself, “It´s a milestone birthday so might as well celebrate with a memorable trip.” I asked my wife if she was up for it and she quickly confirmed she was in. We did some research into trip options and landed on Guadalupe Island aboard the Nautilus Belle Amie.
Leading up to the trip, there was a lot of anticipation. Is it going to be worthwhile? Are we going to see anything?
Let me tell you, this trip did not disappoint…
The tone for the trip was immediately set when we disembarked our bus at the dock and began walking towards the beautiful and spacious Belle Amie. We were instantly greeted by the warm and friendly smiles from the incredible crew who couldn’t have been more welcoming. After the nearly 20-hour crossing, we arrived at our destination. We got our safety briefing, practiced our life jacket drills, and then it was game on!
The first cage opened at 6:30 am and my wife and I were waiting in line with the excitement of a young child waiting to open their first present on Christmas Day. We entered the water not knowing what to expect. Visibility was good. Water temp was comfortable. The wranglers were dipping the massive tuna steaks in and out of the ocean. Now all we needed were the sharks. After sitting in the cage for nearly 40 minutes, we hadn’t seen anything. Where were they? Eager to get her first cup of coffee, my wife finally signalled to me that she wanted to come up. We knew we had a long day with a lot of bottom time in front of us and we needed to pace ourselves. As I exited the cage a small panic set in. Are there even any sharks here? Did we make a mistake by booking this trip? Is this trip going to be a bust? No sooner did we step out of the cage when I heard someone yell out behind me, “Shark! Shark!” Since we hadn’t yet removed our gear, we turned right around and hopped back in the water.
As we descended into the cage, any concerns that I had quickly disappeared as a monstrous and majestic great white swam by. This was it! This was what we came for. My first ever great white encounter! I was in awe of his grace and power. As the adrenaline pumped through my body, it became readily apparent why they are the apex predators of the sea. Soon, two of his friends joined him and we were treated to what felt like a cyclone of great whites. I couldn’t decide where to look…On my right there was a great white. On my left there was a great white. Beneath us there was a great white. With my GoPro in hand, I did my best to keep up. It was unreal.
Over the course of the next 3 days, it was pretty much rinse and repeat. Get suited up in our 7mm wetsuits, jump in the cage, and watch these incredible animals race back and forth right in front of our faces, trying to snatch the gigantic tuna steaks our wranglers were dangling. I didn’t think it was possible, but each dive got better and better. The sharks really put on a show and I was in a permanent state of awe.
The only thing that rivalled the diving was the service from the crew. They truly went above and beyond throughout the entire trip. Our captain was great, the dive masters were fun and funny, the interior crew bent over backwards to ensure we were comfortable and that every need was met, and our chefs made fantastic meal after fantastic meal.
To the divers we met and the crew of the Belle Amie, THANK YOU! This was truly the trip of a lifetime and we can´t wait to come back.
– Lee Hunt
Photo by Tanya Burnett