Great white sharks can be seen in almost any region between 60°N and 60°S. Among other locations, there are aggregations of great white sharks along the East and West coasts of Canada and the USA, South Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, Japan, and Chile. Great white sharks are oceanic nomads and undertake long migrations, but they do return to the same locations year after year.
Great whites aggregate in both coastal bays and remote oceanic areas and islands far from the continents, as in the case of Guadalupe Island in Mexico. But why over 1000 sharks populate the waters around Guadalupe Island from June to January?
What makes this long and narrow island in the middle of the Pacific one of the perfect great white shark habitats?
California current makes the perfect great white sharks habitat
Guadalupe is an oceanic island located approximately 260 kilometers from the West coast of Baja California. Nautilus Liveaboards departs for Guadalupe from the port of Ensenada, Mexico. Because of its location, the island has the influence of the California Current.
The movement of this current, with cold water rich in nutrients, encourages the production of phytoplankton and attracts both coastal and deep water species, among them the great white sharks.
Marine life around Guadalupe Island is very diverse. From whales to sardines to various types of invertebrates, to rays and sharks. If you are interested in checking out the full list of species, “The Great White Shark” by Ph. Mauricio Hoyos is a great resource.
In the cages we encounter not only great white sharks, but tunas, jacks, sardines, and other bony fishes can also make an appearance. Some very lucky divers have even seen Humpback whales! Anything can happen, so be ready for surprises!
Great White Sharks Prey
Three different types of pinnipeds live on Guadalupe Island: the California sea lion, the Guadalupe fur seal and the Northern elephant seal, which just happens to be the favorite prey of the great whites! On the island there are around 7 colonies of northern elephant seals who migrate from Alaska and spend the winter there for reproductive and breeding purposes.
During this migration, great white sharks take advantage of their movement to hunt them. The elephant seals arrival to and departure from Guadalupe offer ideal opportunities for great whites to strike. On the Northeast side of the island there are large congregations of northern elephant seals which makes it the preferential location for anchoring and enjoying epic encounters with the great white sharks!
It is very interesting to observe the interaction between California sea lions and great whites sharks as well. Thanks to the good visibility, this prey can often escape from the great white sharks.
The Guadalupe fur seal is neither as lucky nor as fast as the Californian Sea Lion. Great whites actually prefer to make a meal of the heads of the Guadalupe fur seals and often leave the lower part of their body floating on the surface.
After January, most sharks then migrate west to OFA, the offshore foraging area in mid-pacific leaving a small population year-round population of 10 – 20 sharks. It’s no surprise that the northern elephant seal population peaks every spring.
Guadalupe Island Topography
Guadalupe is a volcanic Island, 1297 meters high. This topography is a big factor in why Guadalupe Islands is a preferred great white shark habitat. With the help of submarines and other devices, scientists have been able to observe how these intelligent animals, taking advantage of the topography of the island and the good visibility, apply a very unique hunting method. As you can see, diver’s aren’t the only ones to appreciate good viz!
Studies and videos show how great white sharks swim close to the bottom, camouflaging the white lower part of their body. They look up, monitoring the surface for elephant seals to attack by surprise and at the same time hunt deep water prey. Due to the topography of Guadalupe, great white sharks can enjoy a variety of prey within a small range, less than 100 meters from the coast of the island.
Guadalupe Island is a unique place for great white sharks and a must-do for any diver or ocean lover! You do not need to be a certified diver to have close encounters with them, as on all Nautilus Liveaboard vessels there are surface cages open for non-divers.
Great White Sharks can get close to the cages, but don’t worry- you do not need to keep social distancing with them! Don’t miss this opportunity to visit the ideal place for great white shark encounters. Great white shark season starts in just a few weeks! Hope to see you on the next adventure.