Life aboard the Nautilus Belle Amie has been amazing. Three days of amazing sharks and people! The crew, dive staff, captain, passengers, and the entire Casagrande family took this trip that I have been dreaming of for years and turned it into a dream come true and more.
Andy Casagrande used the travel time to the island to let us know that what we were going to experience was real-life sharks and was very different from the shows we have all seen on Shark Week. There is no music when you are in the cages, no warning for when a shark will appear, and no narrator letting us know how long the shark was or adding commentary about them being man-eaters. The goal of the scientific expedition was to show how amazing these animals really are and for each of us to go back home and share our wonderful experiences, photos, and videos of these majestic creatures!
As the day began, we took to the sun deck to marvel at our surroundings. Guadalupe Island is a breathtaking island all on its own in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We could hear the cries of the baby seals on the island calling for their moms to return from the hunt. On the dive deck, you know things are getting real when you hear the call of “SHARK!” and turn to see the dorsal fin and tail of a great white shark. We are here, they are here, this is going to happen. That was enough, I could not wait any longer to get into the surface cages. The morning in the surface cages started with one very curious female that made multiple passes close to each of the cages. Later, as we submersed for the first time, the sharks had all come in to see what the commotion was. We had come into their quiet world and they wanted to check us out. The sharks were everywhere, visibility was spectacular, and the dive staff made sure we saw everything. A small tap on a shoulder and you could come face to face with a large female white shark. You were watching one to the left of the cage and a tap on your right shoulder showed you two more that were approaching. With the video editing from shark week, you have no idea how these giants can sneak up on you. Often you are looking around and see another cage watching a shark and that is your first clue the shark is there. As quickly as they appear, they just as easily dive down or swim out of sight and you are left wanting more.
Fortunately, the trip is three days of shark diving and day two was different but did not disappoint. Day two was full of both surface and underwater action. As we submerged for the first dives of the morning, we found that the fish that were hanging out under the boat the first day have now surrounded the cages. As the fish dart here or there, you are focused on sharks. We had repeat visitors as well as new sharks saying “Hello” including a male that Andy Casagrande named “Andy” on a trip to Guadalupe Island many years earlier. While the underwater action was spectacular, the highlight of day two was the surface action as the day ended. The sharks were all about the bait that afternoon and were willing to breach to get it. The passengers all stood with cameras and cell phones at the ready and each time a shark appeared there were cheers from all.
The final day of diving brought up-close action. The visibility was a little lower but the sharks made up for it by coming closer. There was a very curious shark that passed within inches of the cages and continually circled the submerged cages. The divers who returned to the surface were reporting amazing action and everyone wanted to maximize their time in the water with the sharks for the final day. Each evening, the salon was full of passengers sharing photos and videos and making sure everyone had the best shots for the trip.
- Meridith, Maryland USA onboard the Nautilus Belle Amie