At DEMA 2017 I met up with Mike Lever, as usual. Mike is the owner of the Nautilus Liveaboards fleet, and during our conversation I realized that I had never visited his flagship, the Nautilus Belle Amie. Mike invited me immediately on a trip to Guadalupe at the beginning of August, and of course I couldn’t miss out on inviting my photo and video buddy Uwe Schubart. I also used the chance to introduce Dusko from Mares to Mike and after just a few moments the dream team for the trip was complete! The target of this spontaneous project
was to build up a synergy and to produce amazing pictures and movies involving some of Mares’ newest products together with the highlight of Guadalupe - Great White Sharks! This trip to Guadalupe was my 6th, and it was to become the best of all my trips there.
The journey from Munich to San Diego, one of America's most beautiful cities, went perfectly. We spent a stopover night there, including highlights such as the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier floating museum and the famous Gaslamp Quarter. Our inner child was let loose again and we rented a speedboat for 2 hours to enjoy the beautiful city from a different perspective – we explored San Diego's bay as well getting very close to the imposing US Navy fleet. Aircraft carriers such as the USS America and USS Theodore Roosevelt were anchored at Coronado Island; we even saw stealth battleships in the shipyards, very impressive! San Diego reminds you very much of the movie Top Gun, in fact a large part of the movie was filmed there, and the Navy aviation base on the island of Coronado, where pilots have been training for decades, is also known as ‘TOPGUN Miramar’.
Ensenada is surrounded by the most impressive vineyards in Mexico. The city and the region are a ‘must’ for wine lovers. Twice a year, famous rallies start from Ensenada, heading in to the desert of the Baja California Peninsula. The climate is similar to that of San Diego – the summers are sunny with cool ocean winds, the winters are mild with occasional rainfall. Visiting is recommended all year-round, but in the summer it is mild and refreshing at the same time thanks to the Pacific Ocean.
On our arrival we were greeted by the outstandingly cordial Nautilus Belle Amie crew. After a welcome cocktail we moved to our wonderfully comfortable cabins and over the next 18 hours we covered the 189 miles of open Pacific Ocean to the island of Guadalupe. As soon as the anchor was dropped, the diving cages were put in the water and the crew prepared everything for cage diving the next morning.
Guadalupe is a 40km long, rocky island of volcanic origin measuring 258km². It is found in the Pacific Ocean about 240km away from the Mexican mainland and about 500km south of San Diego. The island is completely isolated. It rises from the surrounding sea, which reaches up to 3,500 meters deep, and its rough coast is fairly overgrown. Under water kelp forests can be found in which elephant seals and sea lions frolic. The crystal-clear water (with visibility up to 40m!) is home to a variety of inhabitants. Whales and dolphins circle the island as well as many different kinds of shark, especially Great Whites which are in abundance.
Diving with Great White Sharks is certainly, without a doubt, one of the most impressive moments a diver can experience in his life. Guadalupe is one of the top destinations on the planet to admire these animals up close - the island surpasses both South Africa and Australia for its encounters with Great Whites as well as underwater visibility. The sheer size of this miracle of evolution is extremely impressive, a dream for every diver, photographer, filmmaker and adventurer.
The population of Great White Sharks in Guadalupe is the largest in the world. More than 258 have been identified and scientifically researched and they live around the island between August and October. In this period they eat as much as possible to accumulate enough fat for leaner times. In November the population moves towards Hawaii, following tuna swarms across the Pacific Ocean. On this route the animals then gather for weeks at the ‘White Shark Café’ which refers to a submarine plateau in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Scientists believe that this is one of their legendary mating places. At the end of July the animals return to Guadalupe once again.
From 6:30am the cages were open. The surface cages could be used almost arbitrarily. For the dives in the deep cages a detailed plan was drawn up which ensured that each of the guests was able to experience the animals from the best perspective at least three times a day.
We were more than blessed by both the weather and the animals. There was warm water, sunshine, no waves and interaction with the animals like I had never experienced before! Up to seven Great White sharks provided unforgettable and breathtaking moments throughout the entire day. The animals mostly circled in a relaxed manner around our cages but then, apparently very well coordinated with each other, they moved in a flash! They showed us all their elegance and effectiveness - the perfection of ten million years of evolution, it was just incredible! Dusko managed to spend more than six hours per day in the cages on days 2 and 3 – a record! The yield of photos was enormous!
The trip to Guadalupe was also the perfect occasion to put some of Mares' newest gear to the test! Uwe was the lucky diver who got to try out the new Z-Therm wetsuit and Genius dive computer! We can't say too much about them now, but watch this space - the feedback we recevied was awesome so we look forward to being able to tell you more!
The Nautilus Belle Amie by Nautilus Liveaboards, with its 44m length and many exclusive features, left nothing to be desired. The crew enchanted us during every minute; they fulfilled all possible and impossible wishes. The culinary selection was varied and outstanding, and a happy hour and taco evening on the sundeck completed a very successful trip.
From a scientific point of view, the Great White Shark is already considered ‘extinct’ as its population won’t be able to reproduce sufficiently in the future according to existing knowledge. I can only recommend experiencing these graceful, gigantic predators of the oceans before we humans have wiped out this miracle of evolution.