Updated: Jan 31, 2019
Over a year of planning and the moment was finally here. We were going to embark on this incredible adventure to La Isla de Guadalupe, Mexico to swim with 18 foot great white sharks!!! The anticipation and excitement in the room was tangible as we waited at the Hampton Inn Hotel for pick-up. Surprisingly, I had traveled from Florida to run into Dr. Yannis Papastamatiou, a shark ecologist and a previous professor and mentor of mine from Florida International University! This made me that much more confident in the excellence this company would provide as he was there in attempts to continue research on the great white shark population.
I knew that Chris Adams had chosen the right company for this trip the second I saw the bus pull in. It was HUGE and decorated with a beautiful great white shark that stared down at us while the staff helped load the luggage for us and our (18?) companions. The bus was spacious and had cushy, reclining seats with plenty of overhead storage for small backpacks (kind of like an airplane). Once everyone had taken their seats, the bus promptly began the journey to the Mexico border. During this 15 minute journey, we were given concise and clear directions that allowed us to pass through the customs efficiently. Our paper work was filled out during the ride, documents ready, and customs was a breeze. In fact, I don't think I have ever or will ever have an easier time entering a country!
After we went through customs, we re-boarded the bus and continued on our way. We stopped at a 7-eleven so people could purchase snacks and drinks for the remainder of the ride.Guide) intermittently narrated significant sites as we passed by and even stopped for a few minutes so we could take photos. The entire journey took approximately 1.5 hours until we arrived at the docks.
At this point we were asked to hand over our passports as they would stay with the captain for the remainder of the trip. I will admit, this made me nervous as it left me without my passport in a foreign country…but the crew took excellent care of our belongings and returned them promptly once we had returned to shore.
We were formally introduced to the remainder of the crew and allowed to sit in the main (galley?) while they took care of all the luggage and final shore checks. They immediately provided food and snacks while we waited for further instruction. Soon we were all participating in an abandon ship drill as part of their safety requirements for the trip. And then…we were underway!
It was not long after that the boat began to sway and finally roll as the wind and waves increased. The crew informed us we would be traveling all through the night and would not arrive until the following morning (around 18 hours in total). After settling into our rooms, we then had the opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet the new ones that had joined us! They served dinner after a few hours. I cannot express how impressed I was with ALL the meals. They was a huge variety that even as a picky eater I thoroughly enjoyed. I definitely never went hungry.
When it was time for bed, I was met with a challenge. All of the rooms were well organized and spacious for a boat. However, the top bunk in each of the state rooms were a challenge. It was difficult to mount into the beds and even I as a smaller woman felt a little claustrophobic as the night rocked on. Nevertheless, I eventually drifted to sleep and awoke to the smells of breakfast. We still had a few hours before we reached our destination, during which we were thoroughly briefed on entrance/exit procedures, general organizations of the cage, rotation of peoples, and other boating procedures.
Before I knew it, the time had come for me to suit up. As I donned my layers I couldn't contain my excitement. The entire boat was anxiously looking around as the cages were set up and FINALLY we saw our first great white shark. That beautiful, smooth, pale-green silhouette just beneath the surface sent chills through my body as we all gathered and watched it disappear into the depths once again.
As I scooted towards the cage under the pressure of a well endowed weight belt, I felt the cold water of the Pacific Ocean seep into my suit…and then I was inside this eight foot cage accompanied by my husband Chris Adams and both our fathers. Being inside was disorienting at first as the cages rocked with each persons movements but after a few minutes things settled in. We glanced anxiously in all directions waiting for the sharks to appear. When they did appear, my first reaction was awe as I had never seen anything so massive and yet graceful in every motion. We excitedly began to take pictures and videos as more sharks appeared! What felt like only ten minutes later, there was a loud banging sound that reminded us it was time for the next divers to enter. Reluctantly we clambered out of the cage one at a time and raved in excitement to prepare the next group for the experience they were about to receive. The staff functioned like a well-oiled machine as they transitioned the new divers into the cages and promptly presented us with hot soup and lunch. After the first round of rotations had finished it was first-come, first-serve for the cages and I was determined to spend as much time as possible with those magnificent beasts.
And so those three days passed in the blink of an eye. There was the endless cycle of getting dressed, diving, eating, diving, shower, sleep, repeat. Despite this seemingly monotonous schedule, each cage experience was filled with new sites and different excitement. My favorite moment was witnessing a full breach from inside the cage, where I watched a ten-foot white shark shoot from 30 feet straight out of the water and to crash right next to my cage. Lucy was the true show stopper, resting at 19 feet long with a characteristically bent caudal (tail) fin. The exhillaration that she produced as she glided through the water never faded as she made intermittent appearances on the trip. We probably saw 15 different individuals in all over those three days and we were all heartbroken to leave.
Despite my love for the sharks my favorite part of the trip, as is the case for any DIVE ARMY trip, was the time I got to spend with all these awesome divers from around the world. When we weren't in the water, we were sharing stories, drinking, eating, and laughing. That is what these trips are all about and I am honored to get to join my fellow divers in these adventures.