Adventure, Destination, Mexico, Scuba Diving

Why I Went Cage Diving with Great White Sharks and Why You Should Too

Great white shark at Guadalupe Island

There is no denying that I was petrified to go cage diving with great white sharks. Admittedly, I had a complete panic attack during my first dive that included crying, hyperventilating and almost giving up completely. I was overcome with fear; I couldn’t function. Once I got in the water and watched the actions and reactions of over a dozen different great white sharks, everything changed. I was mesmerized by how they moved and the way they behaved. It is utterly fascinating and an eye-opening, life-altering experience.

Cage diving with great white sharks

I spent five days with Islander Charters to get the great white shark adventure of a lifetime. It included 12 hours (over three days) of surface-supplied air, cage diving at Guadalupe Island, Mexico. I needed to learn more about the behavior of great whites to try and overcome my fear of such ancient creatures. Once you have the experience, you will never look at sharks the same way again. You will still have a healthy respect for them, but the fear will change to curiosity, knowledge and understanding.
Great white shark eating bait

I could see for myself that they are not blood thirsty, man-eaters lurking below the surface waiting to attack anything and everything in the water. Great white sharks have an incredible sense of smell and can smell blood in the wide, open ocean from a staggering three miles away. They also have an incredible sense of hearing that allows them to sense even the smallest vibrations in the water. While these senses make them the ultimate predator, they also make them very aware of their surroundings. I watched as many of the sharks were picky about their food. Even when the water was filled with blood from a recent tuna catch, the sharks didn’t become frenzied. They didn’t always go after the bait and usually studied it before taking a bite.
Cage diving with great white sharksI could see that they weren’t aggressive toward each other or us. When two male great white sharks would appear at the same time, they would pass each other and size each other up. The larger shark generally rose up toward the bait while the other shark disappeared into the darkness. There seemed to be a hierarchy that eliminated aggression. That hierarchy seemed to apply to us as well. We weren’t food. We weren’t competition. We weren’t important. They were aware of our presence but not bothered by us. Many of the females had bite wounds along the gill areas, but we learned that it was a part of mating. Even when the dive master was out of the submersible cage and a massive, 16-18 foot female curiously swam by, she wasn’t aggressive toward him at all. She knew he was there, she swam around him and then continued on her way. He just wasn’t part of her diet.
Two great white sharks passing

Cage diving with Islander Charters in Mexico

They were confident but cautious. The sharks weren’t aggressive toward the cages or us at all. They never bit at the cage or even brushed against it. They did get close and at times I felt like they were studying me, but they never showed signs of aggression like hunching their backs, lowering their pectoral fins or flaring their gills.

Cage diving with Islander Charters in Mexico

Individual sharks not only look very different, they have different personalities too. It was easy to see the specific markings on each shark so I could tell when a new shark was around but I was shocked to see the changes in personality. Some sharks were quite bold and brave and didn’t seem intimidated by the boat, the cages or the dives. Others were more standoffish or a lot more cautious. Generally, the larger, more mature sharks that Islander sees trip after trip were calmer and more fluid in their movements. Ironically, the smaller great whites were the more unpredictable ones that demonstrated bursts of speed and aggression.

Why You Should Dive with Great White Sharks 

Great white shark selfie

I could explain the feelings I had and what I witnessed while cage diving with great white sharks for hours but I could never truly do it justice. Before having the experience, I was horrified of great white sharks. Looking at pictures gave me chills and I always said that I didn’t have to worry about getting eaten alive by a shark because if I feel in shark infested waters I’d have a heart-attack before they got to me. I used movies and tv shows as my basis for knowledge and I had a ridiculous version of what what out there. Now, that intense, debilitating fear is gone. Getting in the water with them and learning from the trained crew aboard the Islander has completely changed my perspective on these beautiful, majestic, graceful animals. I still don’t want to swim with them in open water, but experiencing their behavior for myself has disproved many of the myths that were ingrained in my brain since I was a child.   Nothing is as educational as first-hand experience. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn from a few days of cage diving with great white sharks.

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23 thoughts on “Why I Went Cage Diving with Great White Sharks and Why You Should Too

  1. Love your honesty about how scared you were but how you got it together and learnt a lot from cage diving with sharks. I think I would definitely give it a go. Blind faith that people who run these know what they are doing.

    1. Lesley says:

      It wasn’t blind faith. I did a lot of research and questioning before taking the trip. They are the best in the industry. I’ve been thinking abut this trip for years and looking into the options the entire time. I felt ready now because of Islander Charters. 🙂

  2. Love your honesty about how scared you were but how you got it together and learnt a lot from cage diving with sharks. I think I would definitely give it a go. Blind faith that people who run these know what they are doing.

    1. Lesley says:

      It wasn’t blind faith. I did a lot of research and questioning before taking the trip. They are the best in the industry. I’ve been thinking abut this trip for years and looking into the options the entire time. I felt ready now because of Islander Charters. 🙂

  3. I did this ! Best experience ever. My mom asked me why I didn’t take selfies. At that moment, I was just mesmerized by the site of the sharks that I just focused on watching them. The water was also too cold for me but I loved that I could do it.

  4. I did this ! Best experience ever. My mom asked me why I didn’t take selfies. At that moment, I was just mesmerized by the site of the sharks that I just focused on watching them. The water was also too cold for me but I loved that I could do it.

  5. Erica says:

    I’m soooo soooo jealous! I cannot wait to finally do this! You got some pretty awesome shots too.

  6. The Great White is a stunning animal for sure. Cage diving isn’t my thing, not because of the sharks on the outside but the claustrophobia of being in the cage.

  7. The Great White is a stunning animal for sure. Cage diving isn’t my thing, not because of the sharks on the outside but the claustrophobia of being in the cage.

  8. Carly says:

    Everyone seems to be doing this lately! Lol I’d be way too scared.

  9. Carly says:

    Everyone seems to be doing this lately! Lol I’d be way too scared.

  10. That is a little too adventurous for me but my husband and daughter have done it. She was 16 at the time, on a life aboard trip, and I was a nervous wreck the entire trip. You got GREAT photos!! Well done!

  11. Himanshu says:

    OMG. Its an extreme bucket list worthy. Loved the way you have shared your candid experience.

  12. Himanshu says:

    OMG. Its an extreme bucket list worthy. Loved the way you have shared your candid experience.

  13. Mar says:

    Good on you for trying – I can imagine how frightening it was! I dove with free sharks in bora bora in the open ocean and though there were plenty of people and it was being done every day these were smaller reef sharks except for two large lemon sharks. It took s lot of courage to get it!

  14. Mar says:

    Good on you for trying – I can imagine how frightening it was! I dove with free sharks in bora bora in the open ocean and though there were plenty of people and it was being done every day these were smaller reef sharks except for two large lemon sharks. It took s lot of courage to get it!

  15. Laura Bennet says:

    Cool! Way to go overcoming those fears. I’d feel the same I think. Thanks for sharing in such a great post. Your pics are great too.

  16. Laura Bennet says:

    Cool! Way to go overcoming those fears. I’d feel the same I think. Thanks for sharing in such a great post. Your pics are great too.

  17. These photos are incredible! Everyone should set aside some time and have a riveting experience like this. I’m glad you mention that Great White’s really do have individual personalities. They’re some of the most evolved creatures still living today, and despite their complexion, they each have unique traits about them just like we do!

    Best,
    Greig

  18. These photos are incredible! Everyone should set aside some time and have a riveting experience like this. I’m glad you mention that Great White’s really do have individual personalities. They’re some of the most evolved creatures still living today, and despite their complexion, they each have unique traits about them just like we do!

    Best,
    Greig

  19. Tami says:

    Hmm…I don’t know if you’ve convinced me to do it myself, but I have to admit I found your article very refreshing as you were honest about your own fears and experience. I think I would be content just watching videos!

  20. Tami says:

    Hmm…I don’t know if you’ve convinced me to do it myself, but I have to admit I found your article very refreshing as you were honest about your own fears and experience. I think I would be content just watching videos!

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