Trip Report by Natalie Little, Expedition Guest
The ocean, pulsating with rays of light, looked as though it had swallowed the sun. Its radiant blue was an overwhelming abyss, a desert, inhabited only by comb jellyfish, some aggressive tuna, and the large hunter for which we had come, the great white shark. Guadalupe Island, located off the Pacific Coast of Mexico, with its translucent water that often boasts visibility of 100 feet or more, and weather, marked by crisp warm air, is the best place in the world for viewing white sharks.
Our operation was comprised of a surface cage, which was open for shark viewing all day, and a submerged cage, the platform from which we conducted Amos’ unique out of the cage venture. Whereas our only job was to be in the water with the animals, an industrious crew, whose round the clock service was a true highlight, flitted about the boat, ensuring that we were fed, the sharks were baited, and that our cabins were clean. When we were out of water, the photographers on board seemed to tinker endlessly with their equipment but I opted to sunbathe away the post dive chills. Lying on the bow of the boat, which rocked gently above the depths, I could hear elephant seals yawping in the distance, their hymn hushing my city mind.
Overall the experience was transcendent, but not for all the reasons I anticipated. Yes, diving with sharks in their natural habitat, proved to be a singular adventure complete with the silent thrill of coming face to face with an apex predator, but it was the human element of our journey that left an equally strong impression. The folks on our trip, myself included, were like many who venture into the wilderness, a group who took solace in their own individualism while searching for that higher natural power. We were from New York, Sweden, Australia, Texas, Canada, Holland, France, and California. As a rookie, I was thrilled to be surrounded by extensive divers, many of whom had either been to Guadalupe before or had frequented spots such as tiger beach. When pumping the others for advice I was stuck by their confidence, which helped allay my fears, but would ultimately have to be sidelined. To swim with the whites we had to play by their rules and we had to defer to Amos, our ambassador to sea.
Amos (he seems to only need a one name introduction) is the world-renowned photographer who is at the helm of Big Animals Expeditions. But he is more than just a cataloguer, he serves as a sacred bridge between amateur wildlife enthusiasts and the unexplored domains of the natural world. Encounters that would ordinarily be reserved for research teams are the stuff of a normal vacation with Amos. He teaches us not only about the riches of our planet but also how to unpack the fear that our sensationalist culture has attached to magnificent creatures of the world. He teaches us how to look at the mouth of a large shark, jagged in white, and see nothing but a smile. Having him curate our interactions with the sharks, by reading their behavior and adjusting ours accordingly, reintroduced me to the sort of blind trust that is foreign to modern life. How amazing it was to look into the eyes of a great white, but how much more profound it was to have Amos by my side all the while. I am indebted to him for fulfilling my big animal dreams and for reminding me that often, the path to the wild is paved with our own humanity.