WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO TO GUADALUPE ISLAND?
Guadalupe is the best place in the world to Great White Shark cage dive because of it 100% success rate, awesome visibility typically 70-100ft + and warm water.
No other Great White Shark destination can say that.
Guadalupe shark diving season is July – December
While each month has its advantages, there are also drawbacks to each month also, it is very much a give and take. I always ask what are your goals?
- To see the most sharks
- To see the largest shark
- To take a photograph of a shark
- To see both male and female sharks at the same time
While seeing your first Great White is always a day to remember, there really are no bad trips and no wrong time to go. It is always good as Guadalupe has a 100% success rate in which every trip ever, we have seen sharks. From the first trip in 2001 to present day 2020.
I personally have been to Guadalupe many times in each month since in 2002.
In the early days, our season was predicted not by the sharks, but by the vessel we used. The boats were either in dry dock being serviced or too busy fishing or diving.
Now days some vessels have found it easier to sell July Guadalupe shark trips than other destinations, so we see more trips now offered in July. December most vessels have departed for calmer waters or have stopped operating for the season. Researchers / film crews go during this time so that they we be out of sight and out of mind of the general public and vessels trying to get one last trip in will reduce costs to last minute film crews.
Fall hurricane season typically starts in September, while seldom does this effect Guadalupe it has been known to delay a few trips over the last decade. Very few tropical storms make it this far North and even fewer storms from Alaska make it this far south, leaving Guadalupe calm around the island where we dive. The crossings from Ensenada to Guadalupe Island are 160 miles of open ocean, this can be very smooth to very rough and does not matter if it is July or December or anytime in between. I always recommend some kind of sea sickness medication for each person. Once at Guadalupe, it is normally calm as the island and the area we cage dive provides a nice calm bay. Evenings can get windy so always bring a jacket on this trip.
Another factor is daylight, we usually cage dive starting at 7am and go till sunset. At the beginning of August this can be till 8:00pm. The average August day length is 13:00 hours long, while the average November day length is 10:15 hours long. In addition we cage dive very close to the island, we do get an afternoon shadow on the water when the sun goes behind the island, so less light in the water for photos
Want to go when the water is the warmest? This would be the last consideration. If you are used to diving in the Caribbean it is going to be much colder if you dive in California it is going to be much warmer. I recommend a 7mm wetsuit with a hood, wetsuit boots and gloves. These items can easily be rented in San Diego prior to the trip. Some have brought drysuits, but this is not normal diving as you are standing while cage diving and all the air then goes to your shoulders. Be prepared to wear a 40-50lbs weight harness whether in a wetsuit or drysuit, it is more comfortable than it sounds but you will need to enter and exit the cages with this weight on, with some help from the crew.
So, what is each month really like?
Typically, the sharks start to arrive in July, these are smaller juveniles almost exclusively male. The advantages of going in July are:
Fewer shark cage diving vessels, you are not sharing the sharks with other boats. In July the water is the warmest typically above 72° at the surface.
The disadvantages are, it may be slow with only a few sharks if other sharks are late arriving/ still migrating to the island
Aug is when we see the most sharks, my best trip is 29 different individual sharks. I have seen as many as 9 at one time around the cages. Aug water temps are still warm typically 69-72°F and air temps are 75°F+ warm with nights cool ( bring a light jacket)
August has the longest days; this allows for more cage diving time as we will typically dive till sunset. More daylight equals more dive time. August sunsets at 8:00pm
Fall hurricane season has not started, while seldom does this effect Guadalupe it has been known to delay a few trips over the last decade. The sharks are 7ft – 15ft as we do see some large males too. Shark population is 95% male/ 5% female. The sharks are very active, and we see a lot of male/ male shark interaction like chasing and a few being seen with bites on them. Typically, you go to Guadalupe just to see Great White Sharks, but in Aug we have seen from the cage Mako sharks, Blue sharks, Scalloped Hammerheads, Blue Whales and even a small Whale Shark
September is when more female sharks start to arrive.Typically, most sharks are 8ft – 16ft but the sharks average size increases as it is not just the length that impresses, but it is the girth.
Sept. water temps are still warm typically 68-70°F and air temps are 70°F+ warm with nights cool ( bring a jacket). Shark population is 65% male/ 35% female. Typically, we see 12-25 sharks per trip in Sept.
October most of the sharks have arrived.Most sharks are 10ft – 16ft but again the sharks average size increases as it is not the length that impresses, but it is the girth.
October. water temps are have cooled to 67-69°F and air temps are 65-70°F+ warm with nights cool (bring a warmer jacket). Shark population is 55% male/ 45% female.
Typically, we see 10-18 sharks. The days have now become shorter, Oct 30th the Sun sets at 6:00pm
November is when larger female sharks are seen. Most sharks average between 10ft – 16ft but the sharks average size increases as it is not the length that impresses, but it is the girth. November water temps are 66-69°F and air temps are 60-70°F+ warm with nights cool (bring a warm jacket and sweater). Shark population is 50% male/ 50% female. Typically, we see 8-20 sharks.
December is when more of the larger female sharks are seen, this is both good and bad in my opinion. With a large female is around she may dominate the area, not allowing other sharks to come into the area. In addition, she may just hang out 40ft below for hours!!! Not the interaction you want. Most sharks are 11ft – 16ft but the sharks average size increases as it is not the length that impresses, but it is the girth. Large females are feeding more on seals than on tuna getting these sharks to stay around the cages even more difficult.