Guadalupe White Sharks With Nautilus

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living4experiences

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I am doing the GWS trip on the Nautilus Belle Amie in October 2021. My flight arrives in San Diego, then I'll be transported by the Hotel Coral shuttle across the border to Ensenada. The season has been underway for about a month now. Since there was no GWS season last year, I'm hoping the sharks are still there and in good numbers. For those of you who have already gone on this trip, I have a couple of questions.

How and where did you get your FMM Tourist Visa?
Did you have plenty of sharks in the water?
Were there any issues or problems with the land border crossing?
Do you feel you had enough time in the cages? Or were there just too many people and not enough time for everyone to get the full experience?
Any positive or negative comments would be helpful, too.

Thanks!
 

RCB1882

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I went in summer 2018 on the same ship. It was a top notch experience on all fronts and one that I’ll be repeating next summer on the Socorro/Guadalupe combo cruise.

I don’t recall any special process for the visas since you’re just entering Mexico, but I’d send that question directly to nautilus if you’re concerned since they’re doing it more than once a week at this point. Border crossing was similarly a non-event.

Predictions about quantity of sharks are impossible since it’s nature. I did see on their Facebook page that the first couple of cruises in the season were very low activity — so much so that they offered a fully comped cruise to one group and a big discount to another. I suspect those are simply outliers since their business wouldn’t survive if they had to do that on a regular basis.

As you likely know, the submersible cages are on a scheduled basis but access to the floating ones is first come first served. Extent of demand will be specific to the group you have, conditions, tolerance for cold water, etc.

One thing we did that I am exceptionally happy about was bring dry suits. This allowed us to spend as much time as we wanted with no chills or tedious suiting/unsuiting. I think I spent something like 20 hours in the cages across the three days we were in site. If you go this route note that you’ll be standing the entire time so wearing a slightly heavier bottom garment might be a good idea.

last, if you have any predisposition to sea sickness, make sure you bring something both for the crossings and also for the time spent in the surface cages, which will be bouncing around in the water more than you might realize.

have a great trip — it’s a wonderful experience and the NBA is probably the nicest liveaboard in North America.
 
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living4experiences

living4experiences

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Edit to my original post: I should have been a little more clear in my inquiry. Things have changed since the pandemic started and the land border crossing is permitted by U.S. Citizens only and requires an FMM tourist visa. Any non-U.S. citizens must fly into Tijuana. This is info from Nautilus. I'm actually seeking input from anyone who has taken the trip since the start of the 2021 season with any company. The park was closed last year, thereby leaving it open to poachers and illegal fishing. If that has happened, the ecosystem will be out of balance, and I've heard the concern in the GWS arena about the white sharks not even being in Guadalupe or, if they are, the numbers could be substantially lower. I have to pay in full at the end of this month for the October trip.

Thanks, @RCB1882, for your input. Lots of great tips and I appreciate your time to respond.:)
 

dirtfarmer

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You can check the Nautilus website for their reviews and captains reports.
Yes I've seen at the start of the season that there were some bad trips, which doesn't encourage you, but the ocean is a changeable thing so theres hope. I did a GWS trip on the Belle Amie a few years ago and I'm booked on another boat at the end of September and understand your concern. If you cancel now don't you loose your previous payments? I'm anxiously awaiting my passport from being renewed, i sent it in and then all the news about passports taking 3 months or more popped up, the good news is I can track it and its being printed and mailed and according to the statedept should arrive any day.

To address some of your other questions when i went before there were plenty of sharks in the water, that was early November so it was the big females, (this trip I sheduled earlier hoping for a mix of more aggressive males and females), the day usually starts with the action a bit slow, the late afternnon was the best time so don't miss a spot in the cage then. The cages are of course scheduled but if there is an open spot you can take it, not many open spots at first but later they tend to open up as some have had their fill.
I loved my first trip (besides of corse a small town nearby buring down while I was out at sea and my email account locking me out) and I'm going a second so that says something about the experience.
 
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living4experiences

living4experiences

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You can check the Nautilus website for their reviews and captains reports.
Yes I've seen at the start of the season that there were some bad trips, which doesn't encourage you, but the ocean is a changeable thing so theres hope. I did a GWS trip on the Belle Amie a few years ago and I'm booked on another boat at the end of September and understand your concern. If you cancel now don't you loose your previous payments? I'm anxiously awaiting my passport from being renewed, i sent it in and then all the news about passports taking 3 months or more popped up, the good news is I can track it and its being printed and mailed and according to the statedept should arrive any day.

To address some of your other questions when i went before there were plenty of sharks in the water, that was early November so it was the big females, (this trip I sheduled earlier hoping for a mix of more aggressive males and females), the day usually starts with the action a bit slow, the late afternnon was the best time so don't miss a spot in the cage then. The cages are of course scheduled but if there is an open spot you can take it, not many open spots at first but later they tend to open up as some have had their fill.
I loved my first trip (besides of corse a small town nearby buring down while I was out at sea and my email account locking me out) and I'm going a second so that says something about the experience.
For now, Nautilus is allowing the customer to move their booking date and deposit with no penalty. If I just cancelled, yes, I would lose my deposit. In general, company websites like to portray that everything about their service, trip, product, etc., is wonderful and positive. In the Nautilus blogs, you won't see the captains talking about seeing only 1 shark that day or even no sharks. They want to paint a rosy picture. That's why I like to get input from outside company-sponsored marketing and promotion. This is a one-time-only bucket list trip for me, so I'm shooting for the best chance of a great trip by gathering intel from my fellow divers. I've got two weeks to decide.
 

AZTinman

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It's important to keep in mind that it's very early in the white shark season at Guadalupe. Early in the season, it's typical for shark numbers to be lower and for the sharks to be smaller. As the season progresses, shark numbers increase and larger sharks begin to show up. Early season sharks tend to be smaller males. If you're looking for reports from those who've done the trip early in the 2021 season, the information you'll get probably won't be reflective of your trip dates. You won't see companies like Discovery and/or National Geographic scheduling production work at the island early in the season.

The operation I've used doesn't even start running trips until sometime in September. I've been there in mid-September and early-October; there were lots of sharks. And, lots of the sharks were big females. The sharks appearance at the island coincides with seasonal increases in pinniped (California sea lions, Guadalupe fur seals, and elephant seals) numbers. As long as decent numbers of pinnipeds are there, white sharks will be there.

I could be wrong, but I doubt a year-long closure has resulted in significant activities that would create imbalances in the ecosystem. The Mexican Navy is present on the island and small scale commercial fishing (lobster & abalone) is present as well. I don't know if the 2020 COVID closure of the area prevented the research group that sets up shop on the island during shark season from being on the island. If the research group was present on the island during the closure, rest assured that they were monitoring and reporting what activities were happening in the biosphere reserve. Remember, the sharks don't come to the island to eat fish or watch cage divers.

As someone else noted, your operator should be assisting you with your FMM. A FMM is required. I believe the operator I used had anyone without an FMM do the paperwork before Mexican officials came onboard to check documents before the boat departed from Ensenada. If you don't have an FMM, you won't be allowed to be on the boat when it leaves. Guadalupe operators have systems in place to ensure that you have an FMM. I get a six month FMM through an agent in San Diego. A six month FMM isn't free like the usual short-term FMM most tourists get, but it's not excessively expensive.

Quality cage time was never an issue with my operator. During my first trip, most of the other divers decided they had enough time in the cages after the first day and I spent two days doing basically unlimited cage time. On my last day, I took a lunch break for a half an hour, but spent the whole day in the water.

I've mentioned this in other Guadalupe threads, but I'll say it again. The schools of mackerel that congregate under the boats are a pain in the butt. Those damn fish frequently seem to be in just the right place to interfere with great image captures. Make sure you've got a lens with some reach to capture images of sharks that don't make close cage passes.

In response to a 2019 cage breach incident resulting in the death of a shark, an operator recently told me that the government required some changes in cage design. I don't know if this change will make camera use more difficult or not.

-Tinman
 

Dan

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I am doing the GWS trip on the Nautilus Belle Amie in October 2021. My flight arrives in San Diego, then I'll be transported by the Hotel Coral shuttle across the border to Ensenada. The season has been underway for about a month now. Since there was no GWS season last year, I'm hoping the sharks are still there and in good numbers. For those of you who have already gone on this trip, I have a couple of questions.

How and where did you get your FMM Tourist Visa?
Did you have plenty of sharks in the water?
Were there any issues or problems with the land border crossing?
Do you feel you had enough time in the cages? Or were there just too many people and not enough time for everyone to get the full experience?
Any positive or negative comments would be helpful, too.

Thanks!
I just came back from Guadalupe on NBA (Aug 11-16, 2021). I’ll post the trip report soon. No negative comment on the GWS trip, except for going back to US border and lots of positive comments. Basically it’s an incredible trip with a dozen or so GWS swimming around. Some of them bumped on the cages.

Here’s what I learnt:
1. Make sure you tell them where & when you’ll be picked up. I didn’t do it (first timer & the check-in form didn’t specifically tell me to do so). So when I showed up in the Starbucks (2556 Laning Rd,) near SAN (one of the 3 pickup places) around 11:30am for the noon pickup, no shuttle showed up to pick me up at noon. I had to make a phone call about it. They were surprised that I was there waiting and had to send the shuttle (van) back to pick me up at about 12:30pm. The ground transportation (roundtrip SD-Ensenada) costs $110. I had to pay it at Coral hotel front desk. However, NBA gave me $110 credit, where I used it for drinks, T-shirt, jacket & sweater.

2. At San Ysidro land port to Mexico, we had to get off the van with our bags, and walked into the Mexican Immigration office, filled out a visa form, got a stamp on our passports, walked through the Mexican side of the Mexican Immigration office, and get back on the van. There were no line to the Mexican Immigration booth so the process took me 5 minutes. The travel from SD to Ensenada took about 2 hours.

3. On the return back to SD, however, we got stuck on a long line wrap around the block at US Immigration San Ysidro land port. It took us 2 hours to get to the US Immigration booth. So the whole travel time from Ensenada to SD took us 4 hours.

4. Make sure you have a night stay in SD before going home. I picked Marriott Courtyard at SD airport (2592 Laning Rd), 5 minute walk from the Starbucks drop off point. The hotel stay included a free airport shuttle by Lyft.

5. NBA is a huge boat with 3 submersible cages & 2 surface cages. I spent about 3 x 45min / day in submersible cages (20-22’ depth) + at least 2-hour stay in surface cages (3-4’ depth). So about 4-6 hours / day in the water. Everyone had as much time as his / her wanted to spend in the cages, I think. I certainly was.

6. The water temperature were about 71-72F at submersible cages and 74-75F at surface cages. At this temperature with 7mm wetsuit, the limiting point is my bladder capacity.

7. There were so much actions underwater. I didn’t want to stop watching. After 2-hour stay in the surface cage, I had to go up because I had to empty my bladder. :D

Now that itch was scratched, I’m getting ready for seeing the Scalloped Hammerheads in Cocos next month and the Tiger Sharks in Tiger Beach in October. :wink:
 
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living4experiences

living4experiences

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Dan, thanks for that great info! Question for item #3. "On the return back to SD, however, we got stuck on a long line wrap around the block at US Immigration San Ysidro land port. It took us 2 hours to get to the US Immigration booth. So the whole travel time from Ensenada to SD took us 4 hours." Were you in the van in a line of cars or was it standing in person in line for 2 hours?

Nautilus's web site says they provide a DVD of the trip. Did they film for the guests and provide the DVD?

I was on the NBA for the first time to Socorro in May and really love the boat. Very spacious and I like it better than the Explorer.
 

Dan

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Dan, thanks for that great info! Question for item #3. "On the return back to SD, however, we got stuck on a long line wrap around the block at US Immigration San Ysidro land port. It took us 2 hours to get to the US Immigration booth. So the whole travel time from Ensenada to SD took us 4 hours." Were you in the van in a line of cars or was it standing in person in line for 2 hours?

Nautilus's web site says they provide a DVD of the trip. Did they film for the guests and provide the DVD?

I was on the NBA for the first time to Socorro in May and really love the boat. Very spacious and I like it better than the Explorer.
The contracted ABC ground transportation put 27 of us in Greyhound type bus from Ensenada to San Ysidro. Then dropped us off at the US land port Immigration building. From there we dragged our bags into the immigration booth. That’s the 2 hour waiting in line that I was referring to. Once we passed the immigration checkpoint, then we walked out to the US side of the US Immigration building. Another ABC bus from US side picked us up and dropped us off in 3 drop-off points.

DVD is old school stuff. They are no longer doing that. I don’t even have DVD drive in my laptop, nor at home. What they did was to let all the guests to upload their shots in Nautilus desktop at certain time. Then one of the DM would select what he likes to put them in the trip video. I snoozed (I.e., submitted my pictures & video clips too late), so mine was not included in the trip video. So, you would expect the video quality accordingly. By the end of the trip you can insert your thumb drive or SD card on that desktop to download the trip video.

Yes, NBA is very very nice boat. That trip was my third time on it this year. I think it is the best boat that I have been on over 20 liveaboards that I have been on, hands down!
 
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living4experiences

living4experiences

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The contracted ABC ground transportation put 27 of us in Greyhound type bus from Ensenada to San Ysidro. Then dropped us off at the US land port Immigration building. From there we dragged our bags into the immigration booth. That’s the 2 hour waiting in line that I was referring to. Once we passed the immigration checkpoint, then we walked out to the US side of the US Immigration building. Another ABC bus from US side picked us up and dropped us off in 3 drop-off points.

DVD is old school stuff. We no longer doing that. I don’t even have DVD drive in my laptop, nor at home. What they did was to let all the guests to upload their shots in Nautilus desktop at certain time. Then one of the DM would select what he likes to put them in the trip video. I snoozed (I.e., submitted my pictures & video clips too late), so mine was not included in the trip video. So, you would expect the video quality accordingly. By the end of the trip you can insert your thumb drive or SD card on that desktop to download the trip video.

Yes, NBA is very very nice boat. That trip was my third time on it this year. I think it is the best boat that I have been on over 20 liveaboards that I have been on, hands down!

By "snooze", you mean you spent more time in the cages instead of editing your footage!:D That will probably be me...as much time in the cages as possible. I know lots of other folks will have better cameras than I do, so my shots probably wouldn't make the cut anyway.

I do remember that method of getting the trip video at the end of the Socorro trip. I always carry a thumb drive and/or extra SD cards even if I don't have my laptop with me so I can download the pics and videos right on the boat.
 
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