My shark dive experience at Guadalupe Island was outstanding. I have never done any cage diving... read more
My shark dive experience at Guadalupe Island was outstanding. I have never done any cage diving... read more
Just book it! This may be long, but worth it. If you are looking for the ultimate adventure... read more
I took my first trip out in Guadalupe Island last September 2015 with another company. I loved the experience and the trip, but something did not feel right for me, so I decided for my return to try Islander Charters & SDX. Both companies had great reviews but for some reason I couldn’t explain Islander Charters & SDX felt more right for me this year. First of all I paid less money than I did last year, second of all on their price they include the rental of all diving gear, and also you don’t have any extra charges for your drinks or the Mexican visa. Everything is included in the price you pay. As the advantages lead on their end more and the fact that are a fishing boat I figured that they must know the real deal. And so I booked with them. To be honest when I found out that the vessel has only two bathrooms, considering the fact that I am a girl, it felt a bit weird, but I figured baby wipes would do the job for me! I decided to head out on this season first trip (8-13 September) and I was a bit skeptical. Usually things go wrong on the first trip, but I took the risk and flew out from the other end of the world to be a part of them.
The trip started and I met an entirely different crew...I took my first trip out in Guadalupe Island last September 2015 with another company. I loved the experience and the trip, but something did not feel right for me, so I decided for my return to try Islander Charters & SDX. Both companies had great reviews but for some reason I couldn’t explain Islander Charters & SDX felt more right for me this year. First of all I paid less money than I did last year, second of all on their price they include the rental of all diving gear, and also you don’t have any extra charges for your drinks or the Mexican visa. Everything is included in the price you pay. As the advantages lead on their end more and the fact that are a fishing boat I figured that they must know the real deal. And so I booked with them. To be honest when I found out that the vessel has only two bathrooms, considering the fact that I am a girl, it felt a bit weird, but I figured baby wipes would do the job for me! I decided to head out on this season first trip (8-13 September) and I was a bit skeptical. Usually things go wrong on the first trip, but I took the risk and flew out from the other end of the world to be a part of them.
The trip started and I met an entirely different crew from the one I met the year before. People that were polite and close to my age and most importantly they all had knowledge, people willing to work and stay up late to help you out if you needed anything. They never complained or bragged about anything and they all were more than willing to reply on any answer you asked and share their knowledge with you, make you feel comfortable about everything. Being a sea lover person I knew straight ahead that I needed to take some Dramamine pills with me just in case I needed them. You don’t need to hold a degree in nuclear physics to figure out that an open ocean might play games with you and suffice to say I cannot hold responsible the captain, the crew or even the company that we got a rough sea! Nature has her own personal ways! Yes we had a bit of a rough trip from Ensenada to Guadalupe but it was adequate to the open ocean, so just one pill did the work for me and I slept like a baby. The rooms are not that big, but you don’t head out on a diving trip to spend time in your room or sleep that much now do you? If you want privacy or the comfort and fluffiness of a king bed you go on a cruise around the islands or you book hotel weekend spa! When your adult decision is to go on a diving trip, you go out there to dive and socialize with the other people that joined the same trip with you and you know from the start that you share a big common love with them. Don’t forget that you are in the middle of nowhere so you need to socialize with people and the fact that Islander does not offer satellite internet is absolutely great! On my last year’s trip I decided to pay an extra of $150 for wifi service that never worked and I did spend many hours over my phone trying to send one message to my parents. On the other hand they give you the option to make a call from their satellite phone and pay just for that call. I couldn’t figure on my own how to call Greece and Johnny (our captain) tried to assist me but still we couldn’t get a line out. So instead of telling me that there is no solution for my problem and that I had to wait till we returned back, he offered to call his wife and asked her to call my parents on my behalf and advise them that I am ok so they wouldn’t worry. I loved him for that! Such a small but great human gesture that meant the world to me. The next day he had found out for me how we could make a call to Greece so we even managed to call them from out there. So as you can see even that problem was taken care for me.
Upon arriving in Guadalupe, Jimi our dive master and guide, fully explained the going in and out of the cages the importance of safety and he set out a scheduled rotation for our dives, giving each group/ individual a set of 5 hours out of 10 diving hours per day in the cage, but that was dissipated after each person took his first turn, and the “shark freaks” went in the cages for as long as they wanted! I spend more or less an average of 6 to 8 hours per day in the cage and one of the people I had the pleasure to meet there spend 9-9,5 hours in the cage every day! We absolutely loved it, and why wouldn’t we?!
So as I said before, this was the first trip for the season, and nobody could have known what we would see. Our group saw 25 – 30 different sharks and 10 of them were females! Last year I only saw 7 different ones and they were all males and I went on a later time than I did this year! So again, nature! You cannot predict what is going to happen. Last year I saw no surface breach, I saw no open wide mouths, not even a fin in the surface; I just saw sharks cruising by and I remember saying to my friends back home that Guadalupe does not have interesting sharks and that all the interesting ones must be in Cape Town and Australia! How little did I know! This year I saw all the real action and I conclude to the fact that this is because of our great crew. They all knew how to properly and safely handle sharks, they knew which shark would pose action for us, they knew their behavior, which one was shy and which one was a teaser, which one was a show off etc etc. The crew together with the sharks gave out for us an amazing “show”! They even managed to keep interested 7 sharks at the same time in the visible area for us! I am sorry but I’ve seen many documentaries and I do know many things about sharks and their behavior and I know for a fact that they don’t play along with one another, but never ever have I seen a video of 7 great white sharks cruising by the visible area distance at the same time! So a huge thanks to our crew Jimi, Ken, Matt, Dave and Nate for that!
My concern for the bathrooms got cleared out from the first day and I didn’t even have to use my baby wipes. Yes there are only two on board and the male ratio of guests/crew compared to the ratio of female guest was more, BUT both bathrooms were super clean at all times so I just brought my baby wipes intact back home!
To conclude, I am definitely returning back to Guadalupe with Islander Charters and SDX next year. I wish I could return this season but as you can understand flight times from Greece to San Diego are too long to handle on the same year!
Ps. Come to think of it, yes I did have a problem! I asked for the trip to last longer but I couldn’t get to convince our captain! I even thought of giving him a sleeping pill but guess what?! All the crew are certified to drive and handle the boat! I’ll be more prepared next year! haha
So let me start by saying that my trip was paired...it was Islander Charters in conjunction with SDX dive charters. (Shark Diving Xperts)
The SDX owner was on the trip, so I will try to only include information that I know fell to Islander instead of to the SDX company (for the record, I wouldn't use them again either.)
The crew: The young men and skipper of this boat were knowledgeable, friendly, worked hard, and deserve every ounce of praise outside of the chef. The chef was not exactly accommodating and did not have a good attitude when you asked for simple and small modifications of meals so that you could actually eat them. The meal schedule was quite restrictive, and if you didn't make it in time to eat, you didn't. BBQ sauce and pepper were over used on a lot of dishes so that I didn't even actually eat them. The crew meals looked quite different from ours. I was told before the trip by the SDX owner that the food was top notch, and yet when for example tri tip steak night came around (I'm a HUGE steak fan) I received four tiny little medium to well done end pieces. The crew (two of whom didn't even eat their meat, but the rest of the food around it) had two large, perfect cuts of medium rare beef. Several of us sat there in awe comparing our plates to theirs. This was obviously not their fault, but a shock considering how much I paid for and was promised things that were absolutely not delivered. There was no way to just grab a snack outside of a little granola and some fruit that they had out the entire time. And based on the cook's attitude, no one really asked for anything outside of meal and snack time. The menu was fixed. So if you didn't like what was being prepared, you simply had the option not to eat.
The berthing: I paid for a stateroom to myself so that I could have space to relax and decompress but after being assigned my quarters and several days on the trip I found that the forward berthing area not only had fewer and larger beds in each room, but also had more headroom. Apparently the SDX owner wasn't sleeping with the crew, but took one of the better rooms (that I had paid for) for himself. The beds are about 24" across, not even a twin mattress, and there are 2-3 in a room with a single sink. The "sleeping pad" is only a few inches thick, so even though I've never woken up with hip or back pain on a regular basis before, I sure did every morning on this trip. You don't have a bathroom on the lower level, so you have to leave your room and climb up the stairs to even get to a bathroom at night, while the boat is listing side to side. The boat is a little dated other than that, but was comfortable upstairs.
Upon seeing other ships in the area doing the exact same work, I can honestly say that I wouldn't choose to vacation or travel with Islander again. This was partially due to their accommodations and chef, and partly because of the owner of SDX charters. For what I paid ($3500) and what I was promised, I left disappointed. Be careful, I found out from other travelers on the trip that they not only paid different amounts, and via different methods (I had to wire the money to SDX and miss out on the miles and they paid different amounts and directly to Islander where they could use credit cards) but they too did not receive what they were promised. The sharks were fantastic, and this was definitely the time to go (September) but I can't justify the result for the price.
The trip from customs in Ensenada to Isla G was quite tipsy, and given the size of the boat I pretty much spend the entire day in bed. Several of my co-travelers got sick, which meant either vomiting in their sink (which is what most did) or over the edge of the boat. Well, not exactly "bed" but in the bunk that I climbed into and onto the thin, uncomfortable mattress pad I was provided.
Long story short...read more reviews...ask more questions...and if you're spending thousands to experience diving with great whites, be sure you know how you're getting there and who with. In hind sight I should've checked on many more aspects of the trip and chosen a vessel and company more suited to my needs.
I am so sorry to hear you did not enjoy your trip. We will definitely be speaking with the cook regarding any attitude he may have directed at you - that is not in his nature and I am surprised to hear it but we will make sure he understands that it is unacceptable. I'm also sorry the food and the room wasn't up to your expectations. I wish you would have said something to the captain if the cook was not accommodating. He would have made sure you were satisfied in the galley. Other than that, I am glad to hear the rest of the crew were, as you say, 'knowledgeable, friendly, worked hard, and deserve every ounce of praise' and that 'the sharks were fantastic, and this was definitely the time to go' since the shark experience is the main reason people go on the trip.
However I would like to address your comments about the price and the accommodations. All prices and pictures of the boat are clearly visible on the Islander Charters website. You booked with SDX, who is a reseller of our trips and like all travel agencies the world over, they mark up the price to account for their services. I do not think it is fair to include your dissatisfaction with SDX's payment methods, price, or lack of information about the accommodations on a review about Islander Charters.
The SDX owner is an outsourced (non-employee) divemaster for us. He is given the only room without a sink (the room schematic can also been found on our website) and it's the same size as the room you received, except it has an extra bed squeezed in it. It is the least desirable room. The aft staterooms where you resided are best for passengers who get seasick so we typically put our travelers familiar with a rougher ride in the forward staterooms as they take the brunt of the waves. We are not a cruise ship that motors along a coastline but a small boat that's designed to travel open ocean voyages. Guadalupe Island is 220 miles offshore and yes, the ride can be bouncy. All this is covered in the pre-departure document we send our passengers as well as on our website. I'm terribly sorry if none of this was explained to you but I can guarantee I personally speak with every passenger who book directly with us to make them aware of everything.
All this being said, I wish you would reconsider a large portion of your review. I completely understand if you were unhappy about the food & the cook but that is not the basis of the entire trip. With all due respect, being that our crew and the experience of the sharks we provided was excellent, I think we deserve a higher rating than 'poor'.
It is just like Discovery Channel's Shark Week - up close and personal. While the boat is slow and sometimes bumpy, you'll forget all about that once diving. Crew was a friendly and a great help. There was a set schedule to dive, but that dissipated by the first afternoon and you could go down as much as you wanted. I spent three hours on one dive. Visibility was great and the sharks accommodating. Highly recommended.
I went on a Guadalupe trip with Islander Charters in October of 2015 and I couldn't be more impressed. The crew, boat, and food were top notch! I never once had to ask for anything and was taken care of the entire time. The sharks were incredible as we saw sharks on every time in the cage! I will definitely be doing this again! I highly recommend Islander Charters to anyone thinking about going to Guadalupe, you won't be disappointed!
Fun group on our Oct 2015 trip to Guadalupe. For anyone looking for 5 star accomodations, this isn't it but anyone looking for a laid back trip with lots of knowledgeable people, this is worth it. It's also great that the staff will stop or slow down along the way to give you time to see the dolphins, whales & other sea life that may show up.
The crew is helpful, the food is plentiful & there throughout the day so you can keep hydrated & fed inbetween dives.
No shortage of big sharks to see. I did False Bay in South Africa a few months earlier & saw even bigger & more curious sharks in Guadalupe (in warmer water!). JImmy & the crew are there to answer questions, offer insight & make the trip more enjoyable. The sharks here are much more curious & approach the cages so you can get many pictures of a lifetime easily. There is no shortage of cage time & it may take a little while to get the sharks there on the first dive, but once they show up, you'll see all you ever hoped to see.
My only negative of the whole trip was breaking my hand on the trip out. The crew quickly did what they could to bind it up which I appreciated. Did make getting in the cage a bit more challenging but everyone stepped up to help. I was a bit disappointed nobody bothered to check on how I was after we returned. Oh well.
If you like laid back, good people with a lot of knowledge, good food & BIG sharks, this is for you.
This was a bucket list trip for me and it went way beyond what I expected. The close encounters with ENORMOUS sharks literally within 1 - 3 feet of the cage made this the trip of a lifetime. When they turn and face you, there's something primordial in you that says I shouldn't be here, but I knew I was safe in the cage and I was able to capture the moment on film to share with all my family and friends. I can't emphasize enough, this trip is amazing!! The captain Jason is super knowledgeable and approachable, and ensured that we saw dolphins, whales, and seals on the trip to/from Guadalupe Island. The dive master Jimi from Shark Diving Xperts answered all our questions and made sure that we had the BEST dive experience possible. The crew, especially Rick the Chef, made it a 5 star trip. This is a MUST DO trip!! I traveled as a single unaccompanied female and felt totally safe, please consider it!!