Guadalupe Island

Guadalupe Island Reminiscing

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

Skip Stubbs has been the main force behind many (most?) of the noteworthy diving trips to Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe) during the last two decades. The trips Skip has led began in ’91 and ’92 on the Bottom Scratcher, and continued annually since ’94 on the Horizon, and preceded the current generation of shark trips by ten years. Skip’s Guadalupe trips were for appreciation and exploration of the underwater and coastal wonders of the island and for seeking large tuna and yellowtail that haunt Guadalupe. The main activities were open water SCUBA diving, freediving, and spearfishing. We didn’t do any cage diving in spite of the many sharks that are there; it was all about the open water. Most summers I was fortunate to accompany Skip for the annual 10-day trip, along with a handful of other Guadalupe regulars.

East face and shoreline of southernmost morro, daybreak, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

East face and shoreline of southernmost morro, daybreak.
Image ID: 06152
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

A sense of solitude and remoteness permeated those trips, particularly the early ones when we were discovering new dive spots each day and were somewhat anxious about the legendary sharks known to patrol the island. We were all acutely aware that we were far from home, in a wild place, and essentially alone except for the folks who shared the boat with us. On most of our Guadalupe trips, we would be lucky to see another boat the entire time we were there, and if we did it was usually there briefly seeking a protected night anchorage. Otherwise we, and the small group of Mexican fisherman living on the island, were the only people at the island. Each evening as we drank Jerry’s wine and beer, ate fresh yellowfin off the grill and traded stories of what we had seen in the water that day, we all knew how really special our time at the island was. Many commented that those trips were the most enjoyable of their lives.

Guadalupe Island is now a Mexican Biosphere Reserve, and access to the island is increasing regulated and limited. Dozens of shark diving groups arrive by boat at the island throughout the fall months, sometimes four of them simultaneously, in general anchoring at a single location near the north end of the island. While the magic sense of solitude, privacy and privilege that we experienced is likely absent from these trips, at the same time many more people are now able see this amazing place with their own eyes than before.

Joe Tobin, a skilled spearfisherman and friend, and member of our earliest trips to the island, recently summed up his thoughts (and to a certain degree mine as well) and expressed his appreciation to Skip on our many trips to the island:

I am starting to feel like I have seen and done every thing I wanted to do at Guadalupe. It has been a huge part of my spearfishing life since 1994. Who would have thought of all the adventures we ended up having there over the years. Though people have been going there for a long long time, no one ever really explored the underwater sights like our group has over the past decade. We saw Guadalupe go from being a little known rock in the middle of nowhere, known mostly to the long range fishing fleet and feared with utter dread by the spearfishing community, to a world famous great white shark viewing location, now known around the world…

The memories of Guadalupe Island, the moments of drama there and the people I shared these adventures with will stay with me for the rest of my life. Our trips on the Horizon have always been a highlight of my summer for the better part of my adult life. I knew so little about bluewater hunting back in 1994 but was full of ambition having heard the stories and exploits of freedivers at such places as the Revillagigedos and other offshore rocks. I had never shot a tuna or yellowtail until I got to Guadalupe. This was the place I learned to stalk pelagic fish, dive in bluewater, work together with other divers for safety as well as to ensure we each succeeded in landing our catch and enjoy the finer points of home brewed lager on tap!

You have done a tremendous job of organizing the annual run to Guadalupe. I always looked forward to seeing the old faces as well as seeing the newcomers. Your efforts to only bring in the right people for this special trip is probably this single most under appreciated aspect of all the trips we’ve shared. I will always be thankful to you for taking the effort keep the trip going with the right mix of divers.

Well said, Joe. See you on the water.

Guadalupe Cobblestones

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

I’ve spent hundreds of hours in the shallows at Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe). The diving is so special there that I will spend every minute I can in the water, breathing a little as possible and waiting until my tank is drained before surfacing to call for a skiff ride back to the big boat. The long eastern shore of Guadalupe Island is typically protected and calm, and this is where much of our diving is done. Drifting around with the mild surge, I’ll find Guadalupe fur seals, usually solitary males but sometimes juveniles in small groups, sea turtles, the very occasional elephant seal, lots of lobster and, since Guadalupe Island straddles both temperate and tropical ranges for many types of fish, a great mix of species. Sometimes too I’ll just zone out in the protected pocket cove, turning over the cobblestones that line the bottom looking for cowries and other weird stuff.

Boulders cover the ocean floor, worn round and smooth by centuries of wave action, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Boulders cover the ocean floor, worn round and smooth by centuries of wave action.
Image ID: 18511
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Photo of Cortez Chub

Guadalupe Island, Marine Life

Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe) straddles both tropical and temperate fish ranges and offers a unique mix of species to see. It is not uncommon to see Panamic fanged blennies and red-tailed triggerfish alongside blacksmith and garibaldi. Shown here is a small school of Cortez chub (Kyphosus elegans) that was stationed at one end of Church Rock. Dominant male Cortez chub have a striking golden phase that I have only seen a few times at Guadalupe.

Cortez chubb, Kyphosus elegans, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Cortez chubb.
Image ID: 01020
Species: Cortez chubb, Kyphosus elegans
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Vicki’s Secret — Amazing Underwater Cave New To Science

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

Of the few people who actually dive at Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe) (sorry, cage dives don’t count!) only a fraction will dive on the rugged, exposed, weather side of the island. There, not far from the “west anchorage”, lies a secret complex of arches and large underwater caves. The arches we have named Los Arcos del Diablo although the Mexicans at the island probably have another name for them. Rising 40′ or more out of the water, they are formed on the leading edge of a long extinct lava flow that juts out from the island and abruptly drops into the ocean. The underwater terrain below the arches is even more dramatic with at least one large cavern having a 40′ vertical opening and extending several times that laterally into the heart of the lava flow. We named our find El Secreto Del Vicki in honor of a member of our discovery team and the only known distaff diver intrepid enough to brave the white sharks and crazy water of Guadalupe to explore this particular underwater marvel. Here is a shot of Vicki hovering in the entrance to her namesake cave:

El Secreto del Vicki cavern, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

El Secreto del Vicki cavern.
Image ID: 06191
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico


Guadalupe Island, Mexico

Eco Fund Launched To Protect the Great White Shark – GuadalupeFund.Org

(California) June 9, 2007 Isla Guadalupe, Mexico has become the internationally recognized destination for divers seeking unprecedented encounters with Great White sharks (Carcharodon carcharias). The 90 square mile island located in the Pacific is also home to many rare endemic species of animals and plants. In 2005 Mexico declared the island a Bio-Sphere Reserve under the watchful eye of CONANP the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas. As is the case with many watch dog and eco enforcement organizations worldwide, long term funding for actual on site protections of this resource and the Great Whites that seasonally inhabit these pristine waters do not exist at this time.

Globally, shark aggregation sites like Isla Guadalupe have been decimated in the past few years by poaching, over fishing, and an uncontrolled trade in shark fins that takes an estimated 70 million sharks a year.

Recently a concerned group of shark diving operators, vessel owners and researchers stepped in to create and launch the Guadalupe Fund 501(c)3. Its stated goal is to move much needed cash and donated equipment into the Bio-Sphere for park staff and continued funding for long term white shark science/monitoring.

“The timing for the Guadalupe Fund couldn’t be better”, said John Conniff, owner operators of the MV Islander, which runs white shark diving expeditions to the island. “I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the past 8 years working at Isla Guadalupe. Over that time I’ve marveled at both the diversity and uniqueness this island has to offer. This fund, in conjunction with a robust effort from the Mexican government will insure that future usage is managed in a way that maintains the island’s integrity and protects its many resources; this island is truly one of a kind. Our goal is to make sure it stays that way for generations to come”.

Nicole Nasby Lucas from the Marine Conservation Science Institute has been involved in ongoing white shark tagging and photo identification research at this site for the past six years. “Our tagging and photo-ID research have shown that the Guadalupe Island white sharks aggregate here in large numbers during the fall and winter, leave the island and travel as far as Hawaii and then come back to the same spot. This makes Guadalupe Island a critical habitat for the white shark in this region and demonstrates the importance of protecting the island and its sharks”.

The diverse and often contrary nature of this coalition of dive boat operators, researchers and eco-tour operators is a testament to the immediate need for a long term funding source for this unique Bio-Sphere Reserve and all its inhabitants. The Guadalupe Fund is being managed by with assistance from shark diving operator SharkDiver.Com and hopes to generate a minimum of $100,000 a year from concerned divers and shark lover’s world wide. All donations to this fund are tax deductible and gifts ranging from free trips to the island and the opportunity to name a Great White shark after donors exist for interested parties.

For more information visit:

Marine Conservation Science Institute

Guadalupe Island White Shark ID Project

Great White Shark, Guadalupe Island, Mexico, Sharks, Wildlife

I had an interesting conversation with Nicole Nasby Lucas of the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research yesterday. Ms. Lucas and PIER co-founder Michael Domeier PhD have been conducting a capture/recapture study on great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) at Guadalupe Island, Mexico, building a database of identification photos and video of white sharks that inhabit the island. To date PIER has 73 individual sharks in their database, and the count increases each season. PIER also places a small number of satellite tags on Guadalupe white sharks to learn where they are going once they leave the island. Interestingly, some of the sharks tagged at Guadalupe Island swim all the way to the Hawaiian islands, including two of the sharks tagged during the most recent season. By observing the white sharks in this way, the PIER researchers are able to collect evidence about how the sharks utilize the island habitat and their migrations to and from the island.

I have had the good fortune of naming five of the PIER sharks by virtue of being the first photographer to capture each of them on film. The three females are named after my two daughters and my mother (you don’t think I am stupid enough to name one after my wife do you?). The two males are named after the notorious bachelors on Sex in the City: Big and The Russian.

In this case Ms. Lucas was able to link the right side and left side photographs by finding a common element between them: a notched tip on the left side ventral fin. Here she is, Guadalupe Island great white shark #57, “Leslie”:

For more information about PIER’s white shark research at Guadalupe Island, how the identification process works and what scientific publications have resulted from the study, visit the PIER website and see the online catalog.

Keywords: great white shark photos, Carcharodon carcharias photos, Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research

Roca del Skip, Isla Guadalupe

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

Roca del Skip (Skip’s Rock) is a dramatic spire at the southern end of Isla Guadalupe (Guadalupe Island) named in honor of the man who has videotaped and explored the submarine haunts of Guadalupe Island more than anyone else.

Church Rock (left) and Roca del Skip (Skips Rock, right), near Isla Adentro, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Church Rock (left) and Roca del Skip (Skips Rock, right), near Isla Adentro.
Image ID: 09762
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Harrison “Skip” Stubbs, Ph. D. has logged hundreds of hours diving at Guadalupe Island annually since 1992 during expeditions that he has organized to explore the island and appreciate its marine inhabitants and spectacular geologic features. Guadalupe Island is surrounded with dozens of underwater spires, offshore rocks, islets and islands. The southern end of Guadalupe Island hosts four noteworthy and diveable rocks, all of which we have dived repeatedly. Most significant are Isla Adentro and Isla Afuera, both of which are large, dramatic islands with spectacular vertical underwater terrain for divers to explore. Next to Adentro is the much smaller Church Rock which, like its larger brethren, is sheer on all sides and exposed to open ocean swells and currents, making for some exciting submarine conditions. And finally there is Roca del Skip (Skip’s Rock), a granite spire that rises out of 150′ of water to break the surface. It is too difficult to anchor at Roca del Skip, indeed it is tricky enough to anchor near Church Rock. So we take a skiff from the big boat over to Roca del Skip and splash in, then quick! race down into the lee of the rock before the current grabs hold. Roca del Skip is vertical on three sides, clean granite that glows in the sunlight and is spotted with Scythe butterflyfish and Guadalupe cardinalfish. The walls drop to 150′ and a ridge of granite extends out toward open sea from the base, as far as one can see which is usually 150′ or more in the clear waters there. On its other side Roca del Skip has a broad shoulder covered with low-lying algae that sways in passing swells and is home to schools of Azurina, blacksmith and chubb. Roca del Skip is close enough to Church Rock that one can make the swim underwater. We shoot the gap from Roca del Skip to Church at least once each trip if we can. Shoot the gap (n.): “swim at depth from one rock to the other without any bottom structure in sight”. I like to do it without a compass. (Compass navigation is for people who log their dives and check their air pressure; I don’t know any people like that.) This holistic approach is referred to in diving magazines as “navigation using natural features” except in this case there are no natural features to reference. Its fun and stupid this way, relying on the angle of the sun and the seat of one’s pants to guess which direction to head. It should be noted that, given certain known biohazards at Guadalupe, shooting the gap yields a sense of comfort akin to what a bait must feel like when it has become separated from its school and hears tuna approaching. As an added bonus, if a wrong heading from Roca del Skip causes one to miss Church Rock entirely and the currents grab hold, the next stop is Tahiti. There have been a few times after leaving Skip’s Rock behind that we’ve been swimming the gap for what seemed like too long, 70′ deep and without “natural features” upon which to base our “navigation”, before the hazy glow of Church Rock begins to show in the distance ahead. We burn what remains of our air along the walls and shoulders of Church Rock before the skiff arrives to pick us up.

Diver silhouette, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Diver silhouette.
Image ID: 00251
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Lots more Guadalupe Island photos.

Keywords: Isla Guadalupe (Guadalupe Island)

Roca del Skip appears in the Guadalupe Island entry on Wikipedia so it must be official, right.?

Freediving and Spearfishing Cover

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

My photograph of expert freediver, spearfisherman, long range boat captain and all-around-good-guy Chris Thompson was taken at Guadalupe Island in July 2001 shortly after he speared his ginormous yellowfin tuna (not his first mind you). It then appeared on the Summer 2002 cover of the International Freediving and Spearfishing News:

Chris Thompson and yellowfin tuna speared at Guadalupe Island, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Chris Thompson and yellowfin tuna speared at Guadalupe Island.
Image ID: 03730
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Isla Guadalupe :: Restauracion Y Conservacion

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

Finally, an authoritative book has been published about Guadalupe Island, our favorite eastern Pacific island and one of Mexico’s finest ecological wonders. Published in December 2005 by Instituto Nacional de Ecologia (INE-SEMARNAT) and compiled by editors Karina Santos del Prado and Eduardo Peters, Isla Guadalupe, Restauracion Y Conservacion describes the geology, flora and fauna of this unique island. Particular attention is paid to the spectacular geology with satellite photos and topographic maps, descriptions of the bird species with photographs from atop Afuera and Adentro islands, and coverage of the Guadalupe fur seals, elephant seals and great white sharks. I am proud to have provided many of the images appearing in the book including the cover. An English-language edition is planned for later this year.

Isla Guadalupe, Restauracion Y Conservacion

Wildlife of Guadalupe Island
Underwater Guadalupe Island
Above water coastline and geology of Guadalupe Island
Guadalupe Island great white sharks and Carcharodon carcharias
Guadalupe fur seals and Arctocephalus townsendi
Our complete collection of still photographs at Guadalupe Island

Butterfly Cove at Sunrise, Guadalupe Island

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

The evening anchorage at the south end of Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe) is Melpomene Bay. Early in the morning we raise anchor and move to take a look at the water conditions at nearby Isla Adentro, Isla Afuera and Church Rock. On this morning, none of those spots offered us what we were looking for, so we motored around the southeastern corner of the island to dive at Abalone Point. As we passed by the morro and cliffs above Butterfly Cove, the sun cleared the horizon and hit the island with a rich golden light.

East face and shoreline of southernmost morro, daybreak, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

East face and shoreline of southernmost morro, daybreak.
Image ID: 06152
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Keywords: Isla Guadalupe, Guadalupe Island, Mexico, photo, photograph, sunrise, Butterfly Cove, Westies.