Close Encounter with a Great White Shark

Great White Shark, shark week, guadelupe island, shark cage accident

I am often told how adventurous, crazy or “brave” I am, or that I am a major risk taker.  Well, that’s flattering, but I have to tell you that it is really not the case.  I do take calculated risks, and participate in activities that may seem risky, but I make sure all precautions are taken.  More people are killed in car accidents than in “adventure sports” accidents.  I love nature, I love diving, but I am not reckless, far from it. My husband, Randy, and I took our young adult children, Wes and Ally, on our dream trip to Guadalupe Island to cage dive with Great White Sharks, and we could not wait to get on the boat and into the water! Precautions were taken.

(Besides, this kind of stuff only happens to me. Out of 16 divers?  Only me.)
Great White Shark, shark week, shark cage accidentBefore you begin to think I am the world’s most irresponsible mom, you should know that Great White Sharks do not “prey” on humans.  We are not on “the menu”.  Seriously! Of the 33 or so Great White bites a year, most of them are “sample” bites, they are curious, and most bites are not fatal.  Besides, sharks are necessary to OUR survival.  Why?  Sharks keep our most important ecosystem healthy. 1/3 of the world’s food comes from the ocean, the ocean produces more oxygen than all of the rainforests put together, and it removes half of the greenhouse gases, helping protect our climate and weather.  As the apex predators of the oceans, the role of sharks is to keep other marine life in healthy balance and to regulate the oceans. Remove sharks and that balance is seriously upset.  Sharks are important to us!  Also, more jobs are created by keeping these animals IN the ocean and out of stupid chicken soup bowls. I do my homework, and the odds were overwhelming that nothing would happen to us by doing the cage dive.

So, off my soapbox and back to my Great White Cage Diving Encounter.  On the last dive of the last day of our 6 day trip, I was in one of the cages with Randy and two others.  The water is pretty cold, so Randy got out and went to the 2nd deck to watch with Ally, our daughter, who was taking photos.  I was photographing the sharks from below, I saw that the bait was pretty close to the cage and I prepared to take an awesome closeup! Guadalupe Island, shark week, shark cage accident

The shark who went for the bait did not have room to turn and ended up slamming into the opening of the cage.  These cages have an 18 inch opening for photographers (I mean, we have to be able to get our strobes through the bars!) and it was just big enough for the Great White to come for a visit…all the way to his pectoral fins.  He got stuck, and it felt like a truck had slammed into the cage. I was right at the opening where he jammed himself in.

When the shark hit the cage, the young man who was in the middle pulled me back…which was a good thing since I was right in front of his snout (ie, teeth).  The poor shark was panicked and was thrashing violently…it felt like being in a big washing machine.  I kept trying to hold on to the bottom of the cage, but just could not keep my grip, so I kept floating up.  The shark actually did a 360 degree turn in the opening, which caused his gills to bleed.  My husband and daughter, watching from above, thought it was my blood, so you can imagine how upset they were, but I have to say, my daughter kept her finger on the camera and caught the entire event from above! (She’s a professional photographer.)

Shark Cage Accident, Shark Week, Great White

Knocked on the head

After what seemed like an eon (but was actually very, very fast) the shark managed to free himself and took off, scared to death!  While the shark was upside down I received a bump on the head from his snout, and he somehow ended up with my air hose in his mouth, so my air felt a bit wet and salty going into my lungs.  What an experience!  I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but it sure makes a good story!  My grandchildren will think I am totally cool (when and if I ever have them).  Our trip was fantastic, and we loved every minute of it.

You know, I guess I could tell a harrowing tale of a Great White Shark “attack”, but it just isn’t true, the poor thing did not want to come into the cage, and no shark at any time on the trip showed any aggression whatsoever.  Hey, getting in a cage with Great White Sharks swimming around has inherent risk, no matter how many precautions are taken.  No shark at Guadalupe has ever attacked a human being, and I know people who have been with them outside of the cages, free diving.  They are actually quite shy. Click to Tweet.

Would I go cage diving again?  Yes, I would! It was a breathtaking experience.  This was a one in a million type of accident, though it is not surprising that if it was going to happen, it would happen to me.  I wasn’t hurt, no harm done (except to the poor shark’s gills) and I take full responsibility for being in the cage.  I do plan to go again., absolutely.  Lightening doesn’t strike twice, right?

shark cage accident, shark week, guadelupe island

The photo I took!



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About the Author ()

I am an avid scuba diver, underwater photographer, amateur historian; interested in all people and cultures. For me, the unexpected is usually the norm! My motto? I am an Empty Nester who likes to Renew, Revamp, and Reinvent Life! Contact me at

Comments (41)

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  1. Wow! The shark cage encounter is on my list. It’s crazy how close the shark was able to get near you even though it wasn’t intentional. I’ll look forward to checking out more of your adventures!

  2. All I can say is, “AAAAAAAAAA!!” I would have completely freaked out either down there in the cage or in the boat thinking that I saw a person’s blood. You’re right. It does make a good story.

  3. Andrew Pitman says:

    Did you save the chewed up low pressure hose as a souvenir/conversation piece?

  4. Oh my goodness Tam, that’s an incredible story. It seems to me it will be a whole lot more fun in the telling than it was in the moment!
    I’m so glad you remained calm and collected….and that it hasn’t put you off adventure diving.
    Stay safe Tam,

  5. Kathy Shellstrom says:

    Holy Crap, Tam!!! Sharks have their place and I have mine – and it ain’t the same place!! Awesome pics, tho! Glad you both survived! An “Oh shit!” moment for both of you.

    • Tam Warner says:

      LOL, yes, a definite “oh shit!” moment. The most common last words, you know! Actually the only thought I had was that if I was going to die, I hoped the shark would take me deep so the kids wouldn’t have to see it. Not a great last image of mom, right?

  6. I’ve read of “fishy stories” but this Great White Shark encounter wins! I don’t dive but I’ve done a lot of snorkeling where there sharks but – happily for me – have never seen a Great White. I’m glad that ended so well and it gives you a good story for boring cocktail parties!

  7. Viv says:

    You are much braver than I am! Shark diving is not on my bucket list – but, glad to read about your adventure 🙂

  8. noel says:

    I’m surprised by how large the openings are enough for them to put their heads through it seems like..what a scary encounter, not sure if i would be bold enough to go for this. Please do share it with us for Travel Photo Mondays, the link is up and will be for the entire week.

  9. Michelle says:

    I have been told that I’m brave and adventurous too. This is one time that I will have to live vicariously through another blogger. I have to draw the line at sharks and deep water :). Glad all turned out well!

  10. I’m an adrenalin junkie and I haven’t tried the shark cage thingy yet. Wow! My son is a certified master scuba diver and I’d follow him down there. What amazing pictures of a dramatic encounter

  11. Amazing story! I would never be able to do that – mainly because I’m claustrophobic and couldn’t stand to be in a cage!
    Other than that, we are kindred sprits of the ocean!

  12. Debbie says:

    Wow! That would probably have been my last dive, if I knew how lol. I can only imagine the headlines, diver dies of heart attach. Thanks for sharing your story. Blessings, Debbie

  13. Oh dear. I’m not sure even just plain diving is on my “to do” list. I have to master snorkeling first. Diving in a shark cage. Nah.

  14. Mercy! That first photo is a real jolt!! Great post and photos!

  15. Nancie says:

    What a story to add to the memory bank! I’m trying to imagine what thrashing around in a washing machine would actually feel like. I think I’d pass!

  16. I love adventure, but there is absolutely NO way I’d want to do that! After watching the movie Jaws, I have no desire to see a GWS in the flesh. Put me in fins and a snorkel mask with some colourful small fish and I’m happy. Although, in Belize, we did snorkel with a nurse shark among us. But I was with a guide and felt safe. Cheers!

    • Tam Warner says:

      No worries, Nurse sharks are about as harmless as it gets (Don’t pull their tail or try to take their food, but other than that, pussycats). Remember, JAWS is ancient now, and all of its suppositions have been proven false. Even the author says he feels bad that his book has caused the slaughter of millions of sharks. I love colorful fishies too, and love to snorkel. Cheers!

  17. WOW! Quite the adventure. You are pretty brave to say you would shark dive again. Actually, I have heard that lightning can strike twice in the same place … ! Your daughter’s photo sequence is amazing!

  18. OMG Tam! Wow, those pictures are incredible! I’ve been in the water with black tip reef sharks and Lemon Sharks in Bora Bora, and whale sharks in La Paz. Great Whites are a whole different story!

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