My Close Encounter with a Great White Shark


I am often told how adventurous, crazy or “brave” I am, and that I take big risks. I don’t take crazy risks, but I do take calculated ones, and participate in activities that may seem overly 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 family 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.

On the last dive of our 6 day trip, I was in one of the cages with two other divers.  I was taking photos when I noticed that the bait happened to be quite close to the cage. I prepared to take an awesome close up!  The shark went for the bait and ended up slamming into the opening of the cage I was in.  These cages have an 18 inch opening for photographers (I mean, we have to be able to get our strobes through the bars, you know!) and it was just large enough for the 14 foot Great White to come in for an unintended visit… all the way to his pectoral fins.  He got stuck, and it felt like an 18 wheeler had slammed into the cage.

Tam 3

When the shark hit, the young man who was in the middle pulled me back… and believe me, I was grateful!  The 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 floated up toward the shark.  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 my daughter who was taking photos kept shooting and caught the entire event from above.  Such a professional!

After what seemed like an eon 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 was wet and salty.  What an experience!  I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but my grandchildren will think I am totally cool (when I have them).  Talk about being up close and personal with a Great White!

Tam 4

You know, I guess I could tell a harrowing tale of a Great White Shark ‘attack’, but it just would not be true. No shark showed any aggression whatsoever while we were there.  Hey, getting in a cage with Great White Sharks swimming around has inherent risk, but no shark at Guadalupe has attacked a human being, and I know people who have been with them outside of the cages, freediving.  Would I go cage diving again?  Yes, it was a breathtaking experience.  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.  Lightning doesn’t strike twice, right?

Have you been cage diving with Great White Sharks? tell us about your experiences in the Scubaverse Forum.

You can find Tam’s travels and life adventures s at her blog, ‘Travels with Tam…a Midlife Adventure’:

Tam Warner Minton

Tam Warner Minton

Tam Warner Minton is an avid scuba diver, amateur underwater photographer, and adventurer. She encourages "citizen science" diving, whether volunteering with a group or by one's self. For Tam, the unexpected is usually the norm!

5 Replies to “My Close Encounter with a Great White Shark”

  1. ccassara says:

    You live such an exciting life, Tam–really a great adventurer!

  2. Tam Warner Minton says:

    I’m trying, I’m trying!

  3. Lisa_GrandmasBriefs says:

    I seriously cannot even IMAGINE doing such a thing. (Perhaps because I can’t even swim….) I’m in awe of your adventures.

    1. Tam Warner Minton says:

      You don’t even have to know how swim, you just have to breathe!

  4. Lois Alter Mark says:

    Okay, that is awesome although you couldn’t pay me to do it! My son did this in Africa, and I told him he should have told me he was doing it AFTERWARDS instead of before!

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