Even though I’ve taken the suggested Dramamine, suddenly the six a.m. latte in my hand isn’t looking like the best idea. As we depart, a perfect view of Alcatraz looms in the distance. Coupled with the early-morning fog and mist, it provides a certain prelude to where we are heading. The Devil’s Teeth, as it’s known, is a 211-acre cluster of rocky, jagged islands that not only are a sanctuary for some of the most endangered marine wildlife but, from September to November, also serve as a refuge for the biggest white sharks in the world. It takes a true adventure seeker to embark on this trip, long known as the Mount Everest of shark dives. As I observe the second person get sick, I quickly begin to understand why. Even on a much newer and faster boat, the ride out to the Farallones is an hour and a half of choppy swells, gusty winds, and roller-coaster-like waves. A little over an hour into the trip, I find myself negotiating with my stomach. Be good. Please be good, I think. Just a little longer.
Approaching the Farallon Islands makes the boat ride worth it. From a distance, they look like another planet, a spooky one. Amongst low-hanging fog, the picturesque jagged rocks have a ghostly presence. The only signs of immediate life are the groups of seals that frolic in the surf. The northern elephant seal is the reason the sharks congregate in this area. On average, an adult elephant seal can weigh 2,000 pounds or more, which means it provides quite a feast for a Farallon white shark, which typically ranges anywhere from 16 to 20 feet in length -- though it can grow larger than that. The biggest shark in the world was spotted here, a female 23-footer.
“We don’t chum or bait,” says Greg Barron, West Coast director of operations for Incredible Adventures. “When we see an attack, it’s simply 500 million years of evolution doing its thing. My job is to help change perception. White sharks are disappearing at an alarming rate. Seeing them up close is awe-inspiring. They embody power and grace.”