The vessel is staffed with a crew of first-rate dive instructors and naturalists to prep us for the dive and educate everyone on the types of marine life we may encounter. Our little group for the day includes a family from Australia that’s celebrating the father’s and a son’s birthday, a couple from Plymouth, England, and a pair of newlyweds from San Diego.

“We talked about doing this on our first date,” Aline Thoeny explains. “Both of us have always wanted to experience this.”

As the boat reaches its anchor point, those of us planning to dive begin to prepare for our descent into the chilly 50-degree water. The tour also offers a topside experience for those who would rather view safely from the boat, and as I squeeze into my wet suit and watch the instructors deploy the cage into the water, I find myself grappling with a brief moment of topside envy as all sorts of questions flood my mind. What if I can’t breathe? What if my mask fills with water and causes me to stop breathing? What if I stop breathing and don’t realize it? (Yes, most of the questions involve breathing -- or a lack thereof.) Luckily, these doubts are instantly erased from my mind after the first couple comes up exhilarated from their 20 minutes in the cage. No shark sightings, but the water isn’t as cold as anticipated, and with the sun breaking through, visibility is getting better.

ONE OF THE BEST THINGS
about this adventure is that it can be enjoyed by expert and novice divers alike. Directly off the boat, an 8-foot-deep cage is rigged to a platform, where the instructors stand to help divers in and out of the cage -- which is incredibly helpful, considering you’re wearing a 35-pound weight belt that drags you to the bottom of the cage once you’re in the water. The regulators are attached to air tanks on the boat, so while being scuba certified is encouraged, it isn’t necessary. As I prepare to enter the cage, I question whether or not I have truly prepared myself to see a great white shark in the wild. Mask secure to my face, wet suit tight as can be, I put the regulator in and take a few deep breaths.