Times Staff Writer

Face to face with great white sharks -- in a cage

Become shark bait for a day on thrill-seekers' cruises to the feeding grounds of great white sharks off the California coast.

The adventure trips are available in two packages: daylong cruises to the Farallon Islands off San Francisco or five-day journeys to Isla de Guadalupe, off Baja California, Mexico. Participants observe sharks from a cage that is immersed in the water where the fish have been spotted.

"These trips are not for the squeamish," said tour director Lawrence Groth. "But they let you get face to face with the world's greatest predator safely." Groth said the cruises have been about 90% successful in locating great whites.

The day trips to the Farallon Islands, 26 miles west of San Francisco, are mid-September to mid-November.

Groth said some of the largest white sharks in the world — up to 20 feet long and weighing more than 2.5 tons — are drawn to the area to feed on elephant seals and sea lions before their annual transpacific migration. The trips depart from Alameda.

The five-day trips run from August to November, depart from San Diego and sail about 200 miles to Isla de Guadalupe. Sharks in the region range from about 10 to 16 feet, Groth said. Participants have private cabins on a 95-foot yacht.

Cost: The single-day Farallon trip is $775 per person, including meals and transportation; the five-day Isla de Guadalupe trip is $2,250 per person, including meals and transportation. Transportation to departure sites is not included.

Contact: Great White Adventures, based in Alameda; (510) 814-8256, .



Sightseeing and colorful local autumn festivals Celebrate fall in Japan on a two-week tour that takes advantage of autumn festivals throughout the country.

The Oct. 14-to-28 tour visits Nikko's Tosho-gu Autumn Festival, Kyoto's Jidai Matsuri Festival of the Ages and Okayama's fall chrysanthemum and bonsai festival.

Other sightseeing stops on the tour include Tokyo, Nara, Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, Beppu, Kyushu and Nagasaki.

Cost: $5,250 per person, double occupancy (single supplement $1,260), including round-trip airfare from LAX to Japan, accommodations, transportation, most meals and sightseeing activities. Leading the trip will be Harry Lawrence, owner of Warren Imports Antiques in Laguna Beach.

Contact: Laguna Beach-based Far East Art and Adventure Travel; (949) 494-9778.



Rails and sails through the Rockies and west Ride the rails through the Canadian Rockies aboard a privately chartered train, then cruise through the Inside Passage to Alaska on 12-night rail-and-sail tours.

The trips, which depart Aug. 23, 25 and 28, include two-night stays at the Banff Springs Hotel and sightseeing in the Canadian Rockies, followed by two-night stays at Chateau Lake Louise. Tour members board a Royal Canadian Pacific train for a daylight passage through the Rock- ies to Vancouver.

The seven-night cruise segments of the tour are aboard Holland America's Maasdam and Veendam. The round-trip cruises, which sail from Vancouver, B.C., stop at Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, Alaska. The ships cruise Glacier Bay National Park and the Inside Passage.

Cost: From $2,995 per person, double occupancy (single charge is $6,195), including rail transportation (but not airfare), transfers, cruise, accommodations, most meals and sightseeing activities.

Contact: Uncommon Journeys, based in Walnut Creek, Calif.; (800) 323-5893, .



Villa stays and 'untours' in the hill town of Todi SIp espresso in a sidewalk cafe, browse through an outdoor market, then attend an opera at the concert hall during leisurely 10-day visits to Todi, a hilltop city on the cusp of Tuscany and Umbria.

The tours, Oct. 4 to 13 or 14 to 23, include villa accommodations and day trips to Assisi, Deruta, Spoleto and Viterbo. A wine tour and walking tour of Todi is also included.

"The concept is similar to renting a villa with friends," said organizer Cara Benedetti. "People share expenses and can do as little or as much as they want. I call it an untour."

Cost: $2,690 to $2,890 per person, including housing, rail transfers, transportation, breakfast, seven dinners and weekly maid service. Round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Italy is not included.

Contact: Cara Benedetti, (310) 473-8581.



Climb onto your bike and join the crowd in Baja PeDAL your bike along the Pacific Coast of Baja on a 50-mile fun ride with 10,000 or more of your closest friends.

The Sept. 27 bike ride, from Rosarito to Ensenada, will take place on a coastal road, Mexico 1, that will be closed to vehicle traffic for the ride. The ride, sponsored by Bicycling West Inc., has been held annually for 20 years. .

A three-day, two-night tour package will pick up participants and their bikes in San Diego on Sept. 26, take them to Ensenada for the night and get them to Rosarito in time for the race, then return them to San Diego on Sunday.

Cost: $235 per person, double occupancy, including transportation and accommodations. Transportation from Los Angeles to San Diego is not provided.

Contact: La Jolla-based Baja California Tours Inc.; (800) 336-5454, .

The Times is not responsible for changes in prices, dates or itineraries. These should be confirmed with travel agents, cruise lines or tour operators.

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