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The Sharks Of The Bahamas – Part 2


The Sharks Of The Bahamas

Byron Conroy travelled to the Bahamas with one aim in mind – to get some high-quality shark photographs. In this conclusion of a two-part feature, we continue to follow his 14-day adventure on the Bahamas Master liveaboard.

Photographs by Byron Conroy

The next day we arrived at the Blue Hole in the Andros area. We had to make our way from the South of the Bahamas to the North, so the Blue Hole was a great way to make a halfway stop for a couple of dives.

The hole itself is around 300m deep and is basically a collapsed sink hole, so it is circular in shape and has limestone walls all round, with a hole in the middle. The dives themselves were conducted around the edge of the hole, eeffectively diving a coral reef wall that is almost bottomless.

Along the wall edges we spotted turtles and nice corals it was great to dive a reef after several days in Cat Island of blue water diving and the wrecks of the Nassau area.

After two dives we began the 18-hour trip from Andros to Bimini. During the overnight cruise we had the most-incredible flat calm ocean conditions and I was able to spend much of the night sitting in the sundeck and the bow looking at the mirrorflat ocean – we had a full moon and the light was reflected in the ocean along with the most-amazing array of stars.

Bimini island is actually synonymous with the great hammerhead shark. The mangroves in the area are thought to be a habitat used for hammerhead pups to mature before heading out into the ocean., So in the winter months, great hammerheads can be found in reasonable numbers feeding on the area.

My trip was in April, to be in line with the oceanic whitetips appearance off Cat Island so it was thought that we would be a bit late for the hammerhead season.

Despite this, we did one baited dive in the shallow water just off the beach of Bimini. Unfortunately, we did not get any hammerheads as expected, but it was awesome to see the area and understand the reasons the hammerheads come here, and the importance of maintaining the mangroves – ahabitat that is vital to coral reef and fish populations but is often decimated to make beachside property.

This area of Bimini has some other great diving though, and over the next couple of days we were able to dive some really nice reefs, with plenty of reef fish, jacks, remoras, sea turtles and lovely corals and sponges.

We also took the opportunity to dive the SS Sapona, a wreck that’s half sticking out of the ocean. The wreck was really interesting as the light penetrates the main building and launches sunrays between the beams and pillars of the shipwreck, creating lively high contrast scenes.

So for the final four days we had made our way up to Tiger Beach. For anyone who has even considered doing any shark diving, Tiger Beach has to be the ultimate bucket list destination. I had been on trips all over the world and everyone who I encountered along my way endlessly bestowed on me the joys of diving at Tiger Beach.

It is home to a resident population of tiger sharks and reef sharks that can be seen from the months of October to June.

Lemon Shark
Lemon Shark

Dylan gave a special briefing for the event. We would be diving again in groups of six with an additional guide on the bait box and a spotter behind the group.

The idea is the bait box would be in the centre and then we would make a V-shape (three per side) with the current behind, meaning any sharks would be smelling us from up current and being drawn in a direct line from in front of us towards the bait box, as if heading up a runway.

Then from the bait box they would be deflected left or right, giving us super-close passes.

The SS Sapona
The SS Sapona

We were to dive in groups A and B. I was drawn in group A and as such would dive in group 1. The boys prepared the bait using tuna. They cut it up into smaller pieces and add it into two bait boxes, then threw them off into the ocean to begin calling in the sharks.

After 30 minutes of the box in the water, Dylan and Dean headed into the water to set up the positioning and get everything ready. We all jumped off the back deck and headed over to the bait box, where we knelt into the white sand and began the wait for the sharks to arrive.

Barrel Sponge
Barrel Sponge

On dive number one we had an amazing reef shark dive, a group of eight or so reef sharks circled the box and pushed into the divers through the whole 60 minutes. Even though we had no tigers on this dive it was the most-incredible shark dive, reef sharks constantly swimming in and coming within touching distance.

Tiger shark
Tiger shark

On all my other shark trips you would be grateful to get one or two shots, now I already had over 100 close-up reef shark shots just from one dive!

For dive two we went back into the water after the chum had been in for some time and the sun was high in the sky, creating lovely bright and clear water. When we arrived in the water there was already a tiger shark there, one known locally as Mocking Jay.

It was such an exhilarating experience, seeing the shark come in from blue and head straight to the bait box. The tiger shark behaved so differently to the reef sharks and they had soon disappeared now this tiger was around.

After 15 minutes of watching the tiger coming in and out and passing us by, a huge shadow suddenly appeared at the edge of the vis.

Ready for the dive
Ready for the dive

As it came closer towards us, it literally made my jaw drop – it was the most famous shark in Tiger Beach, Emma. She is estimated to weight over 600kg and was absolutely enormous, like no shark I had ever seen before – this was on a whole new level. But she was also so gentle, so graceful and such an intelligent-looking animal.

She swam straight for the bait box and I could see how happy Dylan was to see her, and to see her looking so healthy and pregnant. Emma is one of the original sharks of Tiger Beach and divers have been working with her for many years and she is a firm favourite of all the shark handlers at Tiger Beach.

The next three days we had around eight different tiger sharks coming in to see us, all of them having their own personalities, some were younger and more playful, others were larger and more relaxed and slow, but all of them were magic in different ways and all passing within centimetres of us but with no aggression and tension, The whole experience was relaxing and rewarding, reminding me at the time that we should be more fearful of people underwater than any animal we might encounter.

Sunset from the Bahamas Master
Sunset from the Bahamas Master

Bahamas Master is a great way to see many of the different dive locations on one trip. Overall, the Bahamas is an incredible dive location, with world-class wrecks, blue holes, reef diving as good as any other Caribbean destination and by far the best shark diving in the world.

This article was originally published in Scuba Diver UK #78

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