Sharks Of The Bahamas
While The Bahamas offer everything recreational divers can wish for, one experience is on every diver’s list: shark diving. Shark populations in this part of the Caribbean are thriving and The Bahamas offer some of the best shark dives in the world. A lot of these involve chumming to attract sharks or direct feeding where dive guides wear a full-body chainmail suit and hand-feed the sharks or use a metal rod to spear the bait and feed the sharks from a safe distance. These shark feeds may not be for everyone but don’t worry, there are quite a few unbaited shark encounters waiting for you. Whichever you prefer, encounters with lemon sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and blacktips are guaranteed but that’s not the end of the list…
Bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) are known to live in both fresh and saltwater, preferably the shallows. They also have a reputation of being unpredictable and aggressive and are responsible for the majority of fatal incidents. Off the coast of Bimini, thrill seekers can get into the water with this beauty.
Lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) inhabit the shallow waters of the subtropics and tend to stick to protected areas such as river mouths, bays, mangroves and coral reefs. The mangrove swamps of the North Bimini Lagoon gained international fame when decades of research revealed that female lemon sharks return to the nursery site to deliver their own pups some 15 years later. Divers often encounter 20 or more of these yellow, beady-eyed sharks during the shark feeds in the area. For those who want to learn more about this species, the Bimini Sharklab offers volunteer opportunities and a week-long research packages.
At a maximum length of over five metres these apex predators make for a thrilling encounter. Tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) are known for being indiscriminate eaters which gave them the nickname ‘dustbin of the seas’ – one shark was found to have swallowed a tire. Diving with a handful of these large predatory sharks will most certainly get your heart rate up. A group of resident tiger sharks is the highlight of a trip to Tiger Beach.
Between February and April each year, great hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna mokarran) aggregate off the Bimini coast, the encounter success rate during that time is close to 100 per cent. All hammerhead species are usually shy and elusive and like to keep their distance, but here divers get up close to these six-metre-long sharks.
Caribbean reef shark
The Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezii) is the most commonly seen shark in Bahamian waters. They often join shark feeds in the dozens, making for a fast-paced, thrilling dive.
Oceanic whitetips (Carcharhinus longimanus) are known to roam the open ocean and are usually seen during blue water dives. However, the creation of The Bahamas Shark Sanctuary in 2011 provided a welcomed safe zone for this threatened species. Several tour operators now offer trips to Cat Island in the western Bahamas, to encounter this impressive shark. The inquisitive nature of the oceanic whitetip can be intimidating but offers divers the chance to get close and personal with a serious predator.