Bahamian shark diving is a legendary experience on many bucket lists.
Tiger sharks, nurse sharks, lemon sharks, blacktip reef sharks and great hammerhead sharks all consider the Bahamas home. The clear waters and easy access to the sharks have made the islands a favourite with underwater photographers and documentary crews from National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.
WHERE IN THE BAHAMAS CAN I FIND A SHARK TOUR COMPANY?
You can swim with sharks in the Bahamas at numerous locations, including Grand Bahama, Nassau and Exuma. You’ll need to hire a shark tour operator or diving operator who specializes in these experiences to get you up close in a safe manner. However, you can choose from a number of exciting shark encounters, depending how daring you feel.
CAGE DIVING IS A SAFE WAY TO PHOTOGRAPH SHARKS IN THE BAHAMAS
Many tour operators use custom-built shark cages with a built-in air supply system so you don’t need to hand operate or carry an air tank. With these tours, you don’t have to be a certified diver and you can concentrate on amazing shots of the sharks as they come up close.
You’ll find plenty of professional operators with cages at Stuart Cove, in Nassau, that will take you to a place aptly named Tiger Beach. This is a favorite spot for professional underwater photographers and documentary crews. The tiger sharks you’ll meet there get their name from the dark stripes. These markings tend to fade, as they get older.
Warning: the sharks at Tiger Beach are very big: 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.5 meters).
ON GREAT EXUMA ISLAND, YOU CAN HAND FEED LOCAL NURSE SHARKS
In the shallow waters off the Exuma islands, sharks will eat fish tied to a rope and even brush your feet as they swim around. Some people say they play tug-a-war with them. It’s an amazing sight when baby nurse sharks crawl out of the water and onto the platform.
The nurse shark can reach a length of 14 feet (3 meters) long in open water. Don’t worry, you’ll find most of the sharks here are playful babies, about a foot long.
The best place to feed baby nurse sharks is at Compass Bay in Exuma where you can stand on the dock or a platform.
HAVE AN UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE BY DIVING AND FEEDING SHARKS
Stuart Cove also has a diving location on Grand Bahama. If you find yourself on this island, there are three reefs synonymous with shark dives: Shark Wall, the Arena or Runway Wall. Here you’ll encounter gigantic hungry but harmless lemon sharks. These lemon sharks are up to 10 feet (3 meters) long and get their name from a unique yellow coloration. The sharks might follow you through the dive because you are close to their feeding site. They are accustomed to visitors and know when dinner is coming.
You can then take part in an underwater shark feeding or just take a dive down with a team. You’ll spend most of this dive on your knees at the bottom of the water in a semi-circle with other divers while around 30 lemon sharks circle you. The professional shark feeder will arrange a bait box to control the release of food and make sure the sharks behave.
These tours aren’t for the faint of heart! The sharks come very, very close, but they are more interested in the bait than you.
EXUMA ISLAND IS THE BEST PLACE TO OBSERVE SHARKS IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT
The best place to swim with sharks is Exuma. The beauty of diving or snorkeling in Exuma is that the plentiful reef sharks are not looking to be fed (there’s plenty of prey on the reef) and don’t really care about you. You can observe them naturally.
If you are very lucky, you may spot a hammerhead shark. They travel between the open sea and reefs and can reach up to 18 feet (5 meters).
The reefs of Exuma offer your best chance to meet the shy blacktip reef shark. You’ll know it by the prominent black tips on its fins (especially on the first dorsal fin and the caudal fin). Blacktip reef sharks also have distinct social behavior. They don’t travel far, staying close to their reef home. They are also faithful partners for life.
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