Bahamas Shark Diving
To those unfamiliar with the day to day patterns and behavior of sharks, it seems almost unfathomable that anyone would willingly put himself close to them. This, however, is precisely what is happening every day in The Bahamas. With literally thousands of shark/diver interactions taking place each month in Nassau (New Providence), Freeport (Grand Bahama), Stella Maris (Long Island) and Walker's Cay in the Abacos, there is little doubt The Bahamas easily qualifies as the Shark Diving Capital of the World.
Since the inception of Bahamas shark feeds some 20 years ago, well more than 60,000 divers have observed or taken part in this activity with virtually no incidents of a guest being bitten. Here, divers are given the chance to observe these magnificent marine creatures at very close range in a surprisingly safe fashion. For photographers, it is an unbelievable opportunity.
The shark experiences are as diverse as the operations running them. The following descriptions will serve as an overview of the various methods Bahamian operators currently utilize in their shark/diver interactions. In all areas there is at least one common factor. The primary shark represented in Bahamas shark dives is the Caribbean Reef Shark (Carcharhinus perezi) When the dive boat anchors at the customary feed site, the sound of the motor and of the anchor hitting the bottom is a virtual dinner bell. Before the divers even hit the water, the sharks gather to await their easy meal.
Long Island was the first area to see shark feeds performed on a regular basis. This started some 20 years ago and the method has remained largely the same throughout that time. The feed here on Shark Reef is conducted as a frenzy. Sharks are circling as divers hit the water. After the divers position themselves with their backs to a coral wall, the feeder enters the water with the bucket of fish. This is placed in the sand in front of the divers and from there the action develops quickly.
This method is similar in many respects to the method employed off the island of Walker's Cay, in the Abacos. The difference here is that a greater variety and number of sharks take part in the feed.
While Caribbean Reef Sharks make up the greatest portion of the 50 to 100 participants, divers have seen Lemon Sharks, Bull Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks and other species.
Off Freeport (Grand Bahama), the feed takes on a very organized approach. This event attracts primarily Caribbean Reef Sharks, fed either by hand or off the point of a polespear. The divers are arrayed in a semicircle with safety divers guarding the guests as the feeder positions him/herself at the point of the arc. The energy is very well controlled, with the food being doled out of a large, neoprene covered PVC pipe.
The feeders wear special chainmail suits for protection. They have become experts at keeping the energy level of the feed in control. If the animals become unruly, the food is withheld until things calm down a bit. The sharks go into a regular routine of circling, taking their place in line and advancing to receive the food. It is a surprising testament to the trainability of even this wild of an animal given patience and repeated behavior. The sharks come within touching distance, though guests are cautioned to resist the temptation.
Possibly the greatest varieties of shark/diver encounters take place in the waters off Nassau (New Providence). At Shark Wall and the Runway, the feeding is controlled and the excitement is always high. The sharks (primarily Caribbean Reef Sharks) feed off the point of a polespear, with the feeders protected by chainmail gloves or suits. The positioning of the divers is on the sand among the coral heads.
Nassau operators also offer this encounter in a freer version-simply coexisting in the water off the walls of the Tongue of the Ocean. The sharks are accustomed to the presence of divers so they circulate, going from diver to diver to investigate the possibility of food. It is a situation that mimics the best of all possible natural encounters, a superb and sublime experience.
A second encounter is available in the deep waters of the Tongue of the Ocean at Shark Buoy. Here, divers are suspended in more than 6,000 feet of water with groups of Silky Sharks, a smaller pelagic shark. This is approached as a pure encounter of man and shark adrift in the deep blue of the open ocean. There is some feeding done to keep the sharks close to the divers but this event focuses much more on the voluntary juxtaposition of diver and shark.
Taken together, The Bahamas shark dives offer what is likely to be the greatest variety of shark encounters available in the world today. This is true world class action, available in only one destination, The Bahamas, Shark Diving Capital of the World.
BAHAMAS SHARK DIVING OPERATORS
Many Bahamas live-aboard dive boats offer shark dives. Check with individual operator for itineraries.
Back to the Bahamas Homepage