Trip reports from our past Tiger Shark Dive Expeditions 2013

Bahamas Tiger Shark Dive Expedition 2013

2013 Guests and Crew

Our Tiger Shark Expedition was a great success: we were blessed with beautiful weather and many sharks of all species. I organize this expedition to share the experience of being barrier free in the water with these magnificent creatures surrounding us. This year our guests ranged from Finland, United States, Germany, and Japan. For many of them this was their first time to scuba with sharks at such close range. Though paralyzing at first, the first timers remembered the rules of conduct and soon relaxed into the close passes and glances from the sharks. It is a thrill for me to introduce divers to this other world.

Our group of shark enthusiasts gathered in a West Palm Beach hotel the day before our voyage. The next day we transferred over to the Riviera Beach Marina to board the boat that would carry us on the expedition: a 85 foot vessel that is very spacious and comfortable, with plenty of room for dive gear, cameras, and space to hang out.

reef shark Tiger Shark Lemon Shark

The first night we went over boat and shark protocol, checked into assigned cabins, and assembled our copious amounts of underwater photography equipment. With Captain Scott at the helm, we departed the dock at Riviera Beach Marina a little before midnight to make the crossing to the Bahamas.

Waking up the next morning at West End of Grand Bahamas Island, we cleared Bahamian customs in timely fashion. While accomplishing this, our group started setting up their scuba gear and assembling and double-checking their camera equipment – we wanted to be ready as soon as we got to Tiger Beach. Bottlenose dolphins escorted us to our dive location by surfing off the boat's bow. We reached Tiger Beach just a little after lunchtime. Having just passed through a cold front, it was a beautiful day, gentle seas, a light breeze, lots of sunshine, and turquoise coloured water with very clear visibility. Tiger Beach is a shallow sand bar, about 6 meters deep, with lots of light perfect for photography.

photographing a tiger shark

The crew went to work to attract the sharks. The boat brings with it 545 kg (1,200 lbs) of frozen chum, a assortment fish heads, fish backbones, several large grouper heads, and just about everything that the fish processing houses discard. A homemade concoction of fish chowder (blood, guts, and everything) is brewed up with salt water in a stainless steel drum then discharged near the stern of the boat. Sharks have a remarkably acute sense of smell, and within no time they pick up the fish soup trail from kilometers away and quickly congregate around the boat.

Old plastic milk creates are bound together and stuffed with parts of frozen fish. The bait crates are then hung from buoys in mid water and also brought down to rest on the ocean floor. Both crates quickly start attracting sharks and other small fish. Within no time Lemon sharks started amassing off the boat's stern. Our group donned their scuba equipment, grabbed their underwater cameras and quietly slipped into the water. Lemon sharks started coming in towards the underwater bait crates from all angles. Camera strobes started flashing as the shark action intensified. Bottom time was long since it was a very shallow dive.

 
photograph tiger sharks Guests Lisa and Terry Gile

Steven gets a shot

Aaron working the video

Guest Kobiashi
Guest Nakamura

Tom with both his camera

Quentin and a Tiger Shark

Tiger Shark Dive Flag

Tiger sharks are a bit more cautious and took a bit longer to materialize. When they feel comfortable with the current situation, they come in with a graceful force to let their presence known. One medium sized female circled the area around us in a pattern and provided many great photo opportunities with each pass; some extremely close! The seemingly chaotic actions of the sharks are actually quite purposeful. I have seen the lemon sharks aggressively pushing the tiger sharks away from the bait crate in a team effort. I have also seen the tiger sharks use their massive size and weight to push the lemon sharks out of the way so they can get to the food. We were pleased to have visits by nurse sharks and barracuda. One dive featured a very long and close encounter with a great hammerhead – a very lucky treat.

Our meals were events to look forward to thanks to chef Cheryl. Her delicious meals kept our energy levels high and enhanced our sociable meal times. For an exotic touch to the meal, some of the guests collected conch and we dined on expertly prepared conch fritters and conch sashimi. Guests would gather comfortably around the cabin afterwards to download and share their images. Markus Davids, a rum aficionado, would mix a new rum punch concoction each night. We enjoyed the refreshments on the stern under the lights of Markus's gift to the boat: a disco ball. This was a congenial group with good conversations and laughter.

We had two night dives: one when it was totally dark and another late afternoon dive that carried over into a night dive. Being in the water with the sharks at night was unnerving, as they would seemingly pop out of nowhere. These night dives were a good test of strobe ability: the images have the shark nicely contrasted against the dark water capturing the eerie feeling. Sharks were not the only creatures out at night: this dive produced lobster, turtle, and sleeping fish as well as lemon and reef sharks.

Between dives we added some topside action with a frenzied nature to it: fish heads and other bits of chum were thrown off the stern transom. A large grouper head is tied to a rope and used as a lure to get the Lemon sharks to come closer to the boat. If the rope man is not quick in pulling the head out of the water, as happened several times, the Lemon sharks win and rip the head right off the rope. During the action, multiple GoPro cameras on poles caught the shark action. The GoPro video camera is an inexpensive way to rig a pole cam: better then risking one's expensive underwater housing system.

Most of our time was spent at Tiger Beach getting as many dives as we safely can fit into a day. Weather, currents, and visibility dictated when it was best to move over to a new site. Fish Tales Reef starts on a white sandy bottom then transforms into a very healthy reef. Here we encountered the Caribbean reef shark, a beautiful sleek shark, it seems to levitate off the ocean floor and glide through the water with no effort. It is amazingly graceful. This is a great location to photograph sharks and reef in combination. Lemon sharks joined in the action at this location too.

Tiger Shark
Nurse Shark Dive gear on the stern
Lemon Shark Lemon Shark
Ready for the night dive Reef sharks at night

On the last afternoon, after the last dive we pulled up anchor and started our overnight voyage back to West Palm Beach. Back on shore I reflect on being in the water with these enormous, powerful, and graceful creatures. It was truly an amazing experience. Also, it was a real pleasure to share this experience with the other members of the shark expedition. On this adventure I had reunions with old friends and acquired many new ones. A special thanks to Captain Scott and his crew for another a job well done. I am already looking forward to the 2014 Tiger Shark Dive.

Tiger Shark at Tiger Beach Bahamas

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