epic tiger shark diving expeditions
great hammerhead shark diving in bimini

2015 Great Hammerhead Season: It’s a Wrap!

We have just closed out our 2015 Great Hammerhead shark season here on Bimini and enjoyed incredible diving with some great friends. Bimini has truly become a unique dive destination offering the best encounters with the generally shy great hammerhead shark. Similar to Tiger Beach, divers can expect calm, clear and shallow conditions, optimal for extended bottom times and great for photography.

diver with great hammerhead shark in biminiAlthough there were a few weather days during the season, every group spent a ton of time underwater with the great hammerheads. Our dives averaged about 90 minutes and we saw anywhere from 3 to 8 great hammerheads each day on the water. We had no days without the sharks and the chum times spanned between 15 minutes up to 1 hour. There were also a few days where we simply landed on the hammerheads, and no waiting was required.

In addition to the stars of the show, we also regularly had nurse sharks, sometimes too many. We did see the occasional bull shark, but none that came in close, tried for the bait, or pushed the hammerheads away.great hammerhead shark diving in bimini

Our groups stayed at either the Bimini Big Game Club, or the Sea Crest Hotel and Marina. The Big Game Club was a great, friendly resort atmosphere with hotel, bar/restaurant, pool and marina all in one. Sea Crest offers great accommodations and the marina/boat are right outside the guest rooms. There’s no restaurant at Sea Crest, so most of the guests staying there took the opportunity to explore the island and visit a number of local eateries.

We’d like to thank all of our friends for visiting us and the great hammerheads in Bimini this year. It was great to add this species to our expedition calendar. The folks on Bimini have been great to us and we loved meeting up with the Bimini Biological Field Station for educational talks with the groups. We’re proud to have supported Sharks4Kids, a non-profit program run by Jillian and Duncan and happy to have met Grant and Katie who serve on the Bimini Tourism Advisory Board.bimini shark diving

We’re sad to leave Bimini but super excited to return home to Cat Island for the beginning of our Oceanic Whitetip Shark diving season. We’ll be returning to Bimini in January of 2016 for the hammerheads once again.

Interested in diving with the great hammerhead shark? Click here to learn more about our great hammerhead shark diving expeditions.

dusky shark rescue atlas epic diving

Dusky Shark Rescue featured by Oceana

We were thrilled to share the story of Atlas with Oceana, the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation.  They recently launched a campaign to bring awareness of the serious population declines of the dusky shark, and their desperate need for protection.

dusky shark rescue atlas epic diving

On the road to recovery, Atlas the Dusky Shark is free from his rope

Atlas was a large male dusky shark that came by our boat during this past Oceanic Whitetip Shark Diving season on Cat Island.  He had gotten his head caught in a rope which was causing a large wound circling his entire head.  Although a large adult shark, he was clearing very thin, even starving.  The rope was around his gills and pinning down one of his pectoral fins.  He was swimming awkwardly and unlikely to be able to hunt.  Atlas was not shy swimming among the group of divers and oceanic whitetip sharks.  After some time, he was getting closer and closer to us and it was obvious how serious his condition was.  We knew that if he rope was not removed, he would surely die.  We decided we had to make an attempt to cut him free.  The group, lead by Amanda Cotton of A Cotton Photo agreed to suspend their dive so that the crew could attempt the rescue.  It was uncertain how the dusky shark would react, and the group waited patiently on the boat to decrease the risk.

The shark swam slowly right up to the the three of us and Deb, Vin, and Amanda were able to cut the rope off and document the rescue.  It was one of our most rewarding experiences in the ocean and are so happy Oceana shared the story.

Here is an infographic from Oceana about the dusky sharks.  Check out their website for more great information.

dusky shark rescue

The Dusky Shark is in serious need of protection

Dusky Shark Rescue

tiger beach brian skerry tiger shark

Shark Diving Safety Tips & Tricks

Shark dives can be some of the most rewarding and thrilling underwater experiences for divers. The Bahamas national marine sanctuary, established in 2011, is home to a huge number of shark species. Divers have incredible opportunities to experience relaxed diving in calm, crystal clear, warm water. Epic Diving offers expeditions focused on Oceanic Whiteitp Sharks, Tiger Sharks, and Great Hammerhead Sharks. The dive format is different for each species and location. Here are a few of the general concepts to keep divers safe while on one of these seafaris. A more detailed shark diving and boat safety briefing are given on each expedition.

Keep calm.

This is the single most important thing divers can do to ensure their safety. Sharks have an extra sense, one you and I don’t, and it’s sole purpose is to pick up on the distress signals given out by sick, dying, or injured animals. Anxiety mimics many of these signals and could clue a shark into that fact that you, in particular, are standing out from the crowd. Ensure all your equipment is in good working order before your trip. Complete a full buddy check before entering the water. Ensure that you are calm, rested, and hydrated before starting the dive. Alert your divemaster if you will need extra attention or anticipate any problems.

Keep Calm. This is the single most important thing divers can do while shark diving to ensure their safety.

Dark Dive Gear.

This is not the time to try out your brand new fluorescent pink dive fins. Shark divers should get in the habit of wearing all black gear. Avoiding the high-contrast color schemes is best. Divers should leave all jewelry behind, as it may create a flashing glint of light that excites the sharks. We require all divers to wear full wetsuits (no shortys or plain bathing suits permitted) as well as warm water dive gloves. Hoods are recommended, but not required. Long hair should be tied back.

Do not chase after the sharks.

Dives at tiger beach and for the great hammerhead sharks are mostly stationary dives were guests kneel on the bottom and stay put. Dives with the oceanic whitetips are typically done as a open/blue water drift. For either scenario, we encourage divers to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. There is no point to swimming after the sharks. While guests tend to do this to get closer to the sharks, this behavior only results in chasing the sharks away. Staying calm and quiet is the best way to experience the sharks up close. Also, this often leads to divers getting fatigued and burn through their air more quickly.

Surface with enough reserve in your tank.

We expect all divers to return to the boat with a minimum of 500psi/50bar in their tanks. In some cases, there may be strong current and divers are often carrying heaving dive gear and cameras. Although you may be having the best scuba dive of your life, plan to return to the boat with enough air to allow for a calm, slow, safe ascent.

Whether your encounters are on SCUBA or just freediving, these simple safety precautions can give you a better experience underwater. Pay attention to the dive crew and boat captain at all times for updates on dive conditions, weather, and all safety concerns. Please let the crew know if you’re not feeling well or need extra assistance during your shark dive. The staff is available to help if you ask. More thorough briefings will be given on location. For more information including helpful tips preparing for your shark diving expedition, visit us online at www.EpicDiving.com or email your questions to [email protected]

Shark Diving

Interested in diving with some amazing shark species? Click here to learn more about our Bahamas shark diving expeditions.

dive travel insurance

Planning your travel? Don’t forget the insurance

So you’re planning a dive vacation? You’ve packed the swimming trunks, the extra layers, your dive gear, the sun screen, but the question remains: is your medical insurance traveling with you? Do you need additional travel insurance?  What happens if you get to the Bahamas like you always wanted to, and then, in a freak accident, you break your ankle? What if the conch from that charming restaurant reacts badly with your digestive system.  Now you are suddenly having the worst food poisoning you’ve experienced in your life? It is no small matter; according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one half of US travelers heading to another country will experience some sort of health problem while abroad.

Travel Insurance:

The truth is, unless you make special preparations, the outlook is not good. According to www.worldwidemedical.com, “most US insurance companies, HMOs, PPOs or Medicare plans do not provide adequate medical insurance.” There may be exceptions, and you should look into the fine print of your plan, but every major US health insurance providers suggests getting some form of traveler’s insurance. Unfortunately, there is no foreign country that provides free health care for travelers.

Travel insurance plans provide three types of coverage. First, for medical care when abroad.  Next, the cost of emergency medical evacuation.  Finally, reimbursement for sudden trip cancellations and lost luggage.

Should you require medical attention while abroad, most insurance companies provide support in the form of emergency hotlines. They will advise you on the best hospitals in the area, as well as the ins and outs of the local systems. It is strongly advised that, if possible, you consult your provider before seeking medical attention in a foreign land. Also, insurance providers warn that most third world countries’ hospital systems require payment upfront for services rendered. This fee would be reimbursed by the plan.

Medical Evacuation:

The most pressing concern is the case of an emergency medical evacuation from a foreign country.  Evacuations are necessary when a very serious medical condition arises.  Traveler/patient may need to be transported back to the care of his/her primary care physician.  This can cost upwards of $10,000 as it is a coordinated effort between several hospitals and at least one airline. Most travel insurance plans provide the option for specific coverage for this contingency.

Another aspect to consider when traveling abroad, is the cost of sudden cancellations, or changes in travel plans as a result of medical or other emergencies. In an era when airline companies are logging record numbers of lost luggage, this aspect of travelers insurance provides reimbursement for the purchase of clothes and other necessities.

Contact DAN or DiveAssure for more information on available plans for travel and equipment insurance.

map of the bahamas

Bahamas: Diving And Shark Adventures

map of the bahamas

Map of the Bahamas

The Islands of the Bahamas are well known for their ocean adventures. Made up of 700 islands and 2,000 cays, The Bahamas are scattered across over 100,000 square miles of the western Atlantic Ocean. From approximately 70 miles off the coast of West Palm Beach, Florida, this island archipelago extends 750 miles southward to the northern Caribbean. With great weather all year, warm waters, fine beaches, and teeming coral reefs, the Bahamas offer endless delights for outdoor enthusiasts, especially SCUBA divers. Because of the number and diversity of shark species found throughout the marine protected waters of the Bahamas, shark divers have been flocking here for years.

The islands in the Bahamas are generally very flat. The highest point in the entire archipelago, Mount Alvernia (Como Hill) on Cat Island, is only 206 feet above sea level. Despite the 2,700 islands and cays, only about 30 are inhabited. Some are so small, they are mere boulders that even disappear with the rise of the ocean tide. Some are long and thin, stretching for many miles. Others are home to thousands of people. Most of the islands are deserted and home to pristine beaches and tropical forests that remain untouched by people.

Tourism has become the major source of revenue for the Bahamas, but the amazing natural beauty of the islands has managed to remain unspoiled. In earlier days, unrestricted exploitation resulted in a lot of damage in Nassau on New Providence Island. That has since changed and today the people of the islands understand that the unique beauty of their archipelago must be preserved. Conservation is the mindset now, and many conservation groups currently work in the Bahamas.

There are several more well-known and popular places in the Bahamas. Nassau, which is the largest city in the nation, is located on New Providence Island. Paradise Island, a long, narrow barrier island, is connected to Nassau by a toll bridge. Freeport, the second largest city in the island chain, is on the Grand Bahama Island. Beyond these cities lies another world: the Out Islands of Abaco, Andros, the Berry Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, the Exumas, Long Island, and so on.

In a nation completely surrounded by the clearest of waters in the world, there are plenty of water sports and ocean adventures. Before you immerse yourself in all the water adventures, remind yourself that the Bahamas offer plenty of opportunity to explore a variety of different habitats. Sharks can be found in all of the waters of the Bahamas and gained protection there in 2011.

You can expect gorgeous sunny weather with fairly constant temperatures throughout the year. The high season for travel runs from December to April when the folks in the northern hemisphere run from the chilly temperatures at home. Plane tickets tend to be the highest during this season. Rates usually drop during the May to September period which is affectionally called the shoulder season. You can get the best prices during the low season from October December.

Shark diving encounters are also greatly affected by time of year and season. Epic Diving takes advantage of the prime period for a number of marquis species in the Bahamas. We spend the fall and winter (September – January) with the tiger sharks off the West End of Grand Bahama Island. During the tiger shark dives, you will also see reef, lemon, and nurse sharks, as well as the occasional great hammerhead. Between December and March we head to Bimini where we find the elusive great hammerhead sharks, along with nurse and bull sharks. Once we wrap up diving with the hammerhead sharks, we move to Cat Island, the absolute best place on earth to have regular reliable encounters with oceanic whitetip sharks, an increasingly rare pelagic species. During these blue water encounters, divers may also see silky and dusky sharks, as well as occasional blue sharks and blue and white marlin.

Bahamas Shark Diving