Cat Island has always been a very special place for us! It’s one of those far away, sparsely populated and undeveloped islands in the central Bahamas. While Cat is just a 45 minute flight from Nassau, it’s worlds away. You won’t find any big resorts and no casinos on the island, but it’s home to some amazing things. The reefs and walls off Cat Island show of some of the Bahamas healthiest marine ecosystems. The drop off is steep, dramatic, and virtually unexplored. But for us, diving with the oceanic whitetip sharks is the major draw. Both incredibly reliable and incredibly rare, the oceanics aggregate around Cat Island each spring giving you your best chance to see this species flourish! They’re here in numbers, the majority of the sharks are female, and a good percentage of them are pregnant. We do see males throughout the year, but only a handful of individuals. We get to see the same oceanics whitetip sharks year after year, and meet new ones on any given day each season.
This year, we saw some of our favorites back again and met a few really cool sharks. Our oldest shark, Bolt, came back yet again. She appears to be the oldest oceanic whitetip we’ve seen on Cat Island. Not only has she been back to Cat year after year, she was also documented by the BBC off Cat Island back in 2006. Last year she was pregnant and this year she did not seem to be. She moves slow and her eyes appear darkened or “rusted” around the center while all the other oceanics have very light colored eyes. She gets her name from the lightning bolt marking on the right side of her tail fin. The lower part of the marking actually wraps under the tail and can be seen slightly on the left side. This year, we saw her suffer a large but superficial wound on her right flank. Looked pretty concerning at first, but after seeing her heal up so rapidly, we were amazed at how she just “shook it off”.
We saw another dozen or so repeat sharks from previous seasons. There were 4 males this year, and one of them was the largest male we have seen, by far. Typically, the males seem smaller and younger. He was even larger than the average female.
We also had incredible encounters with a variety of species. Drifting in the blue always give you the chance to see something surprising. We started off with a great hammerhead, tiger shark and blue marlin in just the first week! Throughout the season, we were lucky enough to see several blue marlin, mahi mahi, tuna, a blue shark, silky sharks, reef sharks, nurse sharks, dusky sharks, blacktips, and even dolphin! It’s like drifting through space.
We had our hopes up to come across Atlas, the dusky shark from the 2014 season. Atlas was recovering nicely from deep wounds caused by a rope he got stuck in. You can read more about Atlas in our blog. Unfortunately, he was a no-show this year, but we wish him well and hope to see him again.
We’ll miss Cat Island, but already have our sights on the 2016 season! We’ve started filling the calendar and hope to see some of our favorite sharks, and you! Learn more about our oceanic whitetip shark diving trips on our site.