epic tiger shark diving expeditions
relaxing bahamas beach

A Bit About Cat Island

Map of Cat Island, Bahamas

Map of Cat Island, Bahamas

Cat Island is located in the central Bahamas. Considered one of the family islands, Cat Island is home to just over 1,600 people. The island is about 48 miles long and spans from one to four miles across, encompassing an area of 150 square miles. Cat Island was named after Arthur Cat, a pirate who visited the island many times. For hundreds of years, however, the island was called San Salvador and was thought to be Columbus’ first landfall in the New World. In 1926, Watlings Island was redesignated San Salvador and the name Cat Island was used once again. It is sometimes confused with Cat Cay, much closer to the east coast of the United States.

New Bight Airport, The Bight (TBI)

New Bight Airport, The Bight (TBI)

There are two airports on Cat Island. New Bight Airport, or The Bight, (TBI) is located in the islands capital, at it’s center. Arthur’s Town (ATC) is the airport in the north. Both are quite small and are no more than an airstrip, a one room air conditioned building with a check in counter, waiting room and restroom facilities. When traveling to Cat Island to dive with Epic Diving, you’ll need to make sure you book your ticket to and get off the plane at New Bight Airport. Your luggage should be tagged with the airport code TBI. Once you land, there are taxi cabs available to take to the resort. With only two daily flights, chances are you’ll run into other divers on the plane and share the ride to Greenwood Resort. The cab ride is about $70 for the first 1-2 people with an extra charge for more divers and loads of luggage.

the-hermitage

The Hermitage sits atop Como Hill, the highest elevation in all of the Bahamas

Cat Island boasts several historical landmarks and is home to the nation’s highest elevation. Como Hill raises to 206 feet above sea level. At the top, you’ll find The Hermitage, a monastery built in 1939 by Father Jerome. He also renamed Como Hill to Mount Alvernia after La Verna, the hill in Tuscany where St. Francis of Assisi received the Wounds of the Cross. From it’s peak, you can easily see both the east and west coasts of the island as well as an aerial view of New Bight. In the quaint settlement of Port Howe, you can find the remains of the plantation home of Colonel Andrew Deveaux. Deveaux, who was born in South Carolina, sailed to the Bahamas in 1783 and recaptured the Bahamas from Spain, with an army of just 220 men and an arsenal of only 150 muskets. Another major attraction on Cat Island is the Big Blue Hole located off Dickies Road in the North. This Blue Hole is quite deep and often has strong undercurrents leading to the sea. Many objects thrown in have reached the ocean though the system’s passageways. Also off Dickies Road is the Griffen Bat Cave. Once a hideout for slaves, this cave is now home to thousands of bats. Stand at it’s opening at sunset and you’ll hear, feel, and see the bats emerge.

Cat Island Ship Wreck

Cat Island Ship Wreck

There’s not much in the way of industry on Cat Island. Most locals live off the land and sea, some working as slash and burn farmers and others as fisherman. The island sees little tourism and has no large scale resorts. There are a number of picturesque hotels and inns that truly invite you to rest, relax, and enjoy.

oceanic whitetip shark cat island bahamas shark diving

Oceanic Whitetip Shark Diving, Cat Island Bahamas

Epic Diving has been traveling to Cat Island for the oceanic whitetip shark diving season since 2010. We primarily dive on the south side of the island, which is where the hotel and dive boat are located. Our oceanic whitetip shark diving season runs from March through June. We typically encounter several oceanic whitetip sharks each dive day and have also had the chances to see other species such as caribbean reef shark, nurse sharks, great hammerhead sharks, tiger sharks silky sharks, dusky sharks, blue sharks and even whale sharks. Drift diving out in the blue water with the oceanic whitetips, you never know what will show up. We’ve seen big schools of tuna, wahoo, mahi mahi or dorado, and even blue and white marlin! The dives are always exciting. While we focus mainly on the blue water shark encounters, some of the walls and reefs of Cat Island are pristine and mostly untouched. Here you can see some incredible corals and sponges as well as the usual cast of characters. Moray eels, turtles, grouper, lobster and crab…you can find it all.

Cat Island has something to offer people of all ages and interests.  Take in the sights, learn some history, enjoy local cuisine, or just kick back and relax on a secluded beach.  For more information about Cat Island and all it has to offer, visit The Out Islands of the Bahamas website.

Visit Cat Island, Bahamas

oceanic whitetip shark cat island bahamas shark diving

A week diving with Oceanics: Photo Slideshow

We’ve just wrapped up another incredible week of diving with the Oceanic Whitetip Sharks of Cat Island.  Although we had one weather day, the week was filled with nonstop shark action, and a few surprises as well.  On the very last day, we even had a fly-by from a huge Blue Marlin!

 

oceanic whitetip shark pilot fish cat island bahamas

Incredible start to the 2015 Oceanic Whitetip Season

The 2015 Oceanic season has started with an amazing bang!  We’ve had really incredible shark action right from the start, with an average chum time of only 20 minutes so far.  The oceanics have all been well behaved and we’re excited to already be seeing some of our favorites from past seasons.

oceanic whitetip sharks cat island bahamas shark diving

A perfect pair!

 The water conditions have been amazing so far with seemingly limitless visibility, mostly flat seas, an average water temp of 78 ˚F.  Perfect conditions for snorkeling with the Oceanics.  On snorkel, the sharks get very close and love to check out all the divers.  They’re bold enough to investigate, but not pushy or threatening in their approach.  We’ve gotten some incredible images already in just the first week of encounters.

Yesterday, we did our first drift dive with the new group of guests.  It was absolutely incredible.  The oceanics stuck around for the entire dive and were joined by reef and blacktip sharks.  We had one pass by an enormous tiger sharks followed by a very inquisitive hammerhead coming to check out the group.  He was shy at first….passing through everyone and continuing on his way.  Only minutes later, he returned and came right into our bait crate.  The hammerhead buzzed by everyone in the group and we all were able to get some really nice photos.  It is the first time we’ve photographed Oceanics and Hammerheads in the same frame. 

oceanic whitetip and great hammerhead shark diving bahamas

Wow!

Needless to say, we’re so excited to be back at Cat Island diving in the blue with the oceanics.  You just never know what’s going to turn up.  Stay tuned for more trip reports and exciting photos!

Interested in diving with this rare shark species? Click here to learn more about our oceanic whitetip shark diving expeditions.

oceanic whitetip shark cat island bahamas shark diving

Oceanic Whitetip Season has begun!

We have just made it back to Cat Island, one of the out islands of the Bahamas for the start of our 2015 Oceanic Whitetip Shark diving season.  The over 300 mile journey here was nice and smooth, with great weather on the water and some incredible sunrises and sunsets!

cat island sunrise

Just after arriving back on the island, the whole crew was greeted by all our friends from years past.  It was great to see everyone’s excitement that the “shark people” are back!  A few of the folks even asked why we have to leave every year.whitetip shark diving on cat island in the bahamas

Although we wanted to rest after a few really busy months at Tiger Beach and in Bimini, it was hard to contain the excitement for seeing the oceanics again.  Just staring out from the beach at that incredible blue water that surrounds Cat Island and knowing the Oceanics were out there swimming around, we just couldn’t wait.

We spent only a few minutes deciding which location to go check out first.  We returned to one of our favorite areas from seasons past and started to setup the chum.  Within just a few minutes of getting the bait in the water, we spotted to first shadow making it’s way to the bow of the boat.  Only seconds later, a second shadow and this time the dorsal fin broke the surface, leaving no doubt that we had oceanic whitetips with us!  It was such an incredible feeling.

By the time we got suited up to enter the water, we had 5 different Oceanics swimming around.  Getting back in the water felt like coming home.  We’ve been so used to nice shallow SCUBA dives with sharks at Tiger Beach and Bimini that this seems so different.  The water is deep and the color and visibility are like no where else.   Before leaving the water, we had 7 different Oceanics (6 female and one small male), and a few of them had been with us last season.  Can’t wait to go through the rest of the photos and add the other sharks to our ID Book.

Needless to say, we’re so excited to be back on Cat Island with the Oceanics and looking forward to the start of another incredible season here.  This marks our fifth year out here and we’re excited to share it with some great friends that are headed this way in 2015!!

oceanic whitetip shark cat island bahamas 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. Click here to learn more about our oceanic whitetip shark diving.

shark diving with lemon sharks

Lemon Sharks: A Tiger Beach Bahamas Regular

Description

shark diving at tiger beach with lemon sharksLemon sharks, Negaprion brevirostris, gets their name because of its pale yellow brown coloring. It is also known as requin citron (France), tiburon galano (Spain), squalo limone (Italy), zitronenhai (Germany) cacao-limao (Brazil), requiem shark (UK).

Lemon sharks use their yellow color to successfully hide in their natural habitat. They can be found swimming along the sand at the bottom of the water, which protects them from predators and gives them an advantage over their prey.
The lemon shark is a large, stocky, blunt nosed shark with two dorsal fins of similar size. The first dorsal fin is low and positioned posterior to the pectoral fins, the second dorsal is of similar shape and size and positioned anterior to the origin of the ventral fin. The pelvic fin has weakly concave rear margins and the outer margin of the pectoral fin is slightly convex. The snout is round and shorter than the width of the mouth. There is no mid-dorsal ridge present on this species. Like most sharks, lemon sharks have very sharp teeth, but they are shaped differently. They are curved rather than all the way up and down. This allows them to easily catch slippery fish.

It commonly attains a length of 2.4 to 3.1 m (7.9 to 10.2 ft) and a weight of up to 90 kg (200 lb). Their life span is over 25 years.

Location

The lemon shark inhabits coastal inshore waters from New Jersey (US) to Southern Brazil, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean and along Senegal and the Ivory Coast of Africa in the eastern Atlantic. This species of shark often occupies the subtropical shallow waters of coral reefs, mangroves, enclosed bays, and river mouths, making them an ideal scuba diving attraction.

Diving with Lemon sharks

Since they are so frequent around the Bahamas, Lemon sharks have been extensively studied in recent years in the wild off Bimini. They are social animals and like to live and hunt in packs, so you can expect an interesting encounter when diving with this kind of shark. They present a minimal threat to divers and prefer to swim slowly, so one can hope to have a nice and rewarding experience when diving alongside one. Lemon sharks are a guaranteed encounter on any of our Tiger Beach shark diving expeditions, where you will also see Tiger Sharks!

lemon shark cleaning Tiger Beach Bahamas

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

Map of the Bahamas

A win for shark protection proponents

GREAT news today! The government of the Bahamas agreed to pass legislation to prohibit the export of any shark or shark product from the Bahamas. Thanks to the Bahamas National Trust, PEW, Guy Harvey Research Institute, and all those who who supported this project. A special thanks to the local community on Cat Island for joining us at the meeting and signing the petition. It was an honor to be a part of this!

Read the full story here

bahamas shark sanctuary

Bahamas Shark Sanctuary

C

elebrating one year since the government of the Bahamas announced that all commercial shark fishing in the approximately 630,000 square kilometers (243,244 square miles) of the country’s waters is now prohibited, establishing a national Bahamas Shark Sanctuary.

bahamas shark sanctuary

Sharks are now protected against commercial fishing in all the waters surrounding the Bahamas.

The Bahamas National Shark Sanctuary permanently protects more than 40 shark species in Bahamian waters.

bnt bahamas national trust bahamas shark sanctuary

Epic Diving participates in town hall meeting with the Bahamas National Trust

shark conservation bahamas shark sanctuary

Locals on Cat Island sign the petition to help establish the Bahamas National Sanctuary

Read more about the sanctuary on PEW’s website.

Thanks again to all those involved in this legislation!

Bahamas Shark Sanctuary