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Oceanic Whitetip Shark cat island

Day Trips to Dive with Oceanic Whitetip Sharks: Bahamas

The Bahamas undoubtedly offers some of the best shark diving options available in the world! Tiger Beach has been a long time favorite among shark diving enthusiasts with it’s abundance of large sharks including Tiger Sharks, Reef Sharks, and Lemon Sharks. Bimini has emerged as a hotspot for reliable encounters with the elusive Great Hammerhead Shark, as well as regularly seen Bull Sharks and Nurse Sharks. But there is another hidden gem in shark diving lying in the central Bahamas. On the eastern edge of Exuma Sound, the deep water is a favorite hang out of the endangered Oceanic Whitetip Shark, an extremely photogenic pelagic species.

When do you run Oceanic Whitetip Shark Diving day trips?
The spring season is the right time of year to seek out encounters with the oceanic whitetip sharks. They are migratory but return each year in large numbers during the spring months. Their migration is believed to be related to mating or gestation as most of the oceanic whitetip sharks we see are female, and many of them are pregnant.

What are day trips to dive with the Oceanic Whitetip Sharks like?
A typical day trip to dive with the oceanic whitetip sharks involves an early start to grab a bite to eat before boarding the boat for the ride out to the shark grounds – click here to visit Intrepid Powerboats used for the trip. MV Thresher is fully equipped for comfort and safety to enjoy the whole day out on the water. In addition to all the seating space on the dive deck and up on the flybridge, there’s also a fully enclosed cabin to get out of the elements on some of those not so inviting winter mornings. Both the flybridge and inside cabin have stereo systems with bluetooth connectivity to enjoy your favorite playlist. The oceanic whitetips stay around the boat all day long, allowing for lengthy in water encounters. We will do a combination of SCUBA diving and snorkeling/freediving to best take advantage of the opportunity and maximize our water time. The encounters are different on SCUBA vs snorkel, and each have their pros and cons. SCUBA diving with oceanic whitetips is effortless drift diving where proper buoyancy is crucial and you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. While snorkeling with oceanic whitetip sharks, you’ll be able to take advantage of the awesome surface light and close up photo ops. Read more here to make the right choice.

How many days should you swim with Oceanic Whitetip Sharks?
We recommend no less than three days planned to dive with the oceanic whitetip sharks. Even though it’s the spring season when weather is usually getting calmer, there may still be occasional squalls of heavy winds and high seas, preventing us from making it out for diving or snorkeling with the oceanic whitetip sharks. The dive area is located in deep ocean water and can seas can build quickly. We offer standard packages with either 3 or 5 days of diving planned. We know it can be really disappointing to lose a day of diving and we strongly recommend travelers secure some form of travel insurance specific to diving, such as the kind offered by DAN or DiveAssure.

What can we expect to see in a day trip to dive with Oceanic Whitetip Sharks?
We have been diving with oceanic whitetip sharks for the past 8 years and the encounters have only gotten better over time. We have had days with up to 15 of the pelagic sharks spending the whole day with the dive group! The exciting part is that aside from the oceanic whitetips, you never know what else might show up while drifting out in the crystal clear deep blue. We have had regular encounters with Silky Sharks, Dusky Sharks and Reef Sharks, as well as the occasional Blue Shark, Mako Shark and even Great hammerhead and Tiger Sharks! And sharks aren’t the only marine animals bringing in the heart pounding excitement. Huge schools of tuna, mahi mahi (aka dorado or dolphin fish), and even Blue Marlin and White Marlin! It really is a special place worth checking off your list of shark diving hotspots!

How do I arrange day trips to dive with oceanic whitetip sharks?
Having such a short season, we generally book up well in advance, so it’s best to contact us early. Our calendar is set and boat reserved throughout the season so we don’t have space for your typical open bookings. Contact us for dates and availability.

dive with oceanic whitetip sharks bahamas shark diving

Oceanic Whitetip Shark and Pilot Fish

Oceanic Whitetip Shark and Pilot Fish cat island bahamas

Bolt: Oceanic Whitetip Shark

Oceanic Whitetip Shark: Bolt

One of our favorite oceanic whitetip sharks was captured on film back in 2006 by a team from the BBC during the filming of this doumentary.  It’s amazing to still be able to spend the day shark diving with Bolt.

oceanic whitetip sharks cat island bahamas shark diving

Follow the Oceanic Whitetips | Pew

Follow the Oceanic Whitetips

In July 2011, The Bahamas declared a shark sanctuary in its Exclusive Economic Zone. Two months earlier, scientists had tagged 12 oceanic whiteips around The Bahamas and created an animation that tracked the movement of three of those sharks. The scientists found that although they are highly migratory, oceanic whitetips spent most of their time within the sanctuary. Sanctuaries are an important refuge for sharks.

Learn more: http://www.pewenvironment.org/sharks.

Follow the Oceanic Whitetips

oceanic whitetips shark research group

oceanic whitetips shark research group

Oceanic Whitetip Shark tagging at Cat Island

The folks over at the Cape Eleuthera Institute have just wrapped up their 2016 Oceanic Whitetip Shark tagging program. This concludes their sixth year of the program which has now caught and tagged nearly 60 individual whitetips in the waters surrounding Cat Island.

The goals of the study are to:

  • Determine generalized movements and determine high-use areas of sharks in relation to the Bahamas shark sanctuary.
  • Examine diving behavior through high resolution temperature and depth data.
  • Investigate potential hormone markers to identify reproductive cycles.
  • Examine prey-preference potential seasonal diet switches through tracing relative concentrations of Carbon and Nitrogen isotopes.
  • Gather baseline genetics data which will be incorporated into fin-trade management, and will detect fins from Oceanic whitetips found in the Western Atlantic.

Investigating these large knowledge gaps are intrinsic to the contemporary management of oceanic whitetip shark populations, and will provide novel insights into the biology and ecology of a severely threatened apex predator.

Read more about there work here: Shark Research and Conservation Program facilitates another successful year of Oceanic Whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus) tagging at Cat Island | CEI Blog

Oceanic Whitetip Shark and Pilot Fish cat island bahamas

Goodbye Cat Island…until 2016

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.

oceanic whiteitp shark heals from wound

Bolt heals with amazing speed

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.

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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.