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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.

great hammerhead shark diving in bimini

Bahamas Shark Diving

From the ubiquitous caribbean reef sharks and nurse sharks to the larger than life tiger sharks, to the ultra rare great hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks, the Bahamas has it all.  While there are chances to see sharks at each of the islands, some of the highly sought after encounters can be reliably found at certain times of year, at certain locations. 

Tiger Shark Diving:

tiger shark diving on the reefs of tiger beach

While it’s possible to find tiger sharks off the coast of many Bahamian islands, Tiger Beach off the northern tip of Grand Bahama Island is world famous for these encounters, and for good reason.  The dive conditions here are some of the best for shark encounters and hard to beat for photographers.  Generally, dives with tiger sharks are done in shallow water, typically around 20-30 feet deep.  The ambient light is plentiful and the sharks come close, ideal conditions for underwater photography.  The tiger sharks are here year round, but seem to build in numbers over the winter months.  Divers can expect to seen anywhere from one to a dozen or more of these magnificent predators surrounded by countless caribbean reef and lemon sharks.  And there’s a lot more than just the classic sandy bottom of Tiger Beach.  This area of the Little Bahama Bank also offers some incredible reef diving with loads of life like turtles, eels, grouper and stingrays.  The reefs are typically a bit deeper, starting off at depths around 40 feet.  They offer an array of colorful backgrounds for the “men in the grey suit.”  A bit further North, Sugar Wreck is also a favorite of guests.  It’s very shallow, around 15 – 20 feet deep, and covering in marine life.  It’s a great spot for both diving and snorkeling.

Great Hammerhead Shark Diving:

bahamas shark diving great hammerhead biminiBefore the world knew about Bimini’s great hammerheads, encounters with this species was generally rare, brief, and unreliable.  That has all changed.  Each winter and early spring season brings large numbers of these magnificent sharks right off Bimini’s shores and for the first time, divers can book excursions dedicated to seeing this species.  The largest of all the hammerhead sharks, these guys can reach reported lengths of 20 feet.  Their huge dorsal fin is reminiscent of an orcas, towering above their bodies.  Like tiger beach, the dives here are also shallow, allowing for extended bottom times.  Nurse sharks are present on almost every dive and bull sharks tend to make an appearance as well.

Oceanic Whitetip Shark Diving:

oceanic whitetip shark diving

The oceanic whitetip is a pelagic species and was once considered the most numerous marine animal over one hundred pound in the worlds oceans.  Unfortunately, they have suffered dramatic declines over the past 5 decades and are now quite rare.  Cat Island is one of the last hotspots to find this species, and truly the only location to book a trip dedicated to seeing them.  During the spring months, female oceanics congregate in the deep water just offshore.  Encounters with the oceanics are done as blue water drift dives.  Divers can expect to see oceanic whitetip sharks and also have the opportunity to see a variety of other pelagic species, such as silky sharks, dusky sharks, mahi mahi, tuna, and even blue marlin.

The Bahamas takes pride in it’s shark ecotourism and understands the important role sharks play in their ocean environment.  Building on the long line ban in 1992, the Bahamas created a shark sanctuary in 2011 protecting sharks against any commercial use in the nearly 250,000 square miles of ocean surrounding the country.  Whether your thinking of adding a few shark dives to your logbook, or are an experienced shark diver and/or photographer, the islands of the Bahamas has some of the best big animal encounters around.

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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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.