A tiger shark and great hammerhead face-off at Tiger Beach
This past February, DPG and Prawno Apparel teamed up with Epic Diving for ten days of shark encounters in the mesmerizing, blue Bahmanian waters. An international group representing five countries met up at the Blue Marlin Cove on Grand Bahama. With sharks on everyone’s mind, the crew set off to Tiger Beach via the 43-foot M/V Thresher—prepared to make the best of whatever the weather had up its sleeve.
While large numbers of pelagic fish can be found during the first few months of the year, the weather can be quite unpredictable and sometimes wicked. Light gusts can develop into strong winds and even form waterspouts—keeping boats docked and divers dry for days on end. Yet, keen photographers understand the risks involved and are willing to place their bets to get face-to-face with multiple apex predators.
Reaching lengths of 14 feet, tiger sharks are the lords of tropical seas
Interestingly enough, Tiger Beach is not a beach. In fact, it’s simply a set of GPS coordinates in the middle of the open ocean—an hour and a half from Grand Bahama by boat! Sure, it’s shallow at 23 feet––give or take—but it’s no sandbar. Even so, the crystal clear waters can seem reminiscent of a tropical beach.
Below the irresistible surface, several fascinating species of shark lurk. And despite the water looking tempting enough to skin-dive, divers wrap themselves from head-to-toe in neoprene—per advice from the Epic Diving gang. As the dives are more or less spent in one spot, a 5mm wetsuit and hood is not a bad idea.
From the surface, dozens of lemon sharks circle the boat, like puppies waiting for a treat; while we wait patiently in the warm sun for the main attraction to arrive. It doesn't take very long before a dark silhouette is spotted moving along the sea floor.
Alternating between sandy and grassy bottoms adds more interest to images
A female tiger shark winks at her reflection in the dome port
Caribbean reef shark investigates
Underwater photographer, Yorko Summer, working his magic
Leaded like an anchor, we rapidly descend past an animated group of lemon sharks to the ocean floor. Making our way over to the guides takes some effort, and we suddenly appreciate the weightlessness of scuba diving. In strong currents, the extra weight comes in handy by bolting divers to the sea floor.
Forming a half circle around the guides, Debra and Vince, we kneel with circumspection on the powdery sea floor. Once settled, we watch the lemon sharks descend from the surface and begin to serenade the group. Caribbean reef sharks soon pass by and investigate as well.
Not all sharks are created equal, and a first encounter with a tiger is not something for which you can really prepare yourself. As they coast by divers, they exude more confidence than an average shark—and it’s not difficult to understand why. The sheer magnitude of these prehistoric creatures is quite humbling, and it's a privilege to witness them in their realm. With each pass, photographers fire away hoping to capture the essence of these majestic “monsters.”
Safety diver, Jason, keeping an eye on things
Lemon sharks greeted the crew at the surface, making it a little tricky getting in
Surprise encounter with a great hammerhead at Tiger Beach
While the tiger sharks had our hearts pumping and cameras firing rapidly, things really amped up with the arrival of a great hammerhead! Eyes widened as the somewhat comical, yet elegant creature entered the scene. Affectionately referred to as Scylla by the crew, she had apparently just relocated from Bimini to Tiger Beach. Her presence clearly excited the other sharks (especially the lemons), which took emotions to a new and interesting level.
With so much commotion it was difficult to know where to focus. However, after a bit of time passed, things eventually calmed down, and the sandy bottom started to settle. It was certainly a welcomed surprise and rare privilege to have so many species of sharks on one dive—let alone two of the most revered apex sharks. With a weather system approaching and Bimini next up on the itinerary, this unexpected encounter was truly savoured.
The arrival of a weather system that kept us out of the water for several days
An Easy Dilemma
Unfortunately, our initial plan to divide time between tiger sharks in Grand Bahama and great hammerheads in Bimini did not come to fruition. As the DPG/Prawno group prepared for the short flight to Bimini, a weather system moved towards the island, bringing strong winds which ultimately kept the M/V Thresher docked for several days.
To simplify things, we came to a consensus to skip Bimini and hope for more time in the water with Scylla and Co. Fortunately, the Epic crew welcomed this decision. Sure, it would have been lovely to see more great hammerheads in Bimini, but there was no telling when the Thresher would make it there. Furthermore, most agreed that photographically speaking, the combination of a great hammerhead and tiger shark holds far more appeal!
As luck would have it, the pool reopened for one last day of diving. And surprisingly, the visibility was quite decent. While Scylla was nowhere to be found, we had a lovely encounter with another great hammerhead! Perhaps, a friend?
Despite strong winds, the sun was still shining, so the group went snorkeling while waiting
A pregnant tiger shark
The DPG/Prawno Expedition participants
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