Big Animals – Oceanic Whitetips, Bahamas
Why do you want photos of the oceanic whitetip shark? Because they’re one of the most threatened pelagic sharks in the world and as an open ocean predator, they’re usually hard to find. Enter Cat Island, Bahamas, where these apex predators come close to shore to feed on migrating tuna.
The clear blue water of Cat Island makes it a great place to get fantastic photos of oceanic whitetips. Snorkeling, freediving, and scuba diving can all take place depending on the conditions, and the dives are drift dives. Oceanic whitetips are predatory sharks, so being comfortable in the water, an advanced diver, and having freediving/snorkeling experience is recommended. There is also the chance of seeing other shark species, including bulls, lemons, tigers, silkies, and reef sharks.
When to Dive
The Cat Island oceanic whitetip season runs from April through June.
Oceanic whitetips are pelagic sharks, so they pretty much go wherever they want. Perhaps the only other destination that offers routine encounters is the Red Sea. Go with the Red Sea Aggressor.
Pack your camera, housing, dive mask (and a toothbrush) in your carry-on luggage. That might still get stair-checked, but at least it will arrive with you on Cat Island, ready to get in the water the next day! The last-leg planes are small and luggage is an issue on almost every flight there.
Get in shape! Guidelines are to stay together and stay close to the boat while on snorkel (which gives the best photographic opportunities). Winds and surface currents can be challenging and it’s your responsibility to know your own limits. Being at ease and confident will make your shark encounters memorable.
Use short strobe arms and pull them back and outwards. You’ll be in motion and watching sharks the whole time. The longer the arms and the more connecting points, the more things you’ll have to adjust during your time with the sharks. It's better to just focus on them—and your shots of course.—Ellen Cuylaerts