A Big Fish Expeditions Trip Report
Tiger Beach 2019 in a Nutshell
Yet another fantastic trip to Tiger Beach! Good weather and excellent action, including eight tiger sharks, endless reef sharks, lots of lemon sharks, a few nurse sharks, a shy bull shark and the incomparable Patches; Tiger Beach’s resident rock star great hammerhead.
Lemons at the Anchor Chain Wreck
As usual, we boarded the Dolphin Dream in West Palm Beach, Florida and sailed overnight to Grand Bahama Island where we quickly cleared customs and continued onward to Tiger Beach, arriving just after lunch for our first day of shark diving. After a thorough briefing, our gang of intrepid shark divers jumped in at the Anchor Chain Wreck; a famous shallow dive site that mostly attracts lemon sharks.
The site is named after an enormous, coral encrusted anchor chain, the origins of which are unknown but it has clearly been in the same spot for at least 50 years but perhaps much longer. The site is only 7m deep and the substrate is mostly sand so it’s a great place for our guests to get their buoyancy dialled in before visiting other parts of Tiger Beach where the reefs are slightly deeper and the action is more intense.
After shooting some lemon sharks, I switched to a macro lens and went in search of small stuff on the anchor which is completely covered in fish and invertebrate life such as beautiful flamingo tongues and other tiny molluscs.
On our second day we moved to our main tiger site. A spot named Fish Tales. This site was once a place where fishermen would catch large groupers but over the last few years it has been completely taken over by sharks so most of the groupers have moved to adjacent reefs. There are still a few brave resident groupers that steal the occasional piece of bait, but our divers who were there to see tiger sharks, mostly ignored them.
This year, there were a few divers in the group that were quite inexperienced. This is one of the great things about Tiger Beach; although the shark action is world class and the tiger sharks are huge, the diving is extremely easy and the sharks are very well behaved so it is completely reasonable to enjoy this trip even if you’re a relatively new diver. Sensing some trepidation, I did my best to reassure the newbies that they would be fine as long as they followed the crew’s guidelines. And sure enough, within a few minutes of dropping to the sea floor, their worried expressions had been replaced with a sense of wonder. Another batch of shark diving ambassadors in the making!
Tiger Shark Feeds
We stayed at Fish Tales for the rest of the week because there is nowhere better to see tiger sharks and the area is large enough and diverse enough to deliver lots of different encounters. The most intense dives were the feeds (usually two per day) where up to eight tiger sharks would barrel in to snatch up a small piece of bait from the hands of the shark feeder. If you have not been to Tiger Beach, you might think this sounds too dangerous but the tigers are well accustomed to the routine, always approaching from down current straight to bait box, accepting the offered titbit and then returning to the back of the queue.
Patches showed up on around half the dives. She is a large great hammerhead that used to hang out in Bimini but she spends most of her time at Tiger Beach now. She is not the only hammerhead that we see at Tiger Beach but she has become quite famous because she is extremely relaxed around large hammerhead sharks.
Whereas most hammerheads would see the tigers and general commotion and leave the area, Patches has no fear. She swims immediately to the bait box, pushing tiger sharks out of the way if necessary. Consequently, everyone got great images of her.
Caribbean Reef Sharks
There are always lots of reef sharks at Fish Tales. It is easy to get distracted with the big guys and ignore the reefies but I always try to get some nice shots. To me, Caribbean Reef Sharks are the most classically shark-like shark of them all.
This year there were around 30 or more reefies swimming around Fish Tales. I am convinced that they have gotten visibly bigger since we started going there.
Bull Shark and Cobias
There was only one bull shark that showed up this year. Its funny how shy bull sharks can be considering their ferocious reputation. This one kept its distance and was difficult to photograph. It was traveling with an entourage of cobia that came much closer, so I concentrated on photographing the cobia instead 🙂
I get a few strange looks when I pull out a macro lens at Fish Tales. It is not that I don’t love the shark dives but after 14 years at Tiger Beach, I have photographed every angle I can think of. So on the last couple of trips, I have dedicated a dive or two to finding and shooting all the little critters that live on the surrounding reefs.
This fish is a pretty little diamond blenny. About an inch long, it lives in a different world but its environment just as hostile. I imagine that to this tiny blenny, a tiger shark must be too big to even recognise; like a cloud passing overhead. But there are plenty of small fishes and even crustaceans and molluscs that it has to be constantly wary of.
As usual, we did a night dive at Fish Tales. We don’t feed the sharks at night because that would be too dangerous but there are always a few sharks that stick around; drifting in and out of the darkness.
Before the dive, there was a briefing in which the crew said that they rarely see tigers at night; mostly just reef sharks and the occasional lemon. This reassured the newer divers but as soon as I dropped to the seafloor I laughed through my mask when five big tiger sharks swam straight towards me. They were well behaved but it was still a little unnerving.
Once my eye grew tired of tiny critters, I returned to the sharks. The action this year was very consistent – between one and eight tigers on every dive, plus all the other species we expected to see.
One shark that it was especially nice to see was Emma; a particularly large and well known tiger with a very docile personality.
Join us at Tiger Beach
If you have not yet dove at Tiger Beach yet, we would love to show you around. We have two different trips that visit Tiger Beach. In November, we have our Bahamas Shark Safari; a 9 day trip that spends a lot of time at Tiger Beach and then moves to Bimini to look for more hammerheads – weather permitting.
Then in April we have our regular week long Tiger Beach Expedition that concentrates mostly on tigers.
Both are great trips so if you would like to join us or if you want more info about either trip, please let us know!