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Trip Reports

Diving with Oceanic Whitetip Sharks 2019

By May 11, 2019No Comments

A Big Fish Expeditions Trip Report

Oceanic Whitetip Shark Diving Expedition 2019 in a Nutshell

A perfect trip! The shark action was fantastic and the weather and visibility was perfect. Each day was better than the last, with a whopping 13 oceanic whitetip sharks on our last dive, plus silkies, Caribbean reef sharks and one beefy dusky shark.

Diving with Oceanic Whitetip Sharks
Immediate Oceanic Whitetip Shark Action

From the beginning, the trip ran like clockwork. Everyone arrived on time and settled into Greenwood Resort; a quaint beachfront hotel with a very relaxed atmosphere. We met up with the dive operator who informed us that the shark action had been excellent. This was no surprise because Cat Island is the best place in the world to dive with Oceanic Whitetip Sharks.

The following morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we motored out to Columbus Point; a shallow ridge on the southeast corner of the island where the ocean floor drops off dramatically into 3000ft of clear blue Caribbean water. Columbus is a well known spot to find oceanic whitetip sharks, and within just a few minutes, we saw two large shapes rising from the depths. By the time we geared up and slipped into the ocean, there were four oceanic whitetips circling the boat. The sharks approached us closely but were not overly aggressive.

Diving with Oceanic Whitetip Sharks
Drifting along with the Sharks

The way the dives are conducted at Cat Island could not be easier. We suspend a bait crate to a large buoy so that it hangs 10m below the surface. Then we cast it loose and let it drift with the current. The currents around Cat Island are extremely strong but once you’re underwater floating along, it feels like there is no current at all. On our first dive, we drifted with the sharks for more than six miles even though we barely had to kick.

Diving with Oceanic Whitetip Sharks
Amazing photo opportunities

Because the dives were so shallow and warm, and everyone was relaxed, it was easy to conserve air so every dive lasted around 1.5hrs; plenty of time to get lots of great images of oceanic whitetips from all angles. While the guests composed images of the sharks or simply watched them swim in and out of view, I tried to capture images of as many of them as I could. I didn’t quite get pics of every diver with a big shark but I am sure that everyone went home with images of these beautiful sharks etched into their memories!

Diver with Oceanic Whitetip Shark
Oceanic Whitetips on the Reef!

On our second day, the wind was a little stronger but that actually worked in our favour. Rather than heading all the way to Columbus Point, we stayed closer to the coast where we were protected by the elevation of the island. The action was so good inshore that we may not bother going to Columbus in future years.

Oceanics are usually reluctant to enter shallow water but I suspect that after a few years of receiving tasty treats, the resident whitetips at Cat Island have grown bolder. We ran into our first sharks at the edge of the coral slope in 60ft of water. This made a nice change for the photographers in our group from the usual shot of whitetip sharks set against the bottomless deep blue sea.

Oceanic whitetip shark on the reef
Silky Sharks and Caribbean Reef Sharks

By starting close to shore, we also managed to attract some small Caribbean reef sharks and a few silkies that were brave enough to mingle with their oceanic cousins. Silky sharks have beautiful silver skin that reflects metallically in the sunlight; a lovely species to catch on camera.

Silky shark and oceanic shark.
Dusky Shark!

When we drifted out of the bay into deeper water, a large dusky shark also joined the melee. A nice addition as most of our guests had not seen this species before.

Diving with dusky sharks
Oceanic over-unders.

Between dives, the crew were still diligently chumming to keep the oceanics around the boat, so I crouched on the swim step and did my best to capture some interesting split frame shots of the sharks from above and below. The sea was reasonably calm and the sharks were bold enough to come right up to the transom so its was relatively easy to compose a few shots.
Shooting split frame shots of sharks is a bit hit and miss because you can’t really tell what the camera is looking at. This is one of my favorite types of photography so I have picked up a few tricks over the years. If you join one of our oceanic trips and would like to take home similar images, let me know and I’ll try to help you nail the shot.

Oceanic Whitetip shark over under.
Thirteen Oceanic Whitetips Sharks!!!

On our third and final day in the water, we again started close to shore. As if we had planned it to be more impressive each day, by the end of our final drift we had picked up 13 oceanic whitetip sharks. There may have been even more but that was as many as I managed to count at one time.

Perhaps emboldened by sheer numbers, the sharks came even closer than they had on previous dives and I reminded everyone to pay extra attention to sharks approaching from behind. It is quite difficult to keep track of so many sharks, especially when you are floating in deep water with sharks approaching from all directions, including from below or above!

Diving with lots of oceanic whitetip sharks.
Join us next April for more oceanic whitetip shark diving

Everyone raved about how good the action was and expressed how professional the crew were. After a final night of revelry at Greenwood, we flew back to Nassau together and went our separate ways. Another excellent trip! Unless a huge storm comes through, this expedition is pretty much a slam-dunk, so if you want to tick this bucket list species off of your life list, join us next April for our 2020 Oceanic Whitetip Expedition

Diving with Oceanic whitetip sharks.