A Big Fish Expeditions Trip Report
Tiger Beach 2021 in a Nutshell
Another awesome trip to Tiger Beach! The reef sharks were as thick as always, lemon sharks aplenty, a handful of nurse sharks, a lone bull shark, and five beefy tigers including the rockstar tiger that some divers call Emma. A very respectable turnout considering that many of the regulars are probably far away after not receiving any treats for almost a year due to ‘you know what’.
Windy with a chance of Sharks
After 13 months of almost total isolation at our home base on Vancouver Island, it felt very strange to be walking through airports once again, but mostly I was excited to be back in the world and heading to one of the best shark diving locations of the planet. For everyone’s peace of mind, we asked all of the guests to present either a negative you-know-what test or proof of vaccination. Other than that, the trip started like any other, with an overnight crossing from Florida to Grand Bahama and onward to world famous Tiger Beach!
The seas were calm when we reached our checkout dive spot; an ancient anchor chain cemented by time into a winding coral reef. This is a good spot for buoyancy checks as the sandy bottom is forgiving and there are usually enough lemon sharks to wet people’s appetites for more intense shark dives to come.
During the dive, a violent squall appeared out of nowhere, bringing howling winds that made exiting the water quite challenging. The windspeed was enough send us running to the lea side of the bank (it’s not actually a beach) where we could relax for the evening and prepare for day two.
On our second day we headed straight for Fish Tales. This awesome reef has the greatest shark density and diversity of any spot in the entire area. We actually spent the rest of our trip diving at this spot, which may seem a little samey to the uninitiated, but every dive here is different. When we arrived, the viz was a bit shabby because of the previous day’s wind but it was good enough for viewing the two tigers that showed up almost immediately.
Close Encounters with Tiger Sharks
After 17 trips here, the tigers feel very familiar to me, but some of this year’s first timers were understandably apprehensive about diving with enormous apex predators. Before long, everyone seemed quite relaxed, even though the tigers made countless close passes.
By day three the viz was getting much better, so I began concentrating on my trip portfolio i.e. capturing images of each guest next to tiger shark or two. Although there are always tigers around, getting a nice shot of each guest in a good position is harder than you might think.
I also try to send the guests home with a nice selection of shots of all the species we see, preferably in artistic compositions. I particularly like this shot of a lemon shark taken just before it blocked out the sun.
We generally conduct four dives a day if the weather holds, plus one or two night dives. At night we pull the baits out of the water so that the sharks are more relaxed but many of them still hang around. Its fun exploring the reef while being buzzed by sharks that you can’t see coming.
Shark Feeds and Free Dives
Over the course of the trip, the dives are split evenly between shark feeds where one of the crew brings a bait crate down to the sand and hand feeds the tigers as they swim up-current, and ‘free dives’ where the guests go off exploring the reef while surrounded by sharks. During the feeds each tiger gets a very small amount of fish so that they come nice and close for images but do not become overly aggressive. The photography opportunities during the feeds are quite spectacular!
Timid Bull Shark
Although bull sharks have a fearsome reputation, in my experience the few that show up at Tiger Beach are extremely timid. Likely this is because they never receive any treats from the feeders because we don’t want them to become aggressive. This is definitely the right policy but it does make it tricky to get decent images.
Not so timid Nurse Sharks!
On the other hand, nurse sharks are more than happy to pose for the camera if you can drag them away from sucking on the bait crate! lol.
Lemon Snaps at Sunset
At the end of our fourth day at Tiger Beach, once the divers were out of the water we enticed the lemons towards the swim step for a quick round of lemon snaps. This is one of my favorite forms of photography but I like to wait until late in the trip because the sharks tend to get rather feisty and can easily scuff your camera’s dome port. This year I got some nice keepers and I’m happy to say my that camera housing was completely unscathed even though it took a few bumps.
As if we planned it that way, the visibility and shark action got better and better as the week progressed. On our last day the visibility was excellent and the sharks were omnipresent. Even the tiger shark that some divers call ‘Emma’ made an appearance; a large female tiger with a calm disposition. Some reports put her at 6m+ but I estimate she is about 4.5m from nose to tail, a respectable size even without exaggeration.
More Eye Candy
I could ramble on about Tiger Beach until the sharks come home but they say a picture paints a thousand words so I’ll leave you with a gallery of images from this year’s trip. Enjoy, stay safe, and please contact us if you’re interested in joining us on next year’s Tiger Beach Expedition