Great Hammerheads, Tigers, and so much more!
Our 2023 Shark Diving Safari in sunny Bimini was wildly successful! We dove with five different Great Hammerhead Sharks, two Tiger Sharks, twenty or more Reef Sharks, too many Nurse Sharks, a handful of Blacknose Sharks, and a couple of juvenile Oceanic Blacktip Sharks. Not to mention lots of Rays and a pod of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins. The fantastic weather and a great group of enthusiastic shark divers didn’t hurt either 🙂
Four Great Hammerheads on our first day in Bimini
The trip started very well. It can be windy in the Bahamian winter but the forecast for our week was dreamy; clear skies and barely any wind. On our first dive day, it only took a few minutes to attract the first hammerhead. The first one to arrive was named Gaia; an enormous female hammerhead that always swims with her mouth open.
From that point on we had consistent hammer action all day.
Nurse Shark Splits
We split our group into two dive teams. That way we could rotate continuously so that we always had divers and a feeder in the water. This is our way to ensure that we kept our sharks around the boat.
During our surface intervals, some of us spent time at the back of the boat snapping split frame shots of nurse sharks. It was a bit challenging for me because I only had a 10cm dome but the lake-like ocean conditions helped quite a lot.
Second to arrive was Celine; a very clean looking great hammerhead that quickly swam in for a snack whenever Gaia was out of the way.
Atlas and Enyo
In the afternoon, Atlas and Enyo showed up. Atlas is easily recognizable by the notch out of his tall dorsal fin, whereas Enyo has a deep wound on its flank, but that will likely heal completely by next season. The ability to heal quickly and fight infections is a trait shared by all sharks.
The deep cut was clearly caused by humans, but its hard to say if it was a propeller strike, a large hook that dragged, or something more malicious like a knife wound inflicted by a fisherman. Either way, Enyo will almost certainly survive this run in.
The next morning we saw a couple of hammers when we first showed up at our hammer site. One was Celine, the other was a mystery hammerhead that I’ll just call Hammerhead #5. Neither hammer stuck around because a small tiger showed up within a few minutes of the group getting in the water.
At first she was a bit shy but she soon got more comfortable and spent the entire day enjoying the snacks that the feeder let her have. No more than 2-2.5m in length, she still displayed her bold juvenile markings which start as spots, then merge to form bars (tiger stripes), and eventually fade into nothing as tigers reach old age.
During our second dive with the new tiger, Joker showed up. Joker is a much larger tiger shark that has been sporadically resident in Bimini for a few years now. I was pleased to see that on this visit, she was very pregnant with the next generation of little tiger sharks.
Hammerheads and Reef Sharks
In the afternoon we left the tigers and motored over to Triangle Rocks for a dive with Caribbean Reef Sharks. Although we dive with hammerheads everyday, we pitch our Bimini trips as proper ‘Shark Safaris’ during which we try to dive with as many shark and ray species as possible.
The Caribbean Reef Sharks at Triangle Rocks always put on a good show. As soon as we pulled up, they immediately surrounded the boat and stayed with us until we pulled anchor and headed back to shore.
I love the diversity among elasmobranchs (sharks and rays). During the Caribbean Reef Shark dive, I went exploring and soon found a couple of Yellowspotted Round Stingrays to photograph. These pretty little rays glow an electric yellow in Bimini’s shallow seas.
The next morning, we heading out onto an ocean made of glass. There was not a breath of wind or any current. Looking through the surface, we could see every ripple in the sand as we motored along. As nice as this was to see, it was not ideal for attracting hammerheads because you need a little current and wind to create a chum slick that the sharks can find. Conversely, this was an excellent day to head to Gun Cay to dive with stingrays and blacknose sharks in the shallows, so that’s exactly what we did.
Gun Cay’s resident Southern Stingrays immediately swam over as we were anchoring the boat. We slipped in and enjoyed a very long dive in 2-3m of water while the rays circled around us.
When we were done with the stingrays, we swam into the shallows, where the boat crew were busy attracting blacknose sharks. Far from apex predators, blacknose sharks are less than a meter long, and quite skittish around big animals, including humans!
With a little effort and patience, we all managed to enjoy some close encounters with this tiny species that very few divers get to see.
Juvenile Oceanic Blacktip Sharks
Another species you can see at Gun Cay is the Oceanic Blacktip Shark. We only ever see juveniles and they’re extremely shy, so this is the best shot I got of one, but it was still nice to see them and brought our elasmobranch count up to 8 species for the trip!
Incidentally, you won’t see these species if you go to Bimini on a liveaboard because those boats can’t get into the shallow bays where these sharks live. This is why we we work with local day boats. It also funnels money back into the local Bahamian economy.
Atlantic Spotted Dolphins
Taking advantage of the phenomenal weather, in the afternoon we went offshore to search for Atlantic Spotted Dolphins. It did not take long to find a friendly pod that were willing to play with us for a while.
Hammers and Tigers on our last day
The next morning, the wind had picked up enough to lay down a decent chum slick, so it didn’t take long to bring in hammerheads.
During the day, we saw four different hammers and our little tiger that the crew had named Harley Quin; Joker and Harley Quin both being characters in DC comics.
Great Shark Photo Ops!
It was a great last day. Our shark feeders did an excellent job of keeping the sharks interested without filling them with too much bait. Each time they gave them a tiny piece of fish, they would purposely lead the shark in one direction or another so that everyone could get shots of a huge hammerhead right in from of them.
No Bull Sharks
Curiously, no bull sharks showed up this year, not even around Big Game Club Marina where we usually get a chance to shoot ‘bull shark splits’. Regardless, it was a fantastic trip with great shark encounters everyday.
Future Bimini Shark Safaris
If this trip sounds so good that you’d like to join us next year, I’m afraid that we’re already full but no one is on the waiting list yet so please drop me a line if you’d like to be at the top of the list. Its a long way off, but we’re already booking spots for 2025, please sign up early if you’d like to join me on this fun adventure:
Bimini Hammerhead Shark Diving Safari