Best Oceanic Whitetip Shark Diving Ever
This year, we broke our own record. Every dive was phenomenal, but on our busiest day, we counted 23 Oceanic Whitetip Sharks swimming around us. There could well have been more, but that was the most anyone could keep track of.
More than enough Shark Action
Just before we flew in to Cat Island, a massive storm swept across the Bahamas. We missed the brunt of the storm, which eventually pounded the east coast of Florida with enough rain to flood Miami Airport.
Although all our guests arrived on time, we had to skip our first day because our boat was delayed by the storm. It was a frustrating start, but everyone stayed in good spirits. We usually only do two very long dives each day anyway, so we scheduled an extra dive on days two and three, to make up for lost time.
Our second day started really well. We saw our first oceanic whitetip shark within a few minutes of laying down a chum slick. By the time everyone had geared up and jumped in the water, there were already a handful of sharks swimming around the boat.
By the end of our first dive, I counted 12 oceanic whitetip sharks, hoping to grab a fishy snack.
Sharks all day
From a diver’s perspective, oceanic whitetips are the perfect shark because they are bold and they generally stay with the boat all day. Most of them don’t receive any food at all, and those that do manage to inhale a falling scrap of fish, don’t get anything close to a meal, but in the marine desert (deep water far from shore) meal times are few and far between, so the mere chance of a meal is worth sticking around for.
Consequently, when we jumped in for our second dive, we still had most of our sharks from the first dive. By the end of the third dive, their numbers had swelled to 18!
I have thought long and hard about the environmental impact of our trips on the longterm health of the sharks. If we were at Cat Island for a long time, our presence would no doubt have a negative effect because the sharks are wasting energy swimming around the boat, waiting for a meal that doesn’t materialize. But, as we are only at Cat Island for a few days each year, our impact is probably insignificant. Plus, the sharks almost certainly head off at night to find a decent meal to keep them going.
More Oceanic Action
Day three was essentially a repeat of day two. By the end of our third dive, we had at least 19 oceanic whitetip sharks around the boat.
Cramming three 90 minute dives into one day at sea was exhausting, especially two days in a row, but some of our shark fanatics couldn’t get enough. We still had to drag them out of the water, even after 4.5hrs of shark diving!
Water logged and happy, our divers returned to the hotel to dry everything out for the trip home. Meanwhile, I spent my time going through thousands of images of oceanic whitetip sharks, deleting all but the cream of the crop. I cursed myself for taking so many images, but oceanic whitetips are just so damn photogenic!
Oceanic Whitetips Trip Two:
When our next group arrived, the pressure was on. Some of the new guests had been following my Facebook and Instagram posts, so they knew how many sharks we had encountered. Fortunately, on our first day, we attracted a respectable 16 oceanic whitetips and a large dusky shark.
We had actually seen a dusky each day we were in the water, and continued to see it each day on the edge of the pack, until the end of the trip. Duskies can be quite bold but this one was obviously intimidated by the amount of beefy oceanic whitetip sharks around the bait crate, and kept its distance.
An AMAZING day at sea
The next morning, as soon as I jumped in, I knew it was going to be a great day. Within five minutes there were eleven oceanic whitetips in attendance. By the end of dive one, we had 15 sharks under the boat.
As usual, we spent an hour off-gassing between dives even though the dive depth was only about 8m/25ft. When it was finally time for our second dive, we jumped into oceanic whitetip shark soup! At one point I counted 22 sharks swimming around the bait crate and weaving between the divers. Considering the critically endangered status of oceanic whitetip sharks, it was an incredible sight to behold!
The dive masters were counting too. When we returned to the boat, they told me they had counted 23 Oceanics; two more than the existing record!
As the sharks were all around us in every direction, it was impossible to get a shot that had more than a dozen or so sharks, but you get the idea. Shark diving at its best!
On our final day at sea we saw a very respectable 17 oceanic whitetip sharks. It would have been fun to see even more than our record breaking previous day, but as the saying goes: Be careful what you wish for! 🙂
Between dives, we hung out on the swim step and tried photographing the sharks as they swum up to the back of the boat. It was a challenging shoot but really fun to try.
At the end of our final dive, that lone dusky finally plucked up the courage to swim up to me and actually gave my camera a quick goodbye bump before swimming off into the blue. A great end to a very exciting Oceanic Whitetip Shark trip!
Next year, we’ll be back at Cat Island for another adventure with the apex predators of the marine desert. As usual, we are timing our trip so that it runs back-to-back with our April Tiger Beach Liveaboard Trip, so if you’re keen to dive with an A-list of Bahamian sharks, this is your chance: