Tiger Beach, Bahamas earns its reputation for clear water, white sands, and 6 species sharks. After over a decade of leading shark trips it still fills me with awe and wonder and still gives me thrills like it was my first time. An international collection of divers was onboard from Denmark, Germany, Japan, USA, and Canada. For the Japanese guests lead by my good friend and co-leader Takaji Ochi, it was their first experience at Tiger Beach. The 5 -7 tiger sharks and the hammerheads, including one shark new to the area were a highlight.
Our trip started under threat of changing weather, but a smart decision by the Captain to leave a few hours early had us avoiding rough weather and a windy crossing. After clearing customs at west end and half way to Tiger beach we encountered a pod of dolphins. This was an unexpected encounter for this season. The captain asked if any guests wanted to jump in with them, so several guests jumped in with snorkel gear. Dolphins enjoy curiosities in their water and interacted with us for a while.
Join my next Tiger Beach Trip: See the schedule at http://www.TigerSharkDive.com
The numbers of large, mature, and often pregnant sharks at Tiger Beach is evidence that the protection measures by the Bahamian government are working and that the sharks are living natural life spans and thriving. Our tourism and the revenue it brings to the Bahamas is their reward for continuing to look after the sharks. With out Bahamian conservation efforts I believe there would not be many, if any, sharks at Tiger Beach today.
Photography at Tiger Beach
- Canon 5D MKIV
- Nauticam Housing
- Inon Z 330 Strobes
- EF 16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM
- Canon 5D MKIII
- EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye
- Nexus Anthis housing
- 2 Inon Z 240 strobes
I have this mounted ontop of my camera but also place it on a weighted base on the sand near the bait crates and just let it run. I get crazy close ups and swim overs. Sometimes it gets knocked around by the sharks.
Mavic Pro Drone
I fly this over the boat on clear days and while the guests are doing “lemon snaps” with sharks on the surface at the stern. (It is tricky to land a drone on a moving boat so I do not recommend this unless you are experienced with landing in challenging situations or hand catching)
Experimenting with Strobes
In the past I have found that my Inon Z 240 strobes were not always able to reach far enough to expose the passing shark. This year I brought my Inon Z 330 to see if the extra reach was an improvement. There was a noticeable difference with the Z 330 strobes.
Positioning for Photography and Using Sharks’ Behavior
Before diving, our captain and crew detail the shark attraction and diving procedures.
Underwater, divers find that the Tiger sharks swim slowly and all into a pattern circling the chum crates. They approach from down current then circle wide and back around to the crates. Our photographers can position themselves along the shark’s path for head on shots or overhead passes. Staying on the bottom and with minimal movement is the safest way to observe the sharks at close distance.
Sharks species of Tiger Beach
Tiger sharks are the stars of the show. Most are very large and mature females. We enjoy seeing the same sharks year after year and some have been given names so we can refer to them. They glide in a slow pattern among us and the bait crates, received a few bits of fish from the crew. Most are not shy but there seems to be a ranking order with smaller individuals pushed out.
For several seasons we have had a frequent hammerhead shark visitor to our dives at Tiger Beach. Shy at first, this hammerhead has progressed from shy in the periphery to standing up to the larger tigers in the commotion around the bait crates. Now “Patches” is a regular known to all the shark dive crews.
Now there is a new Hammer in town!
A new hammerhead shark has made her debut at Tiger Beach. Just like Patches this hammerhead was spotted in the distance but too shy to come to the divers, crates, and tigers. Now this huge female, “Cleopatra” mixes in the crowd and asserts herself like a matriarch. I even had the chance to photograph the two hammerheads and a tiger shark all in the same frame. It seems hammerheads are now ranging to Tiger Beach and not just off the shallows of Bimini. This is very welcome.
We have had a few bull sharks joining the mix in the last few years. This year there were a few hanging around on the dives. While nice to see and well behaved, due to their aggressive tactics, we do not let them get any of the bait for fear that if they do they will morph from manageable visitors to a dangerously unpredictable menace.
Lemon sharks have a permanent toothy grin and can sneek up on you. They have great character to their faces and are easy to get close to for photography.
Taking Lemon Snaps
We like to attract some lemon sharks to the surface at the back of the boat for a chance to take over/under split images of the sharks at the surface. Using a pole or other safe method (no hands!) we get surface level, shallow depth, or from above images of the lemons thrashing about at the bait.
Caribbean Reef Sharks
The CR sharks are very graceful and beautiful sharks that join in around the bait crates with the tigers, but also can be found circling under the boat and among schools of jacks. This shark, like its name is also found hovering over the small reefs found at Tiger Beach. This shark has no problem coming close to divers and will pass over to right near to you.
Most evenings everyone relaxes over a great meal and recharges after a long day of diving. We had a night of calm weather and low current so some of us took the opportunity to go for a night dive. We encountered a few bull sharks and quite a few lemon sharks.
I want to give special thanks to Captain Scott Smith and his crew for getting us in the middle of the action with the sharks and for the fantastic meals.
Check out my future Tiger Shark Dive Trips at http://www.TigerSharkDive.com