One of the most terrifying yet majestic creatures to grace our many oceans is the shark. Millions of years of evolution has given us one of the most effective and sophisticated killing machines to ever go on record.
With such an impressive reputation, it’s no surprise that thrill seekers from around the globe go out of their way to witness these magnificent animals for themselves. One destination that shark enthusiasts favour above all else is, of course, the Bahamas. And for good reason too.
The archipelago nation is home to one of the world’s healthiest populations of sharks, with numerous breeds occupying its shores. With such mind-blowing numbers, sharks have now become the main attraction of the Bahamas.
Tourism, as with many other Caribbean nations, is what the Bahamas owes a lot of its economic income to. Millions of travellers come each year to the “Shark Diving Capital of the World” to experience the amazing activities on display. As you may have already guessed, sharks are one of the most valuable assets the Bahamian economy has and is one of the reasons the nation welcomes their presence with such open arms.
In 2011, the Bahamas was the fourth country to ban shark fishing. The 630,000 square kilometers of ocean surrounding the country is now one of the world’s biggest shark sanctuaries that actively promotes ecotourism.
Types of Shark Encounters
You’ll no doubt come across many eco-friendly shark encounter dive trips across the Bahamas. Nassau, Grand Bahama Island, Walker's Cay, Long Island and Andros are just a few stunning destinations perfect for meeting these powerful yet shy creatures.
There are plenty of ways to meet and swim with wild sharks too. For a less intimidating but equally exhilarating experience, you may find cage diving to be what you’re looking for. For the adrenaline junkies, on the other hand, cageless shark diving is the more extreme option.
No matter the encounter, safety is a number one concern for dive operators. Each site across the country is well-supervised and safely regulated to make sure your interaction with the sharks is fun and carefree.
What Kinds of Sharks Are in the Bahamas?
You’ll be met with an abundance of shark species during every one of your diving expeditions. Regular feeds co-ordinated by dive centres around the islands mean that sites are never devoid of shark activity. Here are the most famous members of the shark family that call the waters around the Bahamas home.
Caribbean Reef Shark
The Caribbean Reef Shark is the most common species you’ll see on your dives and is one of the largest apex predators to live in the reef ecosystem. Measuring up to 3 metres (9.8 feet) long, its features include a short and rounded snout, five-gill slits and a dusky-coloured fin.
Usually the Caribbean Reef Shark is shy and indifferent towards divers, they are by no means aggressive. They are known to prefer shallow waters and you can normally find them on or around coral reefs.
Blacktip Reef Shark
Easily identified by the prominent black tips on its fins, the Blacktip Reef Shark is the second most common shark you’ll see following the Caribbean Reef Shark. This species can typically grow to around 1.6 metres (5.2 feet).
Bashful by nature, they are quite timid compared to other species of shark. Divers and snorkelers alike will find them in shallow waters patrolling around reef ledges and sandy flats in groups made up of both juveniles and adults.
Found in the Bahamas and other warm waters around the world, the tiger shark is a nomadic species constantly on the move. Slightly more elusive than the blacktip and Caribbean reef shark, divers are more likely to see them around the deep waters that line reefs.
Commonly known as the "Sea Tiger", due to the dark stripes found along its body. These markings fade as the shark ages and upon reaching adulthood they are capable of attaining an astounding length of over 5 metres (16.5 feet) long, making it the biggest shark species in the region.
The Bahamas is famous for its relationship with the lemon shark. Pioneering research carried out by the acclaimed Dr. Samuel H. Gruber, affectionately known as ‘Doc’, revealed to the world just how complicated the lives of sharks can be.
Lemon sharks can grow to 3.4 metres (11 feet) in length and inhabit areas such as river mouths, bays, and coral reefs. The mangrove swamps of the North Bimini Lagoon are the best place to find them in the Bahamas. The Bimini Sharklab offers opportunities for you to get closer and learn a great deal about this fascinating species.
What is Tiger Beach?
Tiger Beach is the number one destination to swim with and photograph tiger sharks in the whole of the Bahamas. The appropriately named beach is located in the West End district of Grand Bahama Island and is known to be consistently swamped with thousands of tiger sharks. The small, shallow sand flat is ranked among the top 10 most shark-infested beaches in the world.
Nowhere else in the Caribbean has such bountiful opportunity to photograph these striped wonders. Both amateur and professional photographers will relish photographing these sharks against a wonderfully photogenic underwater backdrop.
Most of the tigers around this area are female. Some have obtained a celebrity-like status among regular divers. Hook, for example, is a shark widely recognised by divers for her bent lower jaw.
The beach sees plenty of divers every year, so there is no need to be nervous. As long as you respect these large predators, you’ll be more than safe. Just listen to your guide and you’ll have an exhilarating shark encounter free from danger.