...Highlights: tiger sharks, hammerheads, shark action, dolphins...
...Diving environment: bait dive, beginner & advanced divers, very popular...
25 miles / 40 km off the West End of Grand Bahama, lies the world famous dive site, Tiger Beach. There is no beach here but there sure are tigers! Tiger Beach is actually a shallow submerged sandy bank and it is the best place in the Caribbean, and one of the best places in the world, for diving with awesome tiger sharks. Discovered in the 1980s, this is a special place due to the reliability of encounters and the stunning visibility (100 ft/30m) which makes wide angle photography so popular here.
Many of the tiger sharks are large (up to 18 ft/5.5m) and female and well known to the local Tiger Beach dive guides. They have a fearsome reputation as one of the 3 most dangerous sharks on Earth (to humans) so to see them in their natural habitat without the need for a cage is an amazing thrill. They are here all year round and you could be lucky to see more than a dozen of them on a single dive. They are easily identified by their size and by the presence of vertical stripes down their flanks. They also have wide, square heads and large, dark eyes. Shark-fishing is prohibited in the Bahamas so the tigers are fully protected and clearly thriving in the waters around the islands.
Dives normally begin with the feeder (a dive guide) entering the water alone to set up the bait. This usually takes the form of a bucket or crate full of fish chunks which he/she takes to the bottom at 20 ft/6m. The scuba diver guests would then enter the water and line up either side or behind the feeder, with the chum slick running down current, parallel and between the 2 rows of divers. The tigers are attracted by the scent trail from the fish and swim down the line, giving everyone spectacular views of these huge predators. Due to the shallow nature of the site, each dive could be up to 2 hours in length!
Shark feeds / bait dives have been conducted here since 2003 and the sharks of Tiger Beach are well accustomed to being fed and to sharing their environment with divers. However, tiger sharks are dangerous and this is a very genuine high-adrenaline scuba experience where you must follow the rules for diving here. This means remaining calm at all times but being alert and paying attention to your guide at all times. Keep your eyes on the sharks, do not turn your back, and warn fellow divers if a tiger is approaching them from behind.
The area sometimes experiences currents so overweight yourself considerably so that you can remain on the bottom without stirring up the sand. Don’t plan on spending much time swimming around because you do not want to find yourself being carried away by the current surrounded by so many sharks! Wear a dark wetsuit and gloves, carry a crook to nudge curious sharks away, keep your hands to yourself, and stay out of the chum slick! If you take a camera, you can use this to push the sharks away because it is often the electronic waves that attract the curious sharks. It is not necessary to be an advanced or experienced diver to enjoy Tiger Beach, but you do need to maintain self-control.
On most occasions you will see tiger sharks here, but even if you don’t see so many, there is plenty of other action to see on the powdery white sand. 20 to 30 lemon sharks (max 10 ft/3m) are almost always present at Tiger Beach. These sharks are less intimidating than their fearsome shark cousins but it is a real buzz to see them nonetheless. They tend to be boisterous and approach from low on the sandy bottom and leer at divers with their ragged teeth and liquid gold eyes. They are named after the color of their skin, which is an iridescent yellow in the sunlight.
You will also see packs of Caribbean reef sharks, nurse sharks, and occasionally bull sharks and solitary great hammerheads. The bull sharks and great hammerheads are also potentially dangerous and must be given plenty of respect. The nearby reef is also teeming with marine life, and you can see large groupers, snappers, and Atlantic spotted dolphins during the summer months. There are sea fans, barrel sponges, hard and soft corals.
The Bahamas were the first country in the world to set up an MPA, and the 4th country to ban shark fishing. The nation clearly recognizes the importance of sharks in maintaining healthy fish stocks and the fine balance of nature. Tiger sharks (scientific name: Galeocerdo cuvier) are listed as red (“near threatened”) by the IUCN and bring in 100s of millions of much needed dollars to the local economy, helping to maintain the balance between humans and these amazing sharks.
You can dive at Tiger Beach throughout the year but the winter gestation months from October through January generally offer encounters with more tiger sharks in cooler water. Many of the sharks migrate to the open Atlantic ocean near Bermuda for the northern hemisphere spring and summer time (the period when the seas are calmest). Great hammerheads are most likely to be seen between December and March, while other sharks species are here all year round.
Diving at Tiger Beach can lead to a kaleidoscope of emotions - nerves, fear, intimidation, awe, excitement, and finally an incredible sense of thrill at witnessing their raw power.
Reef Summary: tiger shark feed
Depth: 5 - 6m
Visibility: 30 - 40m
Currents: Can be moderate
Surface conditions: Usually calm
Water temperature: 72 - 84°F (22 - 29°C)
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: 2
Diving season: All year round
Distance: 20 miles / 32 km (1 hr) west of Grand Bahama
Access: Liveaboard only