Locations For Photographing Sharks In The Bahamas
Sharks are popular subjects with many underwater photographers, but where is the best place to photograph them? On most dives, the chances of seeing a shark are quite low, and if you are looking to photograph a specific species, you need to know where to find them. The Bahamas have long been a destination for shark diving and shark photography, so if you're wanting to know where the sharks are, keep reading.
Most flights into The Bahamas arrive in Nassau, and once you're off the plane, it's only a few miles to a shark hot spot. Stuart Cove's dive operator has been conducting shark dives out of Nassau for years. In fact, you may have noticed their pink boats or metal bait boxes on Shark Week. They will take you out for 2 dives over the course of an afternoon. The main species of shark that you will encounter is the Caribbean Reef Shark, but you might get lucky and see others like nurse sharks or lemon sharks. The reef sharks are several feet long, and are pretty curious, which means you'll have plenty of chances to get some nice shots. The first dive is done without feeding the sharks, and you just cruise along the reef with the sharks following along. The second dive is totally different, so get ready for lots of action. The divers go down first, and form a semi circle on the bottom. It's a good idea to use a little extra weight to keep you stable, because you won't be swimming on this dive. After everyone is in place, the feeder comes down with the bait box, and things get going then. On this dive there are dozens of sharks coming in for that food, and it's intense. They will bump into you, but they are only interested in the food, not you. It's impossible to keep an eye on all of them, because they are coming from every direction. The dive operator will film you and take photos so you can have documentation of your shark encounter to show your friends.
My Tip: Use a wide angle lens and fast shutter speed. The first dive is better for photography because everyone is spread out, including the sharks, so it's easier to compose your image. The second dive is more chaotic.
Bimini is only about 30 miles off the beaches of Miami, and is the closest island in the Bahamas to the US. The shark star attraction here is the great hammerhead. These are the largest of the hammerhead sharks, and are usually solitary, but in the winter and early spring months they congregate around Bimini for some reason. Great hammerheads are easily recognized by their disproportionately large sickle shaped dorsal fin. The diving here is pretty easy, as you just giant stride off the back of the boat, and drop down to the sand in about 20 feet of water. Then you just hang out and watch the show. The sharks are lured in by chum which drains out of a nasty bucket on the back of the boat. Once they pick up the scent they come to the boat. The chum will attract any shark, so you will also get nurse sharks and bull sharks, which are usually the first ones to show up. Most of the time you wait to get in the water until the great hammerheads show up, but if it's a slow day, you may get in with whatever sharks show up. The sharks here are fed, but only the great hammerheads. The shark feeder will try to keep the bull sharks and the nurse sharks away by not giving them any food. Typically you will see around 4 great hammerheads on a dive, but I've seen as many as 8, and as few as 0, but on most dives you get hammers. As far as photography goes, you will want to use a fisheye lens because these sharks will come very close, and you'll need that lens to get their whole body in frame. Please note, the sand here is like powder, and it gets stirred up by the divers and the sharks alike. Backscatter will be an issue in your photographs. Also, pay attention to your strobe position. The sand is white, and the underside of the sharks is white, so it's easy to overexpose these areas, but on the other hand, sometimes the sand acts as a reflector and lights the sharks from below.
My tip: Resist the urge to get right up by the bait box and feeder where all the action is. You will get better images with fewer divers and less sand in the water if you position yourself out to the side and photograph the sharks as the approach.
This island is a kind of remote, and less developed, which is nice because there are very few tourists, and you get to experience a less crowded side of the Bahamas. The dives here are in the open ocean, and you will encounter oceanic white tip sharks here. These beautiful sharks are know for their paddle shape fins and with white mottled tips. No other shark looks like these. You will both snorkel, and dive with these sharks at Cat Island. Snorkeling is off the back of the boat, and you sort of hang on to a line at the surface. The dives are done in deep open ocean water, and a bait box is attached to a line about 30 feet from the surface. Oceanic white tips are a pelagic species, live in deep water, and they are rarely seen over reefs. They don't come across anything much in the open ocean, so when they do see something, they want to check it out, and this means they will take an interest in you. These sharks are bold, and will come right up to you without hesitation. Don't be afraid, but you have to stand your ground with these guys. If you hold up your camera rig, they might try to swim around it, just stand your ground. The water here is deep cobalt blue, and it's as far down as you can see. I've never seen more beautiful water anywhere in the world. In addition to the oceanics, you might see silky sharks, marlin, or mahi mahi if you are lucky. Some of my favorite shark images were taken here, and I highly recommend this location.
My tip: If you have a Go Pro, attach it to your housing and shoot video of the action. You're friends will be blown away.
Ah, Tiger Beach, probably the most famous shark diving location in the world. This is a shallow area off the coast of Grand Bahama Island, and you can visit it via liveaboard, as well as land based operations. Like Bimini, the water is about 20 feet deep, and you go down to the sandy bottom, and hang out. The most common species of shark here is the lemon shark, and there are a lot of them, however, the tiger sharks are the main attraction. People have been diving with tiger sharks here for many years, and there are some regular sharks that are so frequent they've been given names. Emma, a large female tiger shark, is a superstar, and she's appeared on several episodes of Shark Week. The water here is super clear, and the sharks come very close, so you should be able to get great images. Again, a fisheye lens is the way to go, as these sharks will come very close to you. Tiger Beach is not just one dive site, but a large area, so you'll have the chance to photograph the sharks in different settings like sandy bottom, grasses, and reefs. In recent years, great hammerheads have started showing up at Tiger Beach, and some lucky photographers are getting images with several species all in one shot. For these reasons, I would say that Tiger Beach is the best location in the Bahamas for shark photography.
My tip: Look behind you often. Tiger sharks are very sneaky, and tend to sneak up on you from behind, so the best opportunity for a photo might be right behind you.
So there you go, a quick run down of the best locations in the Bahamas for shark photography. Have fun diving there, and tag me on Instagram so I can see your shark photos.