Running big animal diving trips can be a nerve wracking business. There is always the chance that the stars of the show might not show up. Fortunately, getting skunked at Tiger Beach is about as likely as seeing an iceberg float by in the Bahamas.
After a quick dip with the lemon sharks, our first tiger showed up right on schedule. From that point on, we enjoyed consistent tiger shark diving all week long.
Tiger Beach itself is a great place to dive with lemon sharks and a nice shallow dive site to check your buoyancy and get you camera and dive equipment dialed in before heading to other areas. The real action involving tigers, lemons, reef sharks and nurse sharks generally starts on day two when we visit Fish Tales; a deeper dive site about a mile away from Tiger Beach. When we headed there this year, the sharks were waiting!
Fish Tales is particularly good for photographers because it offers varied topography including reef structure, sandy substrates and sea grass beds. All of these make great backdrops for viewing and shooting tiger sharks and other species that are present here. During four wonderful days of shark diving, we set up bait stations all around Fish Tales and took advantage of every environmental setting that we could.
The dives we did on the sea grass were especially rewarding. It was a big animal photographer’s dream!
To make the trip even more exciting and challenging for the shooters in the group and as a visual spectacle for the rest of the guests, we ended each day with a round of ‘lemon snaps’ as the sun went down. The idea is to capture close up dramatic shots of lemons (or other sharks) half in and half out of the water. To achieve this, we dangle bait off the swim step of the Dolphin Dream and hold our cameras in position while the sharks make close passes and snap at the bait. It can be incredibly frustrating when you repeatedly miss the shot and hanging off the swim step is really hard on your back and joints (even the fittest guests agree on that!) but it’s worth every minute of discomfort when it finally comes together and you nail a dynamic shark portrait like this one.
One afternoon we sailed over to spot that sometimes attracts great hammerheads. This year we struck out but we still managed to attract a big tiger and all the other species we have been seeing.
Our last day at Fish Tales was our best yet with four large tigers, two dozen lemons, scores of reef sharks and three nurse sharks all swirling together around us at once. Keeping an eye on that many tigers can be a challenge because they like to sneak up on divers from behind. Fortunately, they are always very focused on the baits and do their best to avoid bumping divers.
From the tiger’s perspective, it must be quite tricky to wind through a dozen divers to reach the bait crate without inadvertently bumping in to one or two people. Looking at it that way, the tigers do an admirable job 🙂
Like all great trips, this year’s pilgrimage to Tiger Beach was over long before everyone was ready to leave. As the Dolphin Dream sailed back to West Palm Beach, we spent the evening wading through many thousands of images and hours of GoPro footage that we had collectively taken during five days in the water. Everyone got great shots. I’ll try to share some of them on our Big Fish Expeditions Facebook Page when I get a chance.