I’ve dived with, and filmed, Tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) before in Aliwal shoals, KwaZulu Natal with Blue Wilderness. Diving in South Africa is always challenging and exciting but I’d seen images from the Bahamas and it’s clear (gin clear in fact) that it is a great place to get stunning, well lit images in clear water. Jim Abernathy was the pioneer of diving with these large animals in the Bahamas without protection so when Jason Isley and I had the chance to go and shoot photo and video for an online project we straight away booked up with Jim and his team.
The M/V Shearwater was our home for the 6 day trip. It’s a far cry from the big wooden Pinisi boats I’m used to diving from in Indonesia but it is well specced out for the job. It fits up to 10 guests, there’s an excellent dive deck on the back, free flowing food and drink, and a professional and friendly crew. One of the advantages of liveaboard diving is the ability to maximise your time underwater and Jim takes this to a new level. The boat would basically anchor just off the dive site and once the bait had been set we were free to head down the mooring line and dive (in buddy teams) at our own schedule and pace throughout the day. Most sites are relatively shallow, and the water is warm, so we pulled some very long dives. Life was basically diving and surface intervals. There was, of course, always a member of Jim’s team by the bait, orchestrating the proceedings.
The encounters were exceptional. Large tiger sharks, very close, in stunning conditions, and usually surrounded by caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi). We managed to get images on seagrass beds, over coral formations, on pristine white sand etc etc. When there were lulls in the tiger shark activity there were always plenty of caribbean reef sharks around to shoot, plus the occasional nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) and lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris). There’s a list of most of the common species you might encounter on Jim’s website. The encounters really lived up to my (high) expectations. Being on site all day meant we could really work the light and get in for those magic moments in the early morning and late evening when otherwise you’d be heading back to shore. We were on the cusp of the great hammerhead season so chanced our last day at a more remote site looking for hammers. We struck out there but it was worth a shot. Overall it was a great experience and one I hope to repeat in the near future. Thanks to Jim for the use of the images here.
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