The tiny island of Bimini in the Bahamas has exploded onto the shark diving scene in recent years when word of the big great hammerhead sharks got out. The 2 small islands (North and South Bimini) have been attracting big names for decades due to both it’s sheer beauty and close proximity to the USA. As you walk around the island you will see monuments to Ernest Hemingway and Martin Luther King Jr who both famously visited Bimini regularly.
Today, Bimini is an adventure divers dream! It is easily the best known place on Earth to encounter large great hammerhead sharks. Our group of divers and photographers joined shark diving operators Epic Diving to spend five days on Bimini and found there is a lot more to these tiny islands than we thought. Here is a very brief day-by-day of our adventure.
Day 1- Blowout
It is winter in the Bahamas and cold fronts are difficult to avoid. Our first day saw huge winds and that meant no hammerheads for us. Bull sharks are a pretty damn great second choice though! We were staying at the Bimini Big Game Club which is home to large bull sharks in the winter. As many as a dozen are swimming beneath the marina docks at any given time. It proved very fruitful photographically to simply stick our cameras in the water when they were coming close.
Day 2 – Blowout Redux
Yes, the weather was still not cooperating. Spirit was still high among the group and no visit to Bimini is complete without a visit to the world famous Bimini Biological Field Station, AKA Sharklab. We got to hear all about our precious hammerheads and, my favourite photo subjects baby lemon sharks. A big thanks to the wonderful folks at Sharklab for the tour.
Day 3 – Hammertime
The winds died down just enough to get out on the water. We had to go to a little deeper (about 35 feet vs. the usual 20 feet) to find better visibility in the chop, but we got sharks! And how magnificent they are. This isn’t the first time I’ve dove with them, but I had forgotten just how big they are. So impressive!
Day 4 – Predator and Prey
The great hammerheads favourite prey are stingrays so we decided to split our day among both the sharks and the stingrays. The north end of Gun Cay is home to friendly southern stingrays. According to lore it used to be a calm place for fisherman to clean their catch and the stingrays got accustom to getting food from people. Now they will swim straight to you and even suck on your wetsuit or dome port. They are a lot of fun to be in the water with!
Day 5 – Bimini’s Famous
The final day brought flat calm seas. Finally! So, we set off to the north to swim with Bimini’s most famous residents, the friendly spotted dolphins. Within minutes of reaching the area we spotted some spotted dolphins and began driving the boat in circles to peak their interest. We then hopped off the duck board of the Thresher (Epic Diving’s epic boat) to swim with them. On the first jump my fin came off, but I recovered and a mother and calf took interest in us.
On the second jump my mask popped off, but I recovered and had one of those unforgettable encounters you always hear about. A dozen spotted dolphins swam right up to us and stayed with us. I am a huge supporter of the “look, but don’t touch” mentality when encountering wildlife, but on this rare occasion the dolphins chose to touch us. One in particular swam to me and pressed his or her body against my camera lens. I reached my hand out to gently push her away and she stopped swimming and leaned into my hand. I am not a “dolphin whisperer”, but I believe she wanted that contact.
On that massive high we spent the afternoon diving with and saying goodbye to the great hammerheads.
I need to extend a huge thank you to Vinnie and Debbie of Epic Diving for making this an unforgettable experience. Thank you to all the people who joined us for making both the in-water time and out-of-water time a real pleasure and keeping a positive attitude during those tough weather days. Thank you to the Sharklab and Grant, Sean and Katie for making this site what it is and helping us to make our experience as good as it was.
One more note: if you are thinking of going to Bimini to see their wonderful animals please keep in mind that using a local operator and staying at the local hotels and eating local food will spread the message that these natural resources bring in tourism dollars – a major economic reason to keep the animals and their habitats protected.