TIGER SHARKS. People fear them, controversy surrounds them and underwater photographers and adrenaline junkies, like me, seek them out. While their habitat worldwide is huge, stretching across much of the tropical and temperate zones of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, there are few places where tiger sharks are habitually seen.
If you want the best chance of seeing them in shallow, warm water with great visibility, Tiger Beach is the place to go.
A shallow sandbank off the Bahamas, Tiger Beach has become one of the top destinations to see tiger sharks, with sightings almost guaranteed, especially from October through June.
Several day-boat and liveaboard operations visit the area, bringing divers face to face with this apex predator.
Liveaboards are my preferred method of getting the most out of a dive trip (and the food is usually fantastic), so I set out with Master Liveaboards for a week of tiger-shark diving.
It took about 12 hours to get to Tiger Beach from Freeport, Bahamas. We stayed in the same general area all week, leaving the schedule wide open for shark-diving.
There were two types of dives: feedings, where a shark-handler would give fish to the sharks; and “open pool” sessions, where no active feeding occurred but there was bait hanging on the surface from the boat to attract sharks.
These tigers are known to be docile, but you could still feel the anticipation. We were willingly going to jump into the ocean near a bucket of fish-guts and wait for the sharks to come. I couldn’t wait.
Arriving mid-morning, we were briefed on the sharks and rules. Tiger sharks, named for their dark, shadow-like stripes, can grow up to 5m long and weigh more than 600kg. Fun fact: their stripes fade with age, so basically they go grey when they get old. We were likely to see only females, and from the previous week’s reports, several were pregnant.
The sharks of Tiger Beach are becoming so well-known that many have been given names. Our dive-crew spoke lovingly of Princess, and Emma, and how to identify them and others.
Finally, it was time to enter the water. With the safety diver positioning us, we formed our semi-circle around the feeder, with the area in front of her open for the sharks.
It didn’t take long. About the time I got situated in my spot (we were deliberately overweighted to keep us anchored to the bottom) one was swimming right into the open space between us.
The tiger glided towards the feeder like a model on the red carpet laid out in front of us. Cameras flashing, she went straight to the feeder and was handed a fish.