||The Arrival November 24, 2007
The adventure begins. I flew into West Palm Beach Airport this morning, with all my clothes, dive gear, SDM mags (can't ever forget those!) and of course my camera gear. Fortunatly they made it in, lost gear during airline travels always scares me. Our staff shooter, Paul Spielvogel was with me. I was pumped, it has been a year since I have been to Tiger Beach, and I was looking forward to my return.
I arrived at Scott's liveaboard boat the "Dolphin Dream II". I know the name of his boat is bad mojo for a shark trip, but I like to think the boat is named after a shark's ultimate fantasy feast. Our guests had already started arriving, which was good, the quicker they arrived, the faster Scott could leave and get us into the Bahamas and those shark infested waters. This was a real good group of Sharky people going with us, and other than Paul, and my Horror movie film producer buddy, Brian Clevland, ("the effluvium of Death permeanted the ocean before I jumped in - Quote from Brian). I had yet to meet any of them yet. Wolfgang Leander was joining us on this adventure. I was excited about meeting him. We had a Q&A session with Wolfgang in Issue 15, of SDM as part of our Hardcore Shark Diver feature, but I had yet to share an adventure with him. I know he is going to be sharky, but how much so I don't know yet...
Day 1 -November 25, 2007
Today was a good start. We cleared Bahamian customs in the morning, and arrived at Tiger Beach in the afternoon. Normally we have to wait a few hours before the sharks show up. Last year, we waited 5 hours before the first lemons showed. This year, the moment we arrived at Tiger Beach the lemons showed up. It was maybe 10 minutes into the chum session and we had sharks. Within the hour we had maybe 15-20 large lemon sharks in the water. No tigers showed, but we are patient. I do think the lemons are starting to keep the tigers at bay.
So we spent the day diving with the lemons, and we kept an eye out for the tigers. We are hoping for a better day tomorrow, with more sharks. Tigers are always slow to showing up, and very skiddish when they do. It takes a while before they come in, so a full day of chumming will be good for us. Tiger beach promises plenty of shark action, we already have lots of lemons, and one tiger shark player is all we need to keep us happy. So tomorrow I hope will be good. Don't get me wrong, big lemons are fun sharks to dive with, but there is something about monster sized tiger sharks that is just exciting!
Wolfgang spent 9 1/2 hours straight in the water. I knew he was going to be sharky. Wolfgang only dives using snorkel. He has never dove with scuba tanks, and never will. He really is amazing to watch out there.
Day 2 - November 26, 2007
We woke up this morning with the crys from chief shark wrangler, captain Andy that there was a great hammerhead under the boat. I jumped up fast, threw on my swim shorts and raced out to the back deck. I was hoping this was not a fake call and they were just trying to get me up. It was not a lie, the shark was there. It was around 8AM in the morning, and everyone was suiting up quickly. I gave instructions that everyone was to start the day on snorkel. Great hammerheads are skiddish and they will not hang around for very long if they are spooked. And a bunch of scuba divers would frighten the shark. I wanted to make sure everyone got to see this beautiful shark before it took off. A hammer at Tiger Beach is very special and rare.
My experience with great hammerheads is that they do not stay for very long around people. I felt that our best shot for some good and long interaction was on snorkel.
The lemons numbers grew overnight. Now numbering in the 30's. Wolfgang was the first in the water. I was dressing when I heard him call out from around 50 yards behind the boat, "Tiger shark!" I jumped in, seeking out the legendary hammer, as well as trying to find the tiger.
I saw the tiger shark, maybe 10 minutes later. Not too long after that I spotted a second tiger shark. The sharks were here so we dropped in on scuba, and the best thing happened - the great hammerhead stuck around. In fact it stayed with us all day and night. As I am writing this at 10 PM, the hammerhead is still swimming around out there. No words can really describe what today was like. Our shark tally was 30 plus lemon sharks, 7 different tiger sharks, and one great hammerhead. An EPIC day.
We closed the day with one night dive, and we testing Scott's new shark wrangling rig. He is trying to get it ready for the Discovery shark week film crew coming out with them in 2 weeks. It worked great, I dropped my camera in and played with the sharks.
I will be part of the Discovery camera crew on the trip, so I need to get my camera skills all dialed in. Of course, we tried wrangling at night and my white balance was set for day time settings so the footage was a bit red, but I did have fun and I learned more about what I need to do to get the proper kind of footage for a shoot like this. How to hold the camera, where to put the camera, what to do with the lights, and so on. Always working out the bugs.
Day 3 - November 27, 2007
Today was a good day. We did not have a lot of tiger shark action, only two different tigers hung around throughout the day. It didn't really matter because we still had our beloved great hammerhead shark hanging around. How do you go wrong with that. Two days playing with a great hammerhead shark. Totally amazing that the shark has hung around this long. Seeing that beautiful shark swimming around, inches above the sand in that clear blue water is something I will remember forever.
Towards the end of the day, Andy our chief shark wrangler freshened up the bait crates and decided to throw out the old bait. He dumped it in and the sharks went totally ballistic. It was awesome to see, all the lemons swarmed the bait, churning up the sand. It looked like a tornado with a rising sand storm. I moved in closer to film this spectacle. Try to imagine 20 plus, 8 foot sharks all muscling in to find fish scraps in the sand. It looked like a pack of wild dogs fighting down there. Even the hammerhead joined in, but by the time she showed up, all the food was gone. I watched it all saying to myself, "gnaaarly" The days shark tally - Two tigers, one great hammerhead shark, and 30 plus lemons.
We finished the day with another night dive. I asked Andy if he could throw out scraps on this dive as well. I wanted to amp it up before we finished diving today. I of course informed all our night divers that there was going to be a feeding frenzy on the dive, so if they wanted a normal night dive with sharks, then they could go first, and we would wait till they were done. All our night divers wanted in on this action, (you got to love SDM readers!).
I want you to imagine the Cocos night dive with swaming whitetip reef sharks. The sharks are everywhere hunting for prey, seeking out sleeping fish to eat. There are hundreds of them crawling all over each other. Ok, now imagine a mini version of that, but with 8-9 foot lemon sharks - but on steroids! I know it is not exactly the same, since this was a shark feed vs. a natural hunting encounter. It was so damn crazy, the lemons went nuts swimming everywhere, crashing into everything. It was the most intense night dive I have ever witnessed.
Our readers loved it, and I can't wait to do it again tomorrow. As a bonus, our great hammerhead swam out into the middle of it all. A night dive with a great hammerhead shark.
Day 4 November 28, 2007
Our hammerhead is still hanging around. Three days with this big beautiful animal, totally amazing.
The days was good, we had tigers in the morning. They stayed back a bit today, but that was ok. We all got plenty of pictures of them. We did witness some unique things with the lemons toay. Many of the lemons dropped into the sand and just laid there, pumping water into their gills. This place has also become somewhat of a cleaning station.
The lemons will sometimes swim or rest with their mouths wide open, and these tiny little remoras will drop in and clean their mouths, that is very exciting to witness.
The day ended with our last night dive. Only the lemons were around, so again, we cracked a crate and watched this crazy night dive. To finish the show, our great hammerhead (now named Julia) came into the middle of the arena and powered her way around again, looking for scraps. A nice finish to a great day of diving.
Day 5, November 29, 2007
Our last day in the water, and the tigers were in full force. Julia was still with us as well. She seemed comfortable with the tigers that showed up today. Todays dive was everything you want from a tiger shark dive and everything you don't. We started the morning with 6 tiger sharks. One of them, a 12-13 foot (4 meter) tiger shark was able to get it's lower jaw into the bait crate, got a good grip on it and smashed it.
The sharks that were observing from a distance all moved in with the excitement. Before we knew it, another 5 or 6 tigers came in from the outskirts, which brought our tiger shark tally up around 10-12 tigers. After the crate broke the bait poured out, and the sharks all tried to muscle their way in for a treat. The sharks were too amped up, making close passes, and starting to bump the divers, so I decided to end the dive till the sharks calmed down a bit. The sharks calmed down, and we resumed the dive. This was an amazing week, the great hammerhead stayed with us for 4 days straight. The trip was great, and I feel blessed that we all experienced this week together. There was a few scary moments, but also some amazing miracle moments as well. Then again, what else would you expect from a tiger shark dive!
Tiger Beach is a special place, and is a must for all serious shark divers looking to take their shark diving to the next level. Special thanks to the Dolphin Dream crew, (Scott, Andy, Gale and Bear) and all our guests for joining us on this trip. I can't wait for next week and our 2nd tiger trip to end our 2007 reader trip season.