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Old 24-06-2009, 14:19   #1
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Bahamas Sharks

So I'm planning this two-month Bahamas trip for February & March 2010. . . . My wife and I and our two daughters (ages 9 and 12 when we sail) plan to cross from Key Biscayne, stop a day in Bimini, go on to Chubb, then to Nassau, then to the south end of the Exumas as quickly as possible, then mosey north slowly and back home.

Anyway -- this is about sharks. . . . My wife is phobic of sharks. My girls would rather not ever hear them mentioned. I've sort of downplayed the shark angle so far, acknowledging that they do indeed exist, but saying we won't be bothered by them.

I plan to do a lot of freediving for conch and lobster, and spearfishing for dinner. We all plan to swim a lot and play on beaches as much as possible. We have a shallow-draft boat (1' draft), so we can get way up into shallow waters when necessary -- but I'd love to take the girls snorkeling over reefs, etc.

I just made the mistake of watching a DVD a friend loaned me -- Discovery Channel's "Surviving Sharks," where they chum the waters "30 miles off Grand Bahama" and draw in a crowd of madly thrashing reef sharks so thick you could walk across their backs. Later in the show two 14' tiger sharks show up and tear a manikin to shreds. I know it's very sensationalized, but it got me wondering . . .

For you cruisers who have spent time in the Bahamas -- how often do you see sharks? How quickly do you get out of the water when you do see one? Do you ever identify a certain species and decide it's okay to swim with one (or a few) around?
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Old 24-06-2009, 14:33   #2
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*I ran a dive charter biz in that area for about 10 years,so Ive seen a lot of sharks, I would say your gonna see them just about every dive if your near the ledge, and even if your not you will likly see them-(at least they will see you) That DVD you were talking about could have been made about 2 miles off of Freeport as they do it there daily- Sharks are everywhere over there, most people that go in snorkeling will see them , just remain calm and swim to the boat and get out if you dont like being in the water with them-- im sure you will be fine! Most of my trips over were for spear fishing and they would come and try to take the fish from us- sometimes the could and other times we were able to get the fish to the boat before they could find us, No one in any of my trips were every hurt- I stopped going to the Bahamas about 6 years ago, but I expect its the same now as then
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Old 24-06-2009, 14:34   #3
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First two months isn't half long enough for getting to the bottom of the Exumas and back but if that's all you've got make the most of it. Now for the sharks.

They are not really a problem but if you dive the reefs on the ocean side in the Exumas you'll see sharks now and then. In all the years I've been going there I haven't heard of an injury causing shark attack on a cruiser although many cruisers will talk about running into them while hunting. It's best to leave the reef to the sharks when they appear. There are many good snorkeling spots in the Exumas where you seldom see a shark. Sharks, however, are everywhere and sometimes seen even in Georgetown harbour. Part of the reason for this is some folks still clean fish close to the anchorages and this encourages sharks.

Last year I went to the Jumentos and there's a lot more sharks on the reefs there. Even on the shallow (under 15 feet) reefs. Big bull sharks!!

The most common sharks you see are nurse sharks and these are completely harmless. As for how quickly you get out of the water, it depends on how far away your dink is. But seriously, they will not attack you unless you've got a dying or dead fish on the end of your spear. When we're in waters where sharks are plentiful we usually move to another reef after shooting a few fish. No sense in pushing your luck.
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Old 24-06-2009, 14:54   #4
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My personal experience in the Bahamas is that I see sharks faily often. Perhaps on 50% of the dives I have taken. My personal standards are that I get out of the water for any Bull, Tiger, or lemon shark over 6 feet long. Most of the sharks I have seen have been carribean reef sharks or blacktips. I've never been bothered by any sharks in the bahamas. I did once have a gray reef shark do a territorial threat display at me in Palau, but I just backed away from him. I didn't get out of the water. When I get out of the water I do it in a slow and quiet manner, never in a panic or making any splashing or in an excited manner. When spear fishing I prefer to keep the dinghy nearby to get any struggling fish out of the water quickly. These are my personal standards. I know many people who don't pay any attention to sharks at all and don't have any issue. The thing to remember is that in the northern Bahamas the sharks don't think of people as food. I personally have an issue with these so called shark dives as it makes sharks start associating people with food. I knew a guy from Great Inagua that told me that the sharks there had become quite aggressive. He attributed it to the fact that so many Haitian refugees had drowned between Inagua and Haiti that the loacal sharks had started thinking of people as food.

Unfortunately I'm not sure this information will help your case.
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Old 24-06-2009, 16:03   #5
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I did a lot of freediving in the Bahamas. Sharks seem to show up more often in the afternoon... maybe 3:30 and later. Less often mid day 11 am to 3 pm for sure. I dont know if that is their feeding time or what. Most of what I saw were the "toothless" variety. But I have had even them swim slowly up to the surface from 25 ft down just to check me out. A bump on the nose with my spear sent her home. On the outside, along walls etc, a Bull shark will occasionally show up out of nowhere... They are dangerous in Florida at times so I would treat them with respect in the Bahamas. The biggest shark I ever saw in the Bahamas was a Great Hammerhead and that was in Georgetown Harbor at about 4:30- 5 pm. He was probably 9 ft and continually circled under our anchored boat for about 45 minutes. (we had cleaned a bunch of conch the day before!!) Generally I will say that sightings are rare 11 am to 4 pm and 80% of the sightings are very small (3-4ft) nurse sharks etc. I have never seen an agressive type of shark in less than maybe 10 ft of water, so with the kids maybe that would be good.
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Old 24-06-2009, 16:05   #6
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PS: It seems that bull shark bites in FL occur more often in turbid water where visibility is bad. So staying in clear water rather than the surf would be a good thing. Never heard of a shark bite in the Bahamas but I'm sure they have occurred......
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Old 24-06-2009, 16:20   #7
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Don't spear fish and you will have nothing to worry about. Start spearing fish and you are taking some risk. The last time I was in Hope Town, we where listening to the VHF as they where working on a rescue of a diver in who had been hit by a shark while spear fishing. Sharks will leave you alone as long as you don't have their dinner on the end of a stick.
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Old 24-06-2009, 16:45   #8
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Once while at lee stocking Island my wife met a young lady who was bit by a lemon shark while dangling her foot in the water off a dock(she still had the stitches in her foot and lower leg. I have heard several stories about lemon sharks biting people so i added them to my list. Though I have never seen one in the water I would give a great hammerhead due respect as well. Note that I don't get out of the water if a bull shark just passes by and goes on his way, only if they turn and show an interest. It's probably only curiosity, but I think it best not to chance it witha bull shark.
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Old 24-06-2009, 20:39   #9
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Your chances of getting struck by lightening are greater than getting bitten by a shark. In the south Pacific, the locals rule of thumb was the black and white tip sharks pose no threat, but watch the solid color sharks, and they were all, more concerned with barracudas than sharks. Sighting a barracuda would send all the locals out of the water.
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Old 24-06-2009, 20:45   #10
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Yeah, I've been within five feet of a bull shark and swam into a cave full of blacktips (not intentional!) but what scared me enough to climb a swim ladder fins and all was a big old barracuda.
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Old 24-06-2009, 23:57   #11
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Bull sharks are in the top 5 most aggressive sharks and they are renowned for their river attacks throughout the tropics. They can tollerate brackish water and have been known to swim hundreds of miles up river.

There is a lot of good information written by people like Ron and Valerie Taylor, Woods Hole and the US Navy about understanding shark body language, psychology and behaviour, and also what humans can do to prevent being attacked.

I suggest you read it and then relax
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Old 25-06-2009, 04:47   #12
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Thanks for all the very helpful information, everyone. I'm always amazed at the collective wisdom gathered on this forum.

I'm looking forward to diving with a (small to medium) shark or two. I grew up in coastal New England, spent my childhood summers snorkeling all day, and aside from sand sharks have never seen one swimming in the wild.

And I have time to slowly break the news to my wife and daughters that, yes, we will see sharks fairly often, but with a few basic precautions we don't need to worry about them. I just didn't want to go into the trip misrepresenting the shark situation, only to have the first sighting of one create mass panic. With a little education and preparation, we'll all be fine.

Thanks again.
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Old 25-06-2009, 06:56   #13
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white tips?

Quote:
In the south Pacific, the locals rule of thumb was the black and white tip sharks pose no threat, but watch the solid color sharks, and they were all, more concerned with barracudas than sharks.
Not that I'm really familiar with shark behavior but I thought white tips were suppose to be pretty aggressive.
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Old 25-06-2009, 07:14   #14
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Here's a good website with information on how to swim with sharks, including a Shark Diving 101 section, shark taxonomy, dive stories, and lot of photos.

shark pictures and information about sharks and rays
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Old 25-06-2009, 07:40   #15
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Originally Posted by bmanley View Post
Not that I'm really familiar with shark behavior but I thought white tips were suppose to be pretty aggressive.
There are multiple kinds of white tip sharks around the world. The reef white tips seen most commonly in the pacific are not aggressive. Oceanic white tips can be more aggressive, but are not in the same league as the more aggressive sharks such as bulls and tigers. I've seen both and never seen them act aggressively, though while I completely ignore the reef white tips, I at least pay attention to the oceanics.
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