Category Archives: Sharks

Posts related to Tiger sharks, Hammerheads, Bull sharks, Great Whites, and other sharks seen on my trips

2019 Year in Review

2019 was a busy year packed full of wonderful wildlife encounters shared with my guests on many wildlife photography tours.

Each of my locations is special and rich in wildlife, so to rank the trips and encounters is difficult. Given that they were all exceptional trips year after year, I present them in order of what was special it me this year.

Many of these trips will be featured on my 2020 Calendar of Trips but some will have to wait until future years before I can share them again: there is just not enough time to do it all! Please enjoy this review.

Striped Marlin at Magdalena Bay

Magdalena Bay in Baja Mexico has a sardine run each November which attracts Striped Marlin, seal ions, sharks, and even whales to the area. We jumped in this frenzy of action and photographed the action. This was a special experience because of the shear numbers of marlin, easy to find bait balls, the comical sea lions, and the whole spectacle. We also combined this with diving at some of the other wonderful natural spaces in Baja for an underwater safari.

Nov 2020 Baja Safari

Sardine Run at Magdalena Bay Baja
Seals and striped marlin manage and prey on a bait ball of sardines

Polar Bears in Churchill, Canada

The polar bears in Churchill are always abundant and a pleasure to photograph, but this year there seemed to be even more than usual. This year there was snow cover and several pairs of mothers and cubs to delight us. We also had a little bit of Northern Lights .

2020 Polar Bears

Polar Bear photo Tour Churchill
A male polar bear scratches and stretches to the amusement of the photographers

African Autumn in South Africa

There is so much wildlife seen on our safaris: we have had increasing frequency of wild dog encounters, rhinos, very good elephant herds, lion prides with cubs, and so many more exceptional sightings. Each year I think it is the best and then the next year tops it! I picked this leopard to represent a year of many beautiful predators displaying behavior in front of our lenses. This was a quiet moment where we could imagine ourselves as the leopard and live out part of his day.

2020 & 2021 South African Safaris

South African photo safari
A male leopard takes a high vantage point for a morning break

Tiger Sharks & Hammerheads in Bahamas

I visited Tiger Beach twice in 2019: March and October. We are always happy to see the same individuals back each year plus a few new ones. New this year was as 2nd resident Great Hammerhead. I was a great day to be able to capture both species in photo – we see it underwater, but to get them all in one frame is not easy.

2020 Tiger Sharks & Hammerheads

Tiger Beach dive trip Bahamas
Multiple female tiger sharks and a great hammerhead circle our group then pass right over my head

Whale Sharks & Giant Mantas in Mexico

It is not fair to rank the Whale Shark Aggregation low on my favorites list because year after year it consistently gives us many many whale sharks, mantas in clear warm water. I am privileged to a part of this for 10 years now. My favorite is when a whale shark goes into “bottle feed” position. I have even had 360 videos as I swim around the shark who is in vertical position.

2020 Whale Sharks & Mantas

whale shark trips Isla Mujeres
When there is a concentrated food patch, a whale shark will feed in a vertical position to suck in the most food.

African Spring in South Africa

The seasons in South Africa give a different color scheme to the photos. In spring the colors are soft yellows and browns as the grass has not yet come alive. Every plant and animal is waiting for the first rains of season. This time of year can give us more predator action as they prey on animals weakened by lack of grass to eat. We had so many great encounters – I chose this hippo because his grunt always makes we laugh. 2020 & 2021 Safaris

African photo safari
A male hippo strikes an impressive territorial display for our photographers

Sailfish in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

For many years I have visited and photographed the sardine run on the eastern side of Mexico at Isla Mujeres. The clear warm water makes for some great video and photography action. Now that I have experienced the billfish on both the east (Isla / Cancun) and west (Magdalena Bay) I can compare the two. The sailfish are very graceful and their flashing colors and sails waving up and down is very dramatic. In 2020 I will only be visiting Baja for billfish

Sailfish sardine run Mexico
Sailfish work together to keep the bait ball tight and at the surface before one by one attacking the bait ball.

Grizzle Bears in BC, Canada

In summer 2019 I was able to go on a scouting trip to photograph grizzles from a boat. We had great encounters with mothers & cubs, a territorial male, a huge male bear, and serene moments with bears feeding on grass. This was a very special trip and staying on a boat in this remote area.

I am working on offering this special experience as a future trip.

Grizzle bear photo tour Canada
A mother bear and a cub are anxious about the presence of a male bear nearby.

Namibia Road Trip, Southern Africa

I completed an overland tour of Namibia after my September Safaris. This country is very different to where I hold my safaris: less wildlife but unique and awe inspiring views everywhere. It was a chance to work on my wide angle and landscape photography.

Namibia desert
Sand patterns on a dune

American Crocodiles of Chinchorro, Mexico

For the 3rd year I traveled to the remote Chinchorro Atoll and stayed in a rustic fishing hut in order to have close encounters with American Crocodiles. Thanks to the expert crew we were all able to do this safely. We spent our “down time” diving on the pristine reefs and eliminating the invasive lion fish.

crocodile photography mexico
A crocodile in shallow water approaches us at the remote Chinchorro Atoll Nature Preserve

Thank you to all the great people who made 2019 special for my guests and myself. I look forward to a great and exciting 2020

About Gregory Sweeney

About my South Africa Safaris

Tiger Shark Dive Trip Report March 2019

Tiger Beach, Bahamas earns its reputation for clear water, white sands, and 6 species sharks. After over a decade of leading shark trips it still fills me with awe and wonder and still gives me thrills like it was my first time.  An international collection of divers was onboard from Denmark, Germany, Japan, USA, and Canada. For the Japanese guests lead by my good friend and co-leader Takaji Ochi, it was their first experience at Tiger Beach. The 5 -7 tiger sharks and the hammerheads, including one shark new to the area were a highlight.

hammerhead Shark
Patches the Hammerhead

Our trip started under threat of changing weather, but a smart decision by the Captain to leave a few hours early had us avoiding rough weather and a windy crossing. After clearing customs at west end and half way to Tiger beach we encountered a pod of dolphins.  This was an unexpected encounter for this season.  The captain asked if any guests wanted to jump in with them, so several guests jumped in with snorkel gear.  Dolphins enjoy curiosities in their water and interacted with us for a while. 

Join my next Tiger Beach Trip: See the schedule at http://www.TigerSharkDive.com

dolphin pod
Dolphins swim to the surface. Thank you to Koji Tanaka for the image
scuba dive with sharks
Multiple tiger sharks and divers at Tiger Beach
Tiger Sharks
Tiger Sharks

The numbers of large, mature, and often pregnant sharks at Tiger Beach is evidence that the protection measures by the Bahamian government are working and that the sharks are living natural life spans and thriving. Our tourism and the revenue it brings to the Bahamas is their reward for continuing to look after the sharks.  With out Bahamian conservation efforts I believe there would not be many, if any, sharks at Tiger Beach today.

Photography at Tiger Beach

Tiger Shark over the eel Grass
A large tiger shark circles over the eel grass

My Equipment

Primary Camera

  • Canon 5D MKIV
  • Nauticam Housing
  • Inon Z 330 Strobes
  • EF 16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM

2nd Camera

  • Canon 5D MKIII
  • EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye
  • Nexus Anthis housing
  • 2 Inon Z 240 strobes
caribbean reef shark
Caribbean reef shark

GoPro

I have this mounted ontop of my camera but also place it on a weighted base on the sand near the bait crates and just let it run.  I get crazy close ups and swim overs.  Sometimes it gets knocked around by the sharks.

drone image of boat and sunset
The Dolphin Dream at sunset

Mavic Pro Drone

I fly this over the boat on clear days and while the guests are doing “lemon snaps” with sharks on the surface at the stern.  (It is tricky to land a drone on a moving boat so I do not recommend this unless you are experienced with landing in challenging situations or hand catching)

Experimenting with Strobes

In the past I have found that my Inon Z 240 strobes were not always able to reach far enough to expose the passing shark.  This year I brought my Inon Z 330 to see if the extra reach was an improvement.  There was a noticeable difference with the Z 330 strobes. 

hammerhead shark close up
The new resident hammerhead shark. Very large and feisty

Positioning for Photography and Using Sharks’ Behavior

Before diving, our captain and crew detail the shark attraction and diving procedures. 

Underwater, divers find that the Tiger sharks  swim slowly and all into a pattern circling the chum crates.  They approach from down current then circle wide and back around to the crates. Our photographers can position themselves along the shark’s path for head on shots or overhead passes.    Staying on the bottom and with minimal movement is the safest way to observe the sharks at close distance. 

Sharks species of Tiger Beach

Tiger Shark Dive Chum
A crew member Dave Finch gives a fish to a large Tiger Shark

Tiger Sharks

Tiger sharks are the stars of the show. Most are very large and mature females. We enjoy seeing the same sharks year after year and some have been given names so we can refer to them.  They glide in a slow pattern among us and the bait crates, received a few bits of fish from the crew. Most are not shy but there seems to be a ranking order with smaller individuals pushed out. 

Hammerheads

            For several seasons we have had a frequent hammerhead shark visitor to our dives at Tiger Beach.  Shy at first, this hammerhead has progressed from shy in the periphery to standing up to the larger tigers in the commotion around the bait crates.  Now “Patches” is a regular known to all the shark dive crews.

Now there is a new Hammer in town!

           A new hammerhead shark has made her debut at Tiger Beach. Just like Patches this hammerhead was spotted in the distance but too shy to come to the divers, crates, and tigers. Now this huge female, “Cleopatra” mixes in the crowd and asserts herself like a matriarch. I even had the chance to photograph the two hammerheads and a tiger shark all in the same frame.  It seems hammerheads are now ranging to Tiger Beach and not just off the shallows of Bimini. This is very welcome.

            Bull Sharks

            We have had a few bull sharks joining the mix in the last few years.  This year there were a few hanging around on the dives. While nice to see and well behaved, due to their aggressive tactics, we do not let them get any of the bait for fear that if they do they will morph from manageable visitors to a dangerously unpredictable menace.

Drome image of Dive boat
Drone image of our boat taken while attracting lemon sharks to the surface

Lemon Sharks

           Lemon sharks have a permanent toothy grin and can sneek up on you.  They have great character to their faces and are easy to get close to for photography.

Lemon Shark
lemon sharks assemble for a session of “lemon snaps” by our guests

Taking Lemon Snaps

            We like to attract some lemon sharks to the surface at the back of the boat for a chance to take over/under split images of the sharks at the surface.  Using a pole or other safe method (no hands!) we get surface level, shallow depth, or from above images of the lemons thrashing about at the bait.

Caribbean Reef Sharks

            The CR sharks are very graceful and beautiful sharks that join in around the bait crates with the tigers, but also can be found circling under the boat and among schools of jacks.  This shark, like its name is also found hovering over the small reefs found at Tiger Beach. This shark has no problem coming close to divers and will pass over to right near to you.

Caribbean reef shark over the eel grass
Tiger shark dive boat

Night Dive

            Most evenings everyone relaxes over a great meal and recharges after a long day of diving. We had a night of calm weather and low current so some of us took the opportunity to go for a night dive.  We encountered a few bull sharks and quite a few lemon sharks.

Photographing the sunset
sunset
Sunset over the Atlantic

I want to give special thanks to Captain Scott Smith and his crew for getting us in the middle of the action with the sharks and for the fantastic  meals.

Check out my future Tiger Shark Dive Trips at http://www.TigerSharkDive.com

Shark diving trip
Our guests
Dolphin Dream Tiger Shark Dive Boat
The Dolphin Dream Docked at West End , Bahamas while clearing customs

Annoucing Baja, Mexico Safari 2020

November 10 – 18 2020

A Striped Marlin Hunting Frenzy with Shark Diving, Sea Lions, and Mobula Rays by Night

Limited to 6 guests

(US )$3,875  per person single room

sardine run Magdalena Bay

2019 Trip Report

Magdalena Bay has be full of explosive Striped Marlin action in the past few years. We had a very successful trip this November 2019 with perfect weather and plenty of sardine action with seals and marlin hunting. Our best day we were able to stay with a baitball for over an hour. What a thrill to see the coordinated action of the fish as they hunted and we photographed from all angles. The sea lion colony of La Paz was very fun with the sea lions checking us out and buzzing all around us. The rays were a magical experience in the evening light as they swirled around us. Last was our visit to Cabo Pulmo National Marine Reserve where we photographed bull sharks on their many wrecks and the incredibly large schools of fish.

Baja is an exciting paradise for diving and snorkeling with huge satisfaction for photographers and videographers.

2020 Baja Trip Overview

The adventure starts in Port San Carlos where  Magdalena Bay is host to the largest striped marlin migration in the world. We will be on our own boat from 7am to 4pm looking for sea birds who will point us to  the epic hunting action going on underwater. The marlins hunt the sardines as do the sharks and seals.  Under the surface will be a frenzy of action as marlin hunt in cooperation containing and maneuvering the bait balls.  One by one they attack the sardines and take their meal. We stay at an upscale hotel outside of Port San Carlos.   

striped marlin Magdalena Bay Mexico

After, we transfer to La Paz where we do a dive unique to La Paz: a night dive with Mobula Rays.  Plankton are drawn like a magnet to our lights and schools of rays come swooping in to dive down to feed in the sand.   It is non-stop swirling action at night.  We also dive with sea lions; a dive full of fast interaction with these curious and humorous animals.

sea lion colony dive La Paz

Our last days are in Cabo Pulmo National Park where protected marine habitat and pristine coral draws an enormous amount of tropical fish, seals, turtles, and more.   Large schools of jacks are an awesome sight as the formation pulses and morphs before us.  We do dives specifically for bull sharks who lurk and patrol on the scattered remains of shipwrecks. 

bull sharks at Cabo Pulmo

Itinerary

  • Nov 10 – Guess arrive Cabo transfer to Cabo Pulmo
  • Nov 11 – 14- Stripped Marlin & Sardines (4 days)
  • Nov 15 – Transfer to La Paz, Sea Lion colony dive, night dive for Mobula rays
  • Nov 16 – Shark dive, 2nd Dive
    Nov 17 – Shark dive, 2nd Dive, explore beaches and park
  • Nov 18 – Transfer to Airport, Guests depart
Striped Marlin Sardine Run Mexico

Notes: Arrive on the 10th to San Jose Del Cabo Airport (SJD), Depart on the 18th from same airport. This trip combines Scuba Diving and Snorkeling in open water conditions

grouper

Price

(US)$ 3,875 per person Single Room

Includes:

9 nights accommodation in Single Room (discount for sharing),

All Transfers between Cabo airport, Cabo Pulmo, La Paz, Port San Carlos, back to airport,

2 days of 2 tank diving in Cabo Pulmo, 1 night dive with mobula ray in la Paz

4 full days on boat for stripped marlin

Cabo Pulmo wreck

This will be a real marine experience; be in the action with fast and elusive predators

email me at info@gregorysweeney.com to reserve your space!

schools of fish diving in Cabo Pulmo
striped marlin trip Baja Mexico
Sardine run with seals Magdalena Bay Mexico
sardine run Magdalena Bay Baja Mexico
Cabo Pulmo National Park Diving
diving with sea lions

2018 Tiger Shark & Hammerhead Trip Report

Results: Our 2018 Tiger Shark & Hammerhead Dive Trips

This was the 2nd year of our combined Hammerhead and Tiger shark trips.  Both our March and early April trips had many tiger sharks and at least one hammerhead on most of our dives.


Join my next Tiger Shark and Hammerhead Trip to Tiger Beach
See the schedule at  TigerSharkDive.com

Our guests achieved many nice photos and had a great time

While underwater with so many sharks, I was able to observe some interesting behavior.  There is definitely an order of dominance among the sharks and between the different tiger sharks; most of which are female.  Many times the hammerheads are shy to approach when there are many tigers and especially if there are bull sharks.  There was one brave hammerhead female who joined the crowd even though there were many other bigger sharks around.  I observed the largest female tiger shark reminding the hammerhead of her dominance by body-checking the hammerhead near the bottom.  Though this happened a few times, the hammerhead was not scared away and provided us with many great poses.

Tiger Shark and Hammerhead
A Tiger Shark shows dominance to a hammerhead shark

Dolphin Dream Scuba Liveaboard

tiger shark scuba live aboard bahamas reef shark scuba dive Hammerhead Shark dive Bahamas diving with hammerhead sharks hammerhead dive at tiger beach bahamas tiger shark dive trip hammerhead shark dive tiger shark scuba dive guests

Tiger Shark and Hammerhead Dive 2017

Tiger Sharks and Hammerheads Dive Trip in Bahamas


Join my next Tiger Shark and Hammerhead Trip to Tiger Beach
See the schedule at  TigerSharkDive.com
see our current trips  at www.TigerSharkDive.com  and www.GregorySweeney.com

Trip Report 2017

This year was our first year combining Tiger Sharks at Tiger Beach and Hammerheads in Bimini.  Of course we also had the bull sharks, lemons, caribbean reefs sharks.

Hammerhead dive liveaboard in Bahamas
Hammerhead eating some fish

Hammerhead dive in Bimini
Hammerhead in a cloud of fish

Tiger Beach Bahamas
Tiger Shark

Tiger shark diving in Bahamas
Tiger Shark

Tiger Shark

Shark diving
Lemon Sharks attracted to the back of our boat

Bull Shark
Bull Shark

Bull Shark
Bull Shark

MV Dolphin Dream
Our Boat

 

 

Tiger Shark Diving in the Bahamas 2016 Trip Report

photographing tiger sharks in the Bahamas
EF16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM

Diving with Tiger Sharks and Photographing  in the Bahamas 2016

The trip always starts with the packing.  I packed as efficiently as possible. Years of experience has taught me what I need and what is not necessary.  I picked up a nice bottle of rum to enjoy after the dives and to with the delicious and fresh meals.


Join my next Tiger Shark and Hammerhead Trip to Tiger Beach
See the schedule at  TigerSharkDive.com

Tiger shark Bahamas dive boat

My Equipment

Canon 5D MKIII

Nauticam Housing

EF16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM

EF15mm f/2.8 fisheye

Glass dome ports

2 Inon Z 240 strobes

Backup:  a 2nd Canon 5D MKIII and Nexus housing (this one is a MKII housing converted for the MKIII)

We boarded the boat in West Palm Beach and were on our way to the Bahamas overnight.  After the stop for customs and immigration checks we headed out to deep water for our first dives.

Lemon shark mouth wide open
EF16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM

Caribbean reef shark
EF16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM

The first sharks to react to our chum and scent trail were the lemon sharks and some caribbean reef sharks.  It always takes a few dives to bring in the tiger sharks. The day there was just  one small one then by the last day we were attracting 5 at a time.

Tiger shark passes over
EF16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM

tiger shark with sunburst
EF 15mm f2.8 Fisheye

Tiger shark swims over eel grass
EF16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM

Tiger Shark with remora
EF16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM

During the course of the dive week, the captain moves the boat to different locations.  One of my favorite is the beds of eel grass with their green glow.  We also anchor near a reef where we can get shots of sharks cruising over the sponges and fans and also see some reef fish.

A tiger shark with a damaged mouth seems to snarl
a tiger shark with a damaged mouth (from a hook) seems to snarl at us. EF 15mm f2.8 Fisheye

Tiger shark over green sea grass
EF 15mm f2.8 Fisheye

Get Details About Next Year and Other Underwater Trips

reef shark and sea grass
EF16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM

All of these images were processed with Adobe Lightroom tools.

Using the Lightroom Dehaze tool with underwater photos

diving with tiger sharks near a Bahamas reef
EF16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM

reef shark swims over a Bahamas reef
EF 15mm f2.8 Fisheye

Two tiger sharks swim past divers
EF16 – 35mm f/2.8L II USM

See More of My Shark Images in My Gallery

Tiger shark dive guests

Everyone had loads of diving, great images, fun.

Read Guests Reviews on My Website

What is a Basking Shark?

Basking Sharks (Cetorhinus maximus)

Basking Shark
Basking Shark

 

Basking Sharks are the 2nd biggest fish in the ocean. (whale sharks are the biggest)

A basking shark can grow to over 10m (33 ft) long and weight several tons. Their mouth can open 1 metre wide for feeding on plankton. They filter fed on the plankton by sieving out the minuscule animals from the water column using special gill rakers. These rakers are specially adapted bone which sit in the sharks gills and act in a similar fashion as baleen in fliter-feeding whales. They are efficient and can filter up to 1.5 million litres of water her hour.

shaaark cartoon
Shaark cartoon by Phil Watson Shaaark.com

See more shark cartoons  

Scotland has some of the richest cold waters in the world and every spring the oceanic and weather cycles create optimal conditions for explosive blooms of plankton. The sharks migrate from their winter feeding grounds to feast on the plankton and for mating.

 

We will be looking for basking sharks and snorkeling with them this July 2016.  Join our Basking Shark Snorkel

 

Historically basking sharks have been a staple of fisheries because of their size, (former) abundance, and slow movement. Today basking sharks are still hunted all over the world for their livers containing a vast amount of oil. The oil is used in cosmetics, perfume and lubricants. Synthetics and conservation efforts have stopped the hunting in some places and they are now protected. They are also victims of the shark fin trade.

historic image of Shark cartoon

 

Basking Sharks are a cosmopolitan migratory species, found in all of the world’s temperate oceans. In additon they prefer to swim close the shore and also enjoy swimming near the water’s surface swimming at a slow pace while they filter. They travel through the Mediterranean Sea, Pacific and Atlantic ocean, sea of Japan, New Zealand, and Southern Australia. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are great places to spot them as well. At times they travel in groups of about 100 but also are most often seen traveling alone.

Range of Basking Sharks around the world
Range of Basking Sharks around the world

Basking sharkLike many sharks, ovoviviparous basking sharks develop embryos which first rely on a yolk sac with no placental connection and develop inside the female. Gestation is unknown but might be a year or more. The small young are born fully developed at 1.5 – 2m. From the only pregnant mother ever caught we learned that the brood can be six pups. The lifespan is not known. Experts estimate about 50 years.

 

More about Basking Shark Conservation Efforts

SharkTrust.org

 

Cage Diving with Shortfin Mako Sharks in the Gulf of Mexico off Isla Mujeres, Mexico

This article appeared in Issue #87 of Underwater Photographer Magazine  UWPMag.com

Mako Shark from inside the cage
Using one of the two ports in the cage, I get a clear water shot as the mako circles around me

Northeast off the coast of Cancun on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico lies the small island of Isla Mujeres. The island is approximately five miles long and one half mile at is widest point. Just a short ferry ride from Cancun, the island offers beaches, scuba diving, and a relaxing place to shop and dine. In the summer months the island plays host to guests drawn in by the whale shark ecotourism trips. Guests travel out into the Gulf of Mexico and snorkel with the gentle giants. If they are lucky they also may encounter giant manta rays.

Captain Anthony
Captain Anthony Mendillo has many years of experience with both the mako sharks and sailfish in this area

 

Shark Cage
Side view of the cage. The floats keep the top of the cage above water for air breathing the top and sides are stainless steel bars.

Isla Mujeres is best known for wintertime fishing and game fishing of sailfish. The sailfish attract many fishermen, but also underwater photographers. Watching the great coordinated predation of the bait balls is a thrill and photographing it underwater is challenging but rewarding. The sailfish work together as a fast moving team to keep the baitfish tightly packed in the bait ball. Being in the water to witness during this action is as exciting as catching a sailfish on the rod.

breaching mako
A mako makes a dramatic strike on the trolling bait

A mako shark takes the bait.
A mako shark takes the bait.

Adding to the adventure of Isla Mujeres is the chance to see shortfin mako sharks up close. Captain Anthony Mendillo is now offering this opportunity to photographers and shark fans during the winter season.

GS_40177_150411

Captain Anthony was the pioneer of the sailfish freediving experience. Also he was involved in early efforts too preserve the sailfishing industry. The fishermen of Isla Mujeres all agreed to a Code of Conduct that only allows traditional fishing methods.

Make Shark
The mako charges toward me and I take cover behind the bullet proof acrylic panel while he devours the bait

deploying the shark cage
The cage is placed in the water and tethered a few meters away. The hooka lines for the air supply are also secured to the boat

 

The same spirit of sustainability and responsible tourism extends to the whale shark trip and to the mako cage dives.

 

The Keen M is a powerful and fast fishboat usually used for sailfish but it has been modified to carry the mako shark cage
The Keen M is a powerful and fast fishboat usually used for sailfish but it has been modified to carry the mako shark cage

 

Capt Anthony and crew have worked with Guy Harvey Research Institute to catch, tag, and release Makos, which are then tracked to add valuable and previously unknown details about the timing and long distance migratory movements of this vulnerable species. This experience has added greatly to the knowledge of the Mexico shortfin mako population and their overlap with other populations tracked by the Guy Harvey Research Institute. Close interaction with the makos has also taught the crew the secrets of location, behaviors, bait preference, and seasonality. This know-how leads to a 70% success rate for attracting makos to the boat.

GS_40154_150411

The makos in this area of the Caribbean are large compared to those in some other locations. Average sizes for shortfin makos are 3.2 m (10ft) in length and 60 – 135 kg (132 – 298lb). The Isla Mujeres population averages in the top of that range at 114 kg (250lb). Shortfin makos are a beautiful and photogenic fish in brilliant metallic blue and a white underside. They inhabit offshore temperate and tropical seas worldwide and this pelagic species can be found from the surface to depths of 150m (490ft) normally far from land, though occasionally around islands or inlets. Makos are seldom found in waters colder than 16’c (61’F)

Makos are curious and feel and taste everything with their mouth including the cages, floats, transom, and midwater bait or other targets. Their prey is cephalopods and bony fish including bonitos and swordfish. They hunt by lunging vertically up and tearing off chunks of flank or fins. Makos swim below their prey and have a high probability of reaching prey before it is alerted due to their high velocity. Makos are the fastest species of shark. This speed and hunting method makes Makos one of only a few shark species to accomplish a full breach out of the water as part of its predatory attack. Captain Anthony has observed makos of all sizes doing this full breach behavior and he has developed methods to allow guests to see and photograph the breaches.

Our boat is the very comfortable Keen M , a 41 ft custom Michael Fitz Sportfish with a 580 hp diesel. We leave the dock on Isla Mujeres in the early morning and head to the waters North of the island. The cage is mounted on the back. Once we reached the deep 400 ft water, the trolling lines are baited. No hooks are used so as not to hurt the shark. It did not take long to attract a shark. When it hit the bait its whole body launched out of the water like a rocket and with tail flapping did a nearly complete flip smacking back into the water on its side with it prize in mouth.

 

Mako Shark
Mako shark grabs the bait right in front of the cage

 

I have my camera set to burst mode with a fast shutter of 1/1250 sec. I will only get a few frames per leap and it happens with little warning. A shout comes from a crewmember and I press my shutter capturing the full breach.

With a confirmed shark in the area, bait crates are set around the boat and scum scent slick started behind the boat. Now it is time to deploy cage in the water.

 

 

 

The cage adds a safety factor for the guests and piece of mind for the captain. This area is subject to wind, current and the boat is constantly drifting. Using the cage eliminates the worry that guests will drift too far from the boat or let go of the line drifting quickly out of sight of the boat and crew. Without the worry of where the guests are, the crew can concentrate on keeping the makos close to the boat and interested; coaxing them into the best position for observation and photos.

 

Shark Cage
The cage fits 2 people with a hooka air supply located in the boat. It has Lexan polycarbinate panels on the sides and one large one in the front with 2 open ports facing front.

Engineered to be similar to the cages used in South Africa for great white shark encounters, this one has room enough for 2 people. It sports bars of stainless steel and aluminum with a solid floor and a top protected with bars. The cage floats a bit above the surface of the water to enable communication with the boat if needed. At eye level on the sides and front are clear panels made of Lexan polycarbonate sheet. The front has two open ports for cameras.

 

Captain Mendillo has experimented with different ways to rig the air supply to the cage: They tried bottles in the cage, but now opt to leave the bottles in the boat and run hookah lines to the people in the cage. This allows monitoring of the air supply and leaves more room in the cage for the guests.

 

Using a tether, the cage is floated 2m away from boat so the shark can do a complete 360’ around the cage.

 

In the cage I am able to see the makos up close and swimming very calm and curious right in front of me. They come to the bait floating nearby first to investigate then to strike.   They even investigate the cage on a few passes. As the large eye connects with me I feel secure in this strong cage.

 

 

The makos will stay with the boat and cage for extended periods. Some encounters have been 3 hours long with the same shark staying with the boat feeding and circling. Our mako stayed for almost an hour doing many passes by the cage and boat. I am able to get great shots of the full shark passing by either the side or the front of the cage. As the mako comes close to check out the cage I get some close up and front opportunities. Later back on the boat it is still circling and I get some topside shots of attacks on the bait to add to my breaching shot. Capt Anthony has seen guests achieve great images with everything from professional cameras and video rigs to GoPros on a stick.

 

Hunting for and photographing shortfin mako was a fun and productive day. I returned with great underwater images from the cage and spectacular breaching shots from the boat. The cage experience is exciting: the sharks come close and stay close making many passes and allowing time to get a variety of images and angles.  The encounters are very engaging and guests can get a great experience even if they stay in the boat and forego the cage. It is a good feeling to know that a sustainable tourism activity is being built around this vulnerable sport fish. Since the season overlaps with sailfish season it is possible to get both of these exciting large fish on the same holiday using the same crew. It is thrilling enough to appeal to both photographers and fishermen.

 

Join my next Sailfish Adventure

 

 

2015 Bahamas Tiger Beach Dive

Each year I charter the MVS Dolphin Dream for a week charter to Tiger Beach Bahamas in search of sharks and especially Tiger Sharks.

The crew is great and the shark action is always spectacular.  This year we had 4 -5 large tiger shark females on each dive and they didn’t seem shy of us at all as has happened in the past.  Of course the lemons were intimating and the caribbean reef sharks were picturesque as they slid through the water.

Tiger-beach-liveaboard-4 Tiger-beach-liveaboard-3 Tiger-beach-liveaboard-2 Tiger-beach-liveaboard-1 tiger shark dive bahamas-6

tiger shark smile
tiger shark smile

tiger shark dive bahamas-3

Caribbean reef shark poses over  a reef
Caribbean reef shark poses over a reef

a grouper is attracted by the action
a grouper is attracted by the action

Getting GoPro  shark action at the surface
Getting GoPro shark action at the surface

feeding at the surface
feeding at the surface

 

 

My charter for next year is March  5 – 16  2016 .  If you are interested, at this writing there is only 1 space left available.

Watch my website for announcements about the 2017 charter

http://www.tigersharkdive.com

 

 

 

Hammerhead Bliss in Bimini January 2015

Bimini Great Hammerhead Trip January 2015

The Bahamas is indeed a great destination for shark diving and photography.   I have been traveling with guests for many years to Tiger Beach for tiger sharks.  We would see a few great hammerheads but they are shy and would not come to us with all the other sharks and tiger sharks around.  I decided to try one of the spots known for hammerhead visits off the coast of South Bimini Island.

Our dives were in the afternoon and of moderate depth: 12 – 20 meters so we were able to have long bottom times for plenty of photos.

For this trip I had my Canon 5D MKIII in an Aquatica housing. I had Ion Z 240 strobes rigged on my long control arms.  I had my 16 – 35mm F2.8 lens attached.  Knowing the sharks would come close influenced my equipment choices and rigging.

Click and image to view as a gallery