Caribbean Feeding Frenzy

A fish head floats in front of my mask as the feeding frenzy enters its climax. Thirty sharks each take their turn sinking their teeth into the frozen ball of bait, filled with anything the dolphins wouldn't eat.

By  Chris Schaefer

We’re in the middle of the Exuma Cays, a chain of over 360 islands running down the east side of the Bahamas.

Not more than 20 minutes ago, I was aboard the Aqua Cat – a 102-foot long liveaboard dive boat that shuttles 22 scuba divers around the island chain, offering up to 5 dives each day.

Our shark-feed dive takes place in the middle of a weeklong trip out to sea. The crew chums the water with a frozen block the size of a mini fridge, made up of fish heads, guts, and anything else that has blood and emits an odor for miles.

I kneel on the ocean floor with the other divers while the 20 to 40 Caribbean reef sharks swirl around taking their turn at the bait. Every once in a while, a grumpy grouper barges in to take a bite.As the frozen chum begins to melt, more pieces float in mid-water and that’s when the fun really begins. All members of the feeding frenzy storm in to grab what’s left, not unlike throwing breadcrumbs into a hungry flock of pigeons.

AquaCat1

When the carnage is over, sharks — some full, some not so much — begin to wander around, curious as to what those things wearing scuba tanks are.As they pass over our shoulders, it’s possible to lock eyes and see theirs cutting back and forth, trying to understand what you are, and what you’re doing in their world.

I look down and notice my tank pressure gauge is getting down to 700psi. Soon, I’ll have to make my way back to the anchor line and prepare my slow ascent to the world I came from.Four meandering sharks swim nearby as I ascend, and I can’t help but wonder what they’re thinking.

As I take off my gear on deck and dry myself off, I hear the clanking of beer glasses on the upper deck, and as I enjoy the finest beer the Bahamas has to offer, I can’t help to think what those 40 sharks are up to.

One thing’s for sure: When the boat comes back next week, so will they.