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Up Close with Hammerheads in the Bahamas

One of the ocean’s most recognizable sharks congregate each winter in the crystal-clear waters of the Bahamas.

As we knelt in around 20 feet of water, five or so hammerheads swirled around us gracefully. The sharks came in close — really close — but the crystalline water meant we could always see where they were coming from. With sharks right beside me, sometimes even my widest-angle lens wouldn’t fit the whole shark in the frame. That, my friends, should say it all. Diving with hammerheads in the Bahamas is a must-do for all divers, be they photographers or not.

On my travels, I meet divers from around the world who long to dive with hammerheads. Little do they know that they can have a stellar experience in Bimini, Bahamas, a mere 20-minute flight from the east coast of Florida. When it comes to diving with hammerheads, nowhere in the world can top the Bahamas.

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Diving with hammerheads in the Bahamas

The Bahamas features 700-plus islands and cays, ranging from uninhabited specks of land to fully developed islands, packed with resorts, restaurants and entertainment. And the nation isn’t known as a shark-diving mecca for nothing: in addition to great hammerhead encounters, you can dive with tiger sharks, reef sharks and oceanic whitetips in the Bahamas. To dive with hammerheads, you’ll need to get to Bimini, around 50 miles off Florida’s east coast. You can fly to Bimini, as mentioned above, or take a ferry from Miami. The dives take place off South Bimini, a 5-minute boat ride from any resort.

What draws the hammerheads to the Bahamas?

The hammerheads are only around during the winter season in Bimini, drawn in by the cooler water temperatures. Divers can spot other species as well, including bull sharks and nurse sharks.

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How does diving with hammerheads in Bimini work?

Divers can look forward to shallow-water (15 to 25 feet/4.5 to 6 m) dives, which means long bottom times. Divers descend in a group and kneel on the sandy bottom, and don’t move around like on a regular dive. Dive guides begin to chum the waters once a dive group arrives. Once they spot a hammerhead, the shark feeder enters the water and calls the divers to come in.

Guides split the divers into two groups of six, allowing for optimal engagement time with the sharks. Since the dives are so shallow, some divers can stay down for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on air consumption. The dives do get a bit chilly because they’re stationary, so we recommend a 5 mm wetsuit and a hood. We do a two-tank dive and spend as much time as we can with the sharks. We never know how many sharks will come in — sometimes only one, sometimes eight. The dive is quite easy and appropriate for any level of diver.

If we’re lucky and the weather is good, we might even try to sneak in a night dive, when these sharks come to life. During the day, the sharks are quite docile; at night they are much more aggressive as they’re in hunting mode.

Why join a guided expedition?

We offer group trips for guided experiences like this all over the world. Not only do participants get to meet and dive with other like-minded individuals, but they also enjoy personalized advice and instruction on underwater photography and videography. We help aspiring photographers (and experienced ones) divers with every step of image or video creation, from choosing settings and equipment to editing photos and video once the dives are over. Whether it be strobe placement, camera settings, or how to edit your GoPro footage, we are here to help.

How to get there

The best way to get to Bimini is by ferry. Although Silver Airways does fly to Bimini as mentioned above, it frequently cancels flights and can be quite unreliable. We recommend FRS Caribbean, which leaves Miami every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8 a.m., and comes back on those same days, leaving Bimini at 6 p.m.

The boat can hold 400 passengers and takes about two hours to make the crossing, depending on weather conditions.

Where to stay

Our favorite place to stay is Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina. The newly renovated resort has comfortable rooms and a great restaurant. Guests can also easily stroll through town and discover the rest of the island. We run all our Bahamas trips with Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas, which does a special charter for our Bimini trips. Stuart has been in business for over 20 years, and we trust him and his team implicitly when it comes to putting on these special adventures.

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