Shark diving and the Bahamas have become almost synonymous. For the past two years, I’ve been working on a new shark-ecotourism and conservation project called Shark Business. One of last year’s goals was to learn as much about the shark-diving industry as possible from its most prominent operators. High on the list of must-visit destinations was the Bahamas.
Sharks have been fully protected here since 2011, when the Bahamian government acknowledged the value of shark tourism. Henceforth, the government banned all commercial shark fishing in its waters. Shark diving is now the most popular underwater activity in the Bahamas. One of the activity’s pioneers, and first people to ever dive with sharks here in 1978, was Stuart Cove.
Since then, Stuart and his team have created one of the world’s busiest and most successful dive companies. Stuart Cove’s offers numerous water-based activities, including snorkel trips and reef dives, but is undoubtedly most famous for its shark-feeding dive.
Every day at around 2 p.m., Stuart’s Cove takes excited guests to the Shark Arena. This shallow site is easily accessible for divers of all levels. Here waiting for them is a group of around 30 Caribbean reef sharks. Divers kneel in a circle and, in the center, a chainmail-clad feeder arrives with a box of fish and the action begins.
Within seconds, there are reef sharks buzzing all around. One-by-one they jostle for position and a snack from the chum box. Sharks are incredibly intelligent, and in this situation only ever focus on one thing — the food. The sharks that visit the Shark Arena have been conditioned over hundreds of dives to receive food, presented to them on a metal pole. They pay little attention to the divers nearby, which allows for up-close encounters that many would have never thought possible.
Introducing people to sharks in this way can have a profound effect, and I have seen attitudes transformed after just 40 minutes in the water with these animals. People who began with fear go away with a better understanding and more realistic perception of sharks. This can only be a good thing in the ongoing battle to protect shark populations around the world. I would encourage anyone who still has doubts about the safety of shark provisioning to visit Stuart and his team and try it out for themselves.
Shark diving in the Bahamas takes place year-round, and Stuart Cove Dive Bahamas is open 365 days per year. The shop can also organize trips to see many other types of sharks, including lemons, tigers, oceanic whitetips and great hammerheads. There really is no better place for shark diving in the world than the Bahamas.