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Diving with Oceanic Whitetip at Cat Island

Diving with Oceanic Whitetip at Cat Island
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While most of us are now limited in our mobility and are forced to calm down the urge of getting into the depth of water, Tomas reminisces about the time when he encountered the whitetip shark at Cat Island.

Cat Island

The Bahamian waters are unique as they have 40 different protected species of shark and are ranked the world´s best shark diving waters. At the Great Bahama Bank on the East side of Cat Island is where the Atlantic Ocean and the Antilles current meet to create the perfect conditions for big pelagic fish such as tuna, marlin and the oceanic whitetip. Cat Island becomes home to the most threatened pelagic shark in the world, the oceanic whitetip, as it follows the tuna fish migration during April and May each year.

Diving with Oceanic Whitetip at Cat Island

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

The oceanic whitetip is one of the shark species that never stops moving because they cannot pump water across their gills and constantly swim about with their mouths slightly open in order to obtain sufficient oxygen from the water. In 1980 it could be seen in large numbers in the Bahamian waters but today it is more and more rare as it has been over fished by illegal shark finning. It is an IUCN red listed shark, categorized as "Vulnerable" and "Critically Endangered".

Diving with the Whitetip

When the dive boat was out in the deep dark azure coloured water a bait box, marked with a red buoy was thrown overboard. The chum scent spread quickly in the strong current and soon the water surface was broken by the first large round dorsal fin. It was time to dive.

Diving with Oceanic Whitetip at Catisland

Dive time was up to an hour on each occasion and between 5m and 10m water depth and the only reference you have when diving in 360 degrees is the silver coloured bait box.

There were up to 6 oceanic whitetips around the bait box. Some sharks came close and bumped my camera with their noses and others sneaked up from behind and swam above and beneath me. The strong currents would drift us 6 kilometers an hour out to sea on some days and on other days we drifted towards the reef and the oceanic sharks would disappeared in to the depths.

Diving with Oceanic Whitetip at Cat Island

Other sharks were also around such as the silky shark, dusky shark, Caribbean reef shark, nurs shark, tiger shark and the mahi mahi. I never felt any fear whilst diving with the sharks, but I was always first out of the water when being picked up by the dive tender.

Text & Photo by Tomas Jansson | ScubaTravel