February 2018: Swimming or diving with all of the greatest creatures of the ocean is something I have passionately pursued as one of my bucket lists items in life and I have scoured the world’s oceans to swim with humpback, sperm whales, whale Sharks, great white sharks, manatees, belugas, and on and on….. Hammerhead sharks with their very distinctive and strange looking appearance greatly appealed to me and seeing one in the wild was very important to me. One of the best places in the world to see them are in the Galapagos Islands, and I organized a dive to Kicker Rock, where they frequent via an easy day trip from Santo Cristobal Island. Right as one appeared above me, my weight fell from my belt sending me into a battle to retrieve it from the nearby rock reef before ballooning up to the surface. Needless to say, missed the hammerhead sighting due to this distraction. I was so disappointed I missed the hammerhead, but years alter I discovered a place close to the USA where not only could I see one, but I would see many. This place was in Bimini Island, in the Bahamas only about 90 miles from Florida and reachable by ferry or a small commercial plane from Fort Lauderdale. Bahamas with its hundreds of white sand paradise islands has illegalized shark fishing and because of its success in conservation it is one of the best places to dive with sharks such as hammer heads, bulls and tiger sharks in the world. Bimini just so happened to be one of the best hammer head diving spots.

About Bimini

Bimini is part of the Bahamas just 50 miles from Miami. Bimini part of the Bahamas was once a British colony but is now an independent country. During the prohibition days, Bimini was a notorious bootlegging hideout for gangsters making and selling rum into the USA. Some of these ships are wrecked in the waters around Bimini and make good snorkeling and jumping spots into the water.

Location of Bimini Islands/Bahamas

Diving with Hammerhead Sharks

The main reason I came to Bimini is the hammerhead sharks. Bimini is maybe the best place to see the world’s largest hammerhead sharks-the giant hammerhead, which can grow up to 12 feet long.  I booked the dive via the Bimini dive center and did so a month in advance since the dive is popular for obvious reasons and I made sure to allow myself an extra day in case the dive was cancelled due to bad weather. The hammerhead season is during the winter months of December to March, when the weather is the best for the area. Outside of these months the hammerheads tend to migrate to the open ocean and leave Bimini. The dive site is in about 30-40 feet of water off of a boat over a sandy bottom that is within sight of a beach. A dive master brings a small box with fish parts to attract the hammerheads and divers sit in a half circle behind the divemaster up current from where the fish blood and guys will flow. Hammerheads are not known to attack humans but some of the other sharks that also answer the dinner bell do such as the bull and tiger shark. Bull sharks regularly swim along the periphery trying to scavenge pieces of the fish and another 2 divers will stay behind the group of spectating divers with a small plastic pole to ward of the bull sharks. A curious tiger shark will often lurk in the distance keeping an eye on the activities too. Then lastly, there are the nurse sharks are harmless and very common. We were instructed not to try and touch them no matter how cute they look because if they swallow your hand, the only way for you to get your hand back is for the dive master to kill the shark with his knife. Each diver is given two tanks and a PVC pole and dive weights in order to stay firmly affixed to the ocean floor and because the water isn’t too deep it is easy to spend hours with the sharks at the sandy bottom.  I did need to use the pole on multiple occasions because the hammerhead when swooping in for the fish would be oblivious to everything else and sometimes would come crashing towards me at full speed with their mouths gaping open. I would lean back and stick the pole upwards to give them a polite tap to remind them that I was there. But it wasn’t the hammerheads I was worried about. No matter how hard I tried to keep a look out for the bull sharks, I would still fail to see one sneaking up on me especially during the ascent on the rope. Usually when you turned towards them and extended your pole, they would scurry off. But the bull sharks are not to be messed with and are one of the most aggressive and dangerous shark species in Florida.

Me diving with hammherheads with the reflection of sharks in my goggles

Hammherheads

Hammherheads

Hammherhead that came right at me veering away at the last second

Diving with Bull Sharks in a Cage

The Bimini Dive Center has a small shark cage attached to the dock in their marina. At first, I didn’t understand why but then I noticed all of the giant 8-foot bull sharks patrolling the marine looking for fish scraps and I realized why. There have been bull shark attacks on few unfortunate intoxicated Indvidual’s who have fallen into the water at night. The cage provided an underwater encounter with an air hose to the surface for non-divers that is almost like snorkeling, but you are a few feet deep. Paula reluctantly went into the cage with me, and we watched multiple bull sharks swim around the cage eye balling us and they do approach very close.

Approaching bull shark

bull shark cage

Paula in bull shark cage

Other Things to Do In Bimini Island

 We stayed 3 nights in Bimini and aside from the one day that I was diving, there were plenty of other things to do. Our hotel the Bimini Big Game Resort was old with few bells and whistles, but it was in a good location for us to be able to walk to everywhere and it was the most affordable hotel I could find. This is a list of the things that we did beside diving with hammerheads.

  • Rent a Golf Cart: We rented a golf cart, the preferred mode of transportation on the island and we explored the entirety of the island which was a lot of fun.                                                                                                           
  • Swim with dolphins: We booked a snorkeling trip with dolphins which was amazing, but it turns out dolphins are a lot faster than humans in the water which made our interactions with them very limited. Our boat would speed through the open water until we came across a group of dolphins. We were poised and ready on the back of the boat to jump off once we were within a pack of them and the boat would depart leaving us in the open sea with the dolphins, but it was like watching a streak of underwater lightning. They would be gone in a second and we were left bobbing around for 15 minutes trying to spot any lurking sharks until our boat returned to pick us up.                                                                                                  
  • Snorkeling trip to local reef and shipwreck: This was fun. We snorkeled with some small reef sharks, visited some coral and also a ship reck of a bootlegging boat from the prohibition era. The wreck was ideal for climbing and jumping into the clear turquoise waters below.                                                                                      
  • Bar hopping: I feared that Bimini given how close it is to Florida would be all American tourists and no locals. I was wrong. There are many locals living on the island and are hotel was not in a resort area. There is a thriving local bar scene which served my favorite drink-rum, and we had fun interacting with the locals and Paula danced with an old local man to reggae music. Everything is within walking distance, and this was really pleasant.                                                                                                                                                     
  • Visiting historical places: There are a few old prohibition era buildings and graveyards from the 1800’s like one that we stumbled upon adjacent to our hotel that was overgrown with weeds. then there was the burnt down inn located next to our hotel where Ernest Hemmingway used to frequently write his books. The inn sadly burnt down in the early 2000’s killing the owner.                                                                                        
  • Beach: Right outside of our window is the most beautiful white sand beach. It is undeveloped with no resorts and remains mostly empty and accessible to locals and foreigners alike.

 

 

Our golf cart

Inn that burned down where Ernest Hemingway would frequent

Old Graveyard

Abandoned old building

Shipwreck

Beach by our hotel

Beach by our hotel

Paula drinking our favorite coconut rum drink from local bar

Paula at sunset

Local bars we visited at night

Wrecked bootlegging boat from prohibition era I jumped off of into the water below

Bimini Island is a great place for a weekend trip and until now it has mostly staved off the mega resorts and giant cruise ships that threaten to consume so many of the Bahama islands, but the opposite end of the island was changing, and generic resort buildings and homes were being built, mangroves razed, natural waterways dredged, and huge piers built for cruise ships so like all good things, they come to an end.

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