The slit mouth yawns open. Upper and lower jaws unhinge and the gums peel back over the jaw bone. Rows of pearl-white triangular teeth appear in jagged semi-circular rows. The muscular body flexes, accelerating the shark faster than you thought possible for an animal the size of a Mazda Miata. The tip of the dorsal fin breaks the surface, leaving tiny tornadoes of swirling bubbles. My head snaps back as 10 feet of muscle propel that row of razor teeth to within inches of my mask.
Welcome to an open water shark dive at the world famous “Shark lab” in Bimini, Bahamas. It’s one of several diving experiences offered on the island. These experiences are perpetuating the new philosophy and approach to the animals that we’ve feared for decades; sharks are not the vicious maneaters everyone thinks they are, and the island of Bimini is inviting visitors to get up, close and personal with these creatures in their natural habitat.
Doc Gruber is a tenured Full Professor at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), University of Miami and director of the Bimini Biological Field Station, Bimini, Bahamas. He is also a council member of the Bahamas National Trust. Suffice it to say that if anyone can be called a shark guru, it is Doc Gruber.
“We’ve been doing this dive for 30 years and we haven’t had one bite yet. They are not the monsters everyone thinks they are. They are interested in the chum – not you,” he says, when I ask whether there’s actually any danger in this activity.
BIMINI AND SHARKS
The warm, clear waters of Bimini flow from the Gulf Stream up onto the Great Bahama Bank. These waters have made Bimini a world famous destination for big game fishing, SCUBA diving, shark research, and, as of lately, shark ecotourism.
Recent news coverage of the endangerment of sharks has rocked the commercial shark diving industry. It is estimated that sharks are disappearing at a rate of 100 million per year globally. Now more than ever we need safe shark diving sites to educate people about these animals. The Bahamas are the Western Hemisphere’s ground zero for this growing industry.
In response to declining shark numbers, an enterprising team of industry experts has created the world’s first educational dockside shark diving site on the small island of Bimini, Bahamas to help dispel myths and misconceptions of sharks.
The Bimini Bull Run is headquartered at the Bimini Big Game Club, a 30-minute flight from South Florida and a legendary outpost for fishermen, host to numerous major sport fishing tournaments for more than half a century.
The “Bull Run” is named after the bull sharks that have for many years visited the marina looking for fresh fish scraps from cleaning tables. Today the dive is the preeminent one-day guaranteed shark encounter site in the Bahamas. Along with cage diving instruction and optional pool courses, the specially designed cages allow non-certified divers a rare face-to-face glimpse into the shark’s world.
A spokesperson for the site said: “We’re very excited to be able to offer one-day guaranteed shark encounters with this completely unique and misunderstood shark species. It’s a completely new operation that allows divers, non-divers, and film and TV productions a unique place to encounter them in their natural habitat.”
For those who are dive certified, The Big Game Club also offers spectacular offshore reef, wreck, and shark diving with species like tiger sharks, reef sharks and lemon sharks. Bimini is quickly becoming the shark hub for all of the Bahamas. It’s a place where marina-based shark diving is as easy as 1-2-3, and offshore species can be discovered less than 30 minutes from the beach.