We returned from another Tiger Beach trip, which was our second adventure of the 2018 expedition season. It was a challenging weather week. Sadly we lost the first two days of the trip to weather. However, I wasn’t too worried, because I knew that once we got to TB and the tigers showed up, everyone would forget about those lost days. As of late, when the tigers are there, Tiger Beach has been epic.
On our third day, the weather started clearing and we were finally able to get to TB and begin diving. My only fear was that due to the storms, the tigers would take a few dives to arrive, which is normal. During storms, they always leave the shallow water and retreat to the deeper water. My guess is… better visibility, less surging water and better hunting.
Anyway, thankfully when we arrived - it was on, the tigers were there and we were able to go straight into a feed with a few tigers. Everyone was on fire and the week turned into a magical time, with plenty of tigers for everyone to capture videos and images. And yes, the bulls were there everyday. Again, they were well behaved, which is nice. I do have to admit, they are growing on me. It is nice having them around for people to see, especially when the tigers are late to show up. Of course, we still have zero plans to feed them here. We do not want them to get that comfortable. It is a marquee species, but it is a shark we have to be very wary of. So as long as they stay well behaved, it is nice having them here.
They did make the night dive on this trip a lot more interesting. On one of the nights, we dropped down for a night feed with the tigers. It was pretty intense, the lemons were on fire and the action was crazy and non-stop. Taxi the lemon shark showed up, which is one of my oldest lemon shark buddies. She was up to her mischievous self and made me smile. She has learned how to dive into the bait box to steal bait, which, of course, she did on this dive. She went vertical, with her trade mark head dive into the box. She wasn’t able to snag a piece, because I am on to her game, but she did try.
During our night dive, it took about 25 minutes before the tiger came in. We were just about to call the dive, when I spotted this massive shape of a tiger in the darkness. It was Jenn. A 13 foot, 1,200 Lb. tiger shark. Everyone got excited and I got back into position to wait for Jenn to come in. It took a while before she did, she was nervous with all the lights and the lemons swimming all over the place. It took about 10 minutes before she relaxed enough to come in, but when she finally did... it was game on. She is a big shark, but damn, does she look huge at night!
The dive was sharky… during the dive, we had about 15 lemon sharks swimming around the box, (all on fire), a handful of reef sharks, a very big tiger shark and a couple of bull sharks swimming in and out…it was easily the best night dive I have ever experienced here.
This trip was supposed to be a Tiger Beach / Bimini trip, but due to the lost days, we decided to stay at Tiger Beach, which everyone was fine with. Of course everyone wanted to see a great hammerhead, but with all the tiger shark action, they were fine with the outcome of the trip.
I do have to share this story… One of the biggest highlights of my career happened on this trip. On one of our dives, two of our guests, my buddies, Thomas, Jazzy Judy and I were the first three in the water. I was not feeding on this dive, so I dropped in with my camera, Gloria. Tom and Jazzy were in first, then I followed. When I hit the sand, Tequila, one of our resident tigers swam past Tom and Jazzy and came right up to me, within touching distance, and swam around me. I gave her a back rub as she did. She swam around me twice, allowing me to rub her back as she did. After the second time she did this, she swam off. I watched her swim off, and then fell back onto the ocean floor, looking up at the surface with my hand stretched out in victory. I was on fire, she recognized me!
I am always asked if the tigers recognize me when I am down there? I always said, “No I do not think so. What I think they recognize is my energy, because I do the same things with them, every time I am down there.” But Tequila clearly recognized me and came over to see if I had a snack. I was teary eyed and so freaking happy. I looked at Tom and Jazzy in disbelief. As I was doing that, Tequila swam back up to me for a third time, circled me again, allowing me to pet her back and finally swam off. I was just floored and so grateful for this moment.
People are always asking me what my favorite moment in the water is, it used to be when I was dancing and playing with orcas in New Zealand, but this moment, just topped that by a thousand fold. Experiencing moments like that and getting to share them with dear friends is the very best and why I love returning to the same places, year after year. You just never know what gifts the ocean and her wildlife are going to give you. Like I said, Tiger Beach has been EPIC!
Thanks for reading.