Hey, remember this girl? The one who wouldn’t go further into the ocean than knee-wading depth thanks to her overwhelming fear of sharks? The one who was too terrified of all things water-related to even close her eyes in the shower? Oh right, her. Well, I’m not sure where That Girl went exactly, though sources have confirmed that someone of striking likeness to Her was seen palling around with a dozen six-foot nurse sharks while in the Bahamas this past week. No big deal. Just another (manic) Monday.
It’s funny that the same friend who was with me when I first confronted my fear of finned beings was around when I was face-to-face with 20 of them—maybe more—in one week and didn’t so much as flinch. She claims I’m her “biggest success story” yet! I’ll take that, gladly.
Even if you think—or have been told otherwise—most islands in the whole Caribbean are home to some kind of docile shark. People are naive to think otherwise, but even if you don’t see them, trust me, they’re there. As a reformed ichthyphobic I get that. People automatically associate sharks with malevolent behavior. As an avid diver, I’m here to tell you the Bahamas’ sharks are of the friendly variety, primarily reef sharks and lots and lots of nurses. In my experiences, nurse sharks are a lot like cats: They’re friendly and like to be pet, particularly scratched under the chin.
I find them kind of cute—don’t you?
They migrate toward this dock as I suspect a lot of people come over and feed them. No one was feeding them while we were there, but they were swarming the shallow waters nonetheless.
The following day we were set to spend the morning and early afternoon scuba diving. Yet another tropical story system almost thwarted that plan. Angie had really wanted to dive the famed Danger Reef (I just liked the name—though it’s far from dangerous, I should point out), but didn’t think I’d be into it due to the presence of sharks. Little did she know, there was nary a dive I’d rather do! Lucky for the both of us, midway into our hour-long motor out to the dive site, our divemaster changed course and determined that despite the currents and mammoth waves, we would do Danger after all. Success!
From the moment the boat anchored in the swaying sea, I could look just beyond the bow to see a handful of eight- to 10-foot reef sharks circling. Three-Years-Ago Kristin would have LOST HER MIND. Present Day Kristin was the first to put on her fins and dive in.
Like nurses, reef sharks are non-aggressive creatures, and while they’ll surround the boat in curiosity, they couldn’t care less about you under the sea, swimming within three feet of you but ignoring your presence entirely. Thus, I was prompted to follow them around by video camera. Because when I travel now, the thing that always goes through my mind is: “This will make excellent blog fodder!” Never mind if I lost a hand in doing so. ALL IN PURSUIT OF A GOOD STORY, PEOPLE.
(Kidding. The sharks are totally harmless!)(Though stay tuned for the last five seconds of the above video where the shark appears out of nowhere IN MY FACE. Whoa, nelly!)
Getting There: You can fly to George Town in Great Exuma on a number of carriers, such as Continental Express, from Ft. Lauderdale, or else jump aboard a regional carrier like Sky Bahamas from Nassau, then take a scenic boat tour from Barreterre through the cays aboard Four C’s Adventurres. Watermakers Air also flies directly from Ft. Lauderdale and Nassau to Staniel.
Where to Stay: Staniel Cay Yacht Club is the only accommodation in the area that I saw and boasts a number of candy-colored cottages right on the waterfront. Angie and I bunked in a room with four twin beds in a three-bedroom, two-bath house with a kitchenette, while our Bahama mama Sharmain slept in the master.
The resort is also home to Staniel Cay Divers, Ltd., run by Arizona ex-pat Jake, who has taken many a visiting celebrity out in the neighboring waters. He and his girlfriend and the boat captain make for an excellent dive team, and you should definitely join them for a day out in the waters should you find yourself in the area.
What It Costs: Airfare will run you around $90 each way, from Nassau or Florida to Great Exuma. Accommodation at Staniel runs from $145-$165 in a one-bedroom cottage; $160-$210 in a two-floor, two-bedroom suite; $225-$255 in a three-bedroom house. There’s an on-site bar and restaurant, and you can request package deals that include lodging, meals, activities and rentals. Diving runs from $180 (two-tank dive) to $400 (four tanks) per day, and snorkelers are welcome to ride along with the dive boat for $35.