Bahamas Trip Report
Well, another dolphin trip is over and
I'm sitting here on the plane doing
something I have never been able to do in
the past--look at my pictures! Ever since
I switched to digital last year I have
enjoyed the instant feedback that digital
gives me. No waiting to look at my shots!
But it has spawned a new phrase I like to
expound: "Digital is wonderful because you
don't have to wait to be disappointed in
your pictures." It's true. Astonishingly,
you can still take amazingly bad
photographs with a digital camera,
especially when your subject is a Spotted
dolphin going about 30 MPH past your head
while you are floundering in the water
with a snorkel and a few other people in
close proximity doing the same thing! But
I guess I should start at the
Our intrepid group met at the
Dolphin Dream in West Palm Beach
Florida, coming from all over the country
(although a good percentage came from the
Boston area) and we settled in for lunch
at the Tiki Restaurant at the marina. The
boat would not leave until well after
dinner. We had some sandwiches and got to
know each other. Alice and Michelle were
returning veterans, with this being their
third trip to visit the dolphins. Most of
the rest of the group were "dolphin
virgins" and had never enjoyed the
excitement of swimming with wild dolphins.
I filled everyone in on the drill, as well
as a photographic assignment I had to
photograph the "bandana
game" for a magazine. More on that
So we boarded the boat and co-captain
Andy gave us a safety and dive briefing,
explaining the protocol they use to get
divers on and off the boat with the
dolphins, etc. He also told us that the
weather had been, and continued to be
forecast to be somewhat rough in the
"dolphin grounds" out on White Sand Ridge.
We all hoped for the best.
We left the dock around 9:30 PM and
headed east, making the crossing over the
Gulf stream into the wind. It was
definitely one of the rougher crossings I
have made, but didn't seem that bad, due
to the amazing stability of the Dolphin
Dream. I can only imagine what I would
have been like on the old boat!
The next morning we arrived in West
End, Grand Bahama and went through customs
quickly. We were done with breakfast and
on our way by 9 AM, which I think is some
kind of record. Then the bad news
wind was so strong that we probably would
not attempt dolphins. But Captains Scott
and Andy let us in on the good news. They
had TWO freezers full of chum. He
suggested that we might do an afternoon of
Tiger sharks at Tiger Wreck. All but two
of the guests on the trip (our stalwart
dolphinites) cheered in applause. Bob was
heard to say that it's gotta be awesome
when the BACK-UP plan is to dive with
So we headed over to "Tiger wreck,"
threw some chum in the water, and waited.
I warned everyone that Tigers are not a
guarantee and we may not get any with only
one afternoon devoted to the task. Before
I had finished my first Butterfingers bar,
Andy yelled "SHARK!!!" from the back deck.
We all raced back there, and swimming
below the swim step was a solitary Tiger
shark, A big one. Rather than throw
everyone in the water and scare it away,
we waited a while for a few more sharks to
show up. Within a half hour we had a
couple Lemons too, so Todd decided to get
in and snorkel around. The sharks didn't
seem too skittish, so we started putting
divers in the water. I waited until a
little later to go in, giving the "Tiger
noobs" a chance to have some action before
I got in there and started photographing
them. Soon I couldn't stand it any longer,
grabbed my camera and headed down for some
Having just returned from a very
successful Tiger shark trip on this very
same boat only two months before, I didn't
really NEED more Tiger shark pictures, but
honestly, can you ever have too
many pictures of Tiger sharks? I think
not. Besides, I needed some better extreme
close-ups. I mounted up a 16 mm fisheye
and hit the water. The viz was very good
and the sharks abundant. Unlike March, we
only had about 4 Lemons, which was nice.
Too many Lemons get in the way of the
Tigers and steal all the bait. At one
point we had three Tigers and 4 Lemons, a
very good mix! One of the Tigers was
large, perhaps 10 feet long and as big
around as a 55 gallon drum. We also had a
tiny little one, the smallest I have ever
seen, perhaps only 3 feet long. It had the
"baby spots" (rather than Tiger stripes)
which are typical of a juvenile. Very
cute! The third one was a medium-sized
shark, perhaps 8 feet long. The most
aggressive one was the little one. Feisty!
I was glad that even our hard-core
dolphinites did a dive with the Tiger
sharks. It really is a once in a lifetime
experience and worth doing, even if sharks
aren't your thing.
Conditions at Tiger Wreck are fairly
protected, so we spent the night there.
The next day we headed out to White Sand
Ridge and found some dolphins. I must
admit that my memory gets a little fuzzy
here. I wasn't taking notes. We spent a
bunch of days swimming with the Spotted
dolphins and like any trip, we had pods
that were playful and pods that weren't.
On a couple of mornings we spent 3 hours
in the water almost non-stop, with the
dolphins working at trying to, at a
minimum, wear us out, if not to totally
drown us. Having a digital camera with a
nearly endless supply of film was
wonderful. Gone are the days of swimming
back and forth from the dolphins to the
boat to change cameras or film. And yes, I
deleted a lot of lousy shots! But I got
some nice ones too.
Just about everyone had brought
bandanas for the bandana game except
which is sort of ironic since I
was the one encouraging everyone to bring
them, and I bought a whole pile of them.
Unfortunately I managed to forget them.
D'oh! It turned out that Barry and Bobbie
brought the coolest bandanas of them all:
squares of bright orange fabric used to
make hunters' clothing. Man, that stuff
stands out in the pictures! Thanks
B&B, great idea! I had a bunch of
shots in my mind's eye that I wanted for
the story and over the course of the week,
especially on the last day, I managed to
nail most of them. I even managed to drag
Capt. Scott into the water for some swim
We had some Bottlenosed dolphins that
hung out for a while on one of the
afternoons, adding to the fun. But our
species diversity really started climbing
on the afternoon we decided to skip the
dolphin grounds and do a few dives.
We headed over to Muriel's Garden, a
reef known for Caribbean reef sharks, and
tossed some chum in the water. We jumped
into the water, sank down to 70 feet and
started playing with the one reef shark
that showed up. (Normally we get a dozen
.but where were they?) Then
out of the blue came a big Great
Hammerhead. It zoomed in, grabbed a piece
of fish, made a lap around the divers and
took off. Although it really didn't come
right into prime photo-range, I got a few
shots to prove we saw it. Let's see,
Tigers, Lemons, Reef shark and
..that's 4 species of
sharks on a dolphin trip. Not bad!
Next we headed off to the Sugar Wreck,
one of my favorite dives in the Bahamas.
It's shallow, colorful and full of fish,
turtles and stingrays. And on this
particular dive we found a pair of huge
Nurse sharks. Make that 5 species of
sharks for the trip! I spent some time
photographing divers (mostly Julia) for
some diver stock photos, but also managed
to get some decent turtle shots.
That night, we dove the wreck again,
and the highlight of the dive was an
octopus that Joy found and pointed out to
me. It was either very cooperative, or in
shock from the first blinding flash of my
strobes, but it allowed me to shoot quite
a few frames before vanishing into a hole
Uncharacteristically, we had one
afternoon where we couldn't find any
cooperative dolphins, so we lounged around
watching movies and tweaking pictures on
our laptops. I think Dave might have even
taken a nap or two. I actually enjoyed a
little down time. Dolphins are hard work
Alas the end of the trip came too soon
and we had to start packing up to head
home. Once again I had made some new
friends, seen some old friends, and spent
a week doing something that very few
people will ever get to do. In spite of
some challenging weather, a crab in
Barry's ear (!) and a few minor injuries
getting onto the boat in rough water, we
had an outstanding trip full of incredible
animal interactions. It makes it worth the
long flights, hauling luggage through
airports, and swallowing volumes of
seawater through a snorkel. The only bad
part is that I won't be going on next
year's dolphin trip. My wife Christine
gets to lead the trip next year, and I
have to stay home with the kids! If you
want to go, sign up now, because it will
fill up fast!
If you want to read a much more
detailed trip report, check out Bobbie's
Dolphin trip Blog!
A dolphin hunting in the sand.
Tiny cave full of silversides at Muriel's
Julia exploring the Sugar Wreck.
Todd strikes a curious pose while
photographing a dolphin with a
"Ha ha! Try to get the bandana from
There are still some spots left on
year's dolphin trip if you want
to join us!
A Tiger shark investigates bait tube.
That tube is 8" in diameter!
Yum! Milk crates!
Julia getting in there like a pro
Dave dwarfed by the goliath Tiger shark
which is coming for me!
A Lemon shark chows down on some
"Hey, get that camera out of my face
before I eat your dome port!"
David: "Please don't eat my Force Fin...I
only brought one pair!"
Which way is up? Who cares, TAKE THE
Julia petting the Tiger...caught on film.
OK not film...digital.
Here comes the fun!
Playing the Bandana
Dolphins pushing each other out of the way
to get a look at the human who is drowning
for a picture...
Yes, we saw a Great Hammerhead at Muriel's
Garden..check out the size of the dorsal
The Sugar Wreck
Alice following a Loggerhead sea turtle on
the Sugar wreck.
Joy's octopus at night on the Sugar
Audrey is in pursuit of the
Captain Scott playing with the
Alice is making the hand-off. This dolphin
grabbed the bandana and took off!
Andy demonstrates the best use of a
scooter...for getting the bandanas
Yum! Bright orange cloth!
Spotted dolphin mother and
Our group after a week at sea!