On Wednesday, we began with breakfast, a quick field report and sandwich making since our boat trip departed about 1100. The boat left the harbor and continued south, rather than our northern track when searching for dolphins. Today, our goal was to observe and swim with Caribbean reef sharks. They certainly look like “real” menacing sharks! On the way, we had folks from a helicopter wave to us and we felt the strength of the noon-time sun. The ride to Triangle Rocks wasn’t that long and upon arrival we immediately saw the dark shadows of the sharks. Captain Al gave us a safety briefing and even checked the sharks under water before we got in the water. Alexis may have been the most nervous of us all, but she got in with the sharks like a champ! It was very, very cool to see them so close and soon, Captain Kat tossed in a piece of fish and they came even closer! There were larger Caribbean reef sharks and the much smaller sharpnose shark; all of them were females. We got some amazing pictures and video; the sharks were so close (did we already mention that the sharks were so close!). At one point, a shark swam by Jade and her fins grazed the shark – it didn’t seem to mind. Hunter R. and Dr. M both had their fins bumped by sharks, and we backed up a bit. We tried to move like we were in “The Matrix” to keep our distance and while some of us felt nice and calm, others had racing hearts the entire time. With the view of The Sapona, we continued on to our surprise location…
On the way, the boat got a serious rinse from the only rain cloud in the area. Daniel channeled his inner honey badger and sat on the bow through the entire rain storm. Soon, we arrived at Honeymoon Harbor on Gun Cay (pronounced “Key”). There were pups running on the beach, and a nurse shark swimming around, but we were really there to see the southern stingrays. These animals had no respect for personal space; as Captain Al would say, “If they were in a club, they would get slapped!” Corrin even got a hicky from a ray as her souvenir! We had the opportunity to sit in a circle and feed the rays pieces of squid. At first there were two rays, but soon there must have been twenty! They had a habit of sneaking up on us and there were lots of giggles all around. Two more nurse sharks came by, but we did not feed them. As we swam back to the boat, the rays followed us and swam through us, around us and tried to nibble us. Safe on the boat, we got to see them behind the boat with our collection of sand dollars. We were very hyper for our ride home, retelling our giggly stingray stories the whole ride back to North Bimini.
Once we got back to the Sea Crest, we cleaned up and then had a lively class session on ecotourism. We had a cookout on the marina, thanks to Grill-Master Captain Al. With bellies full, we watched Terramar Productions’ Understanding Dolphins. Hunter K. thinks this is the best film ever! We were very, very tired after our wonderful day…Head. Pillow. Goodbye.
Until next time,
Colonel Potcakes (EKU 2015)
PS: Today’s photo is a screen grab from Hunter R’s cool video!