Archive for the ‘Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas’ Category

100 Best Scuba Diving Sites, Operators, Destinations and More

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Top 100 Readers Choice Awards: Gold List

At the beginning of every year, Scuba Diving magazine sends a survey to our print and digital subscribers to find out where they love to scuba dive — among many other questions. The Top 100 Gold list is the compilation of reader votes for the best dive sites, dive operators, liveaboards, big-animal encounters and more, regardless of location. We are proud to present the list that you — our readers — brought to life!

Underwater Photo Wall Diving

Shutterstock.com

Best Wall Dives

#1 Palancar Deep, Cozumel, Mexico

#2 Bloody Bay Wall, Little Cayman, Cayman Islands

#3 Molokini Crater Back Wall, Maui, Hawaii

#4 Blue Corner, Palau

#5 Half Moon Caye, Lighthouse Reef, Belize

#6 Big Tunnels, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

#7 Mary’s Place, Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

#8 Amphitheater, Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos

#9 Cane Bay Wall, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Underwater Photo Diver in Devil's Grotto Cayman Islands

Shutterstock

Best Dive Sites

#10 Cathedrals, Lanai, Hawaii

#11 Devil’s Grotto, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

#12 Something Special, Bonaire

#13 Cenote Dos Ojos, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

#14 Eagle Ray Pass, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

#15 Darwin’s Arch, Galapagos

#16 Cod Hole, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

#17 Great White Wall, Fiji

#18 Farnsworth Bank, Catalina Island, California

Thistlegorm Wreck Red Sea Egypt Trucks Underwater

Shutterstock

Best Wreck Diving

#19 Spiegel Grove, Key Largo, Florida

#20 Kittiwake, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

#21 Fujikawa Maru, Truk Lagoon, Micronesia

#22 El Aguila, Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

#23 Oriskany, Pensacola, Florida

#24 Corsair, Oahu, Hawaii

#25 U-352, Morehead City, North Carolina

#26 Thistlegorm, Red Sea, Egypt

#27 Liberty, Bali, Indonesia

scuba diver in kelp forest underwater photo california

Shutterstock

Best Shore Dives

#28 CoCo View Wall, Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

#29 Alice in Wonderland, Bonaire

#30 Buddy’s Reef, Bonaire

#31 Blue Heron Bridge, Riviera Beach, Florida

#32 Avalon Underwater Park, Catalina Island, California

#33 La Jolla Cove, San Diego, California

#34 Mala Wharf, Maui, Hawaii

#35 Sharks Cove, Oahu, Hawaii

#36 Lighthouse Point Reef, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Underwater Photo Diver in Cenote in Mexico

Shutterstock

Most Unusual Dive Sites

#37 Great Blue Hole, Belize

#38 Devil’s Throat, Cozumel, Mexico

#39 Christ of the Abyss, Key Largo, Florida

#40 1,000 Steps, Bonaire

#41 Jellyfish Lake, Palau

#42 Cenote Chac Mool, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

#43 Bonne Terre Mine, Missouri

#44 Pelagic Magic, Kona, Hawaii

#45 Washing Machine, Exuma, Bahamas

Underwater Photo Manta Night Dive Kona Hawaii

Shutterstock

Best Night Dives

#46 Manta Ray Night Dive, Kona, Hawaii

#47 Davis Reef, Key Largo, Florida

#48 Bari Reef, Bonaire

#49 Bailey’s Key, Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

#50 Sunset House Resort Reef, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

#51 Frederiksted Pier, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

#52 Shark Ray Alley, Ambergris Caye, Belize

#53 Fluorescent Night Dive, Koh Tao, Thailand

#54 Coral Spawning Dives, East End, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Snorkeler with Whale Shark Underwater Photo

Shutterstock

Best Big Animal Encounters

#55 Whale Sharks, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

#56 Manatees, Crystal River, Florida

#57 Sand Tiger Sharks, North Carolina

#58 Caribbean Reef Sharks, Shark Arena, New Providence, Bahamas

#59 Spinner Dolphins and Humpback Whales, Maui, Hawaii

#60 California Sea Lions, Santa Cruz Island, California

#61 Hammerhead Sharks, Galapagos

#62 Frogfish, Bari Reef, Bonaire

#63 Whitetip Reef and Blacktip Reef Sharks, Beqa, Fiji

#64 Pacific Manta Rays, Ulong Channel, Palau

Best Wall Diving Palau

Shutterstock

Best Beaches

#65 Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

#66 Ka’anapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii

#67 Tulum, Mexico

#68 Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

#69 Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii

#70 The Baths, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

#71 West Bay Beach, Roatan, Bay Islands

#72 Destin, Florida

#73 Anse Chastanet, St. Lucia

Belize Aggressor Liveaboard Dive Vacations

Aggressor Fleet & Dancer Fleet

Best Liveaboards

#74 Galapagos Aggressor III

#75 Aqua Cat, Bahamas

#76 Cayman Aggressor IV

#77 Arenui, Indonesia

#78 Belize Aggressor III

#79 Spoilsport, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

#80 Odyssey Adventures/Truk Odyssey, Micronesia

#81 Turks and Caicos Aggressor II

#82 Maldives Aggressor

giant stride at Orange Bowl

David Benz

Best Dive Operators

#83 Buddy Dive Bonaire

#84 Reef Divers, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, Cayman Islands

#85 [Jack’s Diving Locker], Kona, Hawaii

#86 Stuart Cove’s, New Providence, Bahamas

#87 Ocean Divers, Key Largo, Florida

#88 Sunset House, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

#89 Sam’s Tours Palau

#90 Amigos Del Mar, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

#91 Scuba Club Cozumel, Mexico

Best Dive Resorts Sunset House Cayman Islands

Sunset House

Best Dive Resorts

#92 Sunset House, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

#93 Anthony’s Key Resort, Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

#94 Scuba Club Cozumel, Mexico

#95 CoCo View Resort, Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

#96 Little Cayman Beach Resort, Cayman Islands

#97 Turneffe Island Resort, Belize

#98 Deep Blue Resort, Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras

#99 Beqa Lagoon Resort, Fiji

#100 Buddy Dive Resort Bonaire

Operation No Fear: Diving with Oceanic Whitetips

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

By the time I realize what’s happening, it’s too late.

Tunnel vision is instant: The last thing I remember is the blunt end of an oceanic whitetip shark scratching an itch against my fins — my yellow it-won’t-be-a-problem fins. Normally these fins are so dependable that they don’t warrant a second thought — it was only their bad-as-a-banana color that gave me pause a few days ago when I packed for Cat Island. I knew this Bahamas trip would be different. In places like Nassau and Grand Bahamas, Caribbean reef sharks have become habituated to systematic feedings. The sharks showing up are all regulars, where every handler knows their names — it’s like Cheers, except the cold ones are herring.

In open water, the rules are different. There aren’t any — only procedures based on predictability. Sharks here act more on instinct, less on habit. Pink, baby blue, yellow or other light-colored fins could be interpreted as fish.

Luckily, sharks’ body language is as subtle as a pickup artist. With these predators, a sleek pectoral fin angling downward signals that all bets are off — and the hunt is on. Those same fins slicing horizontally away from the body is good.

This is called polite feeding, and it’s the only behavior Stuart Cove’s allows guests to experience, whether at its Nassau hub or satellite Cat Island operation, run by Beto M. Barbosa and Charlotte Faulkner with boat captain and all-around chill guy Alvin Duncanson.

Earlier that morning, I was the opposite of anxious as White Bungi, the 46-foot-long custom-built Newton, carried us 13 miles offshore of Columbus Point, an idyllic white-sand crescent. It’s a spot favored by big-game fishermen for the same reason we’re here now, engines idling.

At 70 feet, the reef gives way to a 3,000-foot abyss where anything can appear — the closest on-ramp to a superhighway of life.

And it’s officially spring break: For a few magical weeks in April and May, it’s Tunas Gone Wild, a migration of epic proportions. Big-game fishermen score. And the oceanics, practiced hunters that are opportunistic by default, know how to take advantage. It’s little wonder these sharks have made headlines picking off shipwreck victims.

That same energy-saving instinct brings them to Columbus Point. Just as Caribbean reef sharks have learned what it takes to score a handout from a chain-mail-clad feeder, so too oceanics understand what happens when a big haul is on the line, snatching the marlin, sailfish or other prize just before it’s lifted from the salt water.

Anglers in the Billfish Blast tournament held here every May label them as pests. But it’s all that fin flapping and those pulsing hearts that attract the oceanics — and the reason that Stuart Cove’s has started tours here.

Dive teams intentionally replicate the actions of a fishing boat, including gunning the engine into reverse.

“All the cues are there, so the sharks are confused,” Faulkner says. “They’re like, ‘Where the frig is the line?’”

Trickle Down Theory

The process starts with a slick of menhaden oil — a fish-attractant that smells like wax and is as common here as white ice chests. Next comes chum.

Barbosa slides a glove on, and then secures a hunk of mahi against a cutting board while perching off the swim platform. Down comes the hatchet as he flings bloody bites of sushi into the flat sea.
Sometimes the sharks appear right away — or, rarely, not at all. It’s the wild, not Disney World. Today it’s only 20 minutes before the first dorsal fin cracks the surface. We climb into our gear, and then plunge in behind Barbosa.

There is a system for the dive: An aluminum cube holds enough enticing scraps to persuade the predators to stick around. Tis is the worm on the hook — the bobber is a standard tagline buoy, which lets surface support know where the divers are at all times because the buoy is tethered to nothing. The whole show travels.

Barbosa keeps a light grip on the line connecting the bait box to the buoy. He stays at the center of the action, and can dole out fish bits if the sharks appear to lose interest — unlikely, given that it’s also raining chum. When Duncanson brings the boat near the group, Faulkner lobs tuna heads and skins into the mix, helping photographers get the open-jaw shots.

For me, the trickle-down of meat is just another obstacle to avoid. I keep it in mind when I first get in the water — when things are still quiet.

Swimming with oceanic whitetips requires mental gymnastics: Just as a juggler stays mindful of every brightly colored ball lobbed aloft, a diver must swivel one’s head about, keeping an eye on the ever-swimming sharks. As a species, they are known for nudging — then attacking — the unsuspecting. But they always knock first.

It’s polite feeding, remember?

In the water, tracking one shark is easy. Then it’s two. Three and four make me thankful for my second cup of coffee. Five and six make me wish I’d thought of a better system of staying aware of their positions. Photographer Elly Wray and I had considered diving with our backs up against one another so we wouldn’t be caught off-guard, bumped from behind. When the dive started, this seemed silly. Now I scan for her. Her hooded head is fixed behind the camera, strobes firing. She’s happy in her element.

That’s one of my first mistakes: I had been watching my buddy, not the sharks, when I first spotted the female whitetip who had me in her scope, pressing steadily forward. With each flick of her tail, my heart beats faster. And yet, this is why I’ve come. The primal rush of a shark approaching, unafraid, is a high that divers rarely encounter on a reef; most sharks keep their distance, darting away when spotted. Photographers call this head-on approach the Mercedes shot. Experience it, and it will be imprinted on your memory.

Right now, as this graceful powerhouse swims closer, it’s like watching target practice. I know it’s just a matter of seconds before it will veer away. Right? And just like that, doubt creeps in, quickly replaced by the sweet smell of panic — at least from the shark’s point of view.

She noses against my fins. I get the bright idea to use that soft plastic to swat her. That plastic is as deterring as a flopping fish, which, incidentally, is exactly what my fins must feel like.

If this were a movie, this is where there would be frames missing.

When I finally snap out of it, I realize I’m gripping Barbosa’s forearm. With his fingers tight against his chest, he makes the smallest OK sign. A question. I nod. With a flat hand, he gestures a reminder to slow my breathing.

Suddenly, the lessons come back. I have been diving with sharks a dozen times. I know the drill. Don’t show fear. Make yourself appear big. Yet I feel so small. The only positive thought flickering through my mind is that as long as I’m clinging to Barbosa, we must look like a giant fish. My other happy thought is that at the rate I am breathing, my tank will soon be low, even though we’re only at a depth of about 15 feet.

Strangely, this starts to relax me. With Barbosa as my personal bouncer, I’m free to admire these pack animals. Their fins are so long that they remind me of outrigger canoes. Oceanics have a cool, faux-aloof confidence — watching them in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I suddenly realize how lucky I am. Fifty minutes into the dive, and the sharks still have demonstrated only curiosity, never aggression.

Scanning the group again, this time I see I’m not the only one who made a fashion faux pas. Another member of our group is sporting yellow fins, and he too has the unyielding attention of a shark that demonstrates all manner of pliability as it checks him out. But when the rest of the paparazzi approach this twosome of diver and shark, it’s too much stimuli, and the shark resumes swimming wider circles around us all.

When my air supply is sufficiently low, I signal to Barbosa. Once I’m safely back on the boat, I stop shaking. By the time I down a bottled water, the rest of the gang is aboard — it’s time for the halftime show.

Sharks are like houseguests: Once invited, they get cozy until the cupboards are bare. And right now, we’re packing two Rubbermaid coolers full of fish. The photographers ready their cameras, lowering the domes halfway into the water for over/under shots. The chum-slinging resumes, only this time, the chorus of oohs and ahs is audible.

Memory cards soon fill and residual nitrogen depletes. It’s time for dive two — only now jumping in requires trying not to land on a shark’s backside, their noses nearly pressed against the transom.

Other divers plop in, but I can’t bring myself to giant-stride smack into the middle of circling sharks that have been served only appetizers. While the others take advantage of round two, I join Faulkner on the bow. We’re mere feet from snapping jaws, but from this vantage point, I can re-collect my courage. It’s secondhand experience, but right now, it feels first rate.

Hours later, we make the 40-minute drive east from Hawk’s Nest Marina to Greenwood Beach Resort, a rustic, charming inn favored by Europeans. Dinner is served just after dusk, and I take solace stuffing my face: warm conch fritters, potato soup, lobster dinner and coconut-cream pie. Comfort food. I return to the room, belly bulging, and climb under the cool sheets, nodding off as Wray reviews her images and gives me a pep talk. She admits that she was surprised at how afraid I was, especially given how many years I have been strapping on fins and tanks.

As tiredness sets in and I think about tomorrow, part of me wants nothing more than to walk the white-sand beaches — the ones that Bahamas is famous for — and forget all about sharks.

But it’s not beaches I dream about. When I finally fall asleep, I’m picturing a fearless version of myself — in black fins.

I Am Not Bait

Take two. Morning at Hawk’s Nest Resort and Marina. The Stuart Cove’s crew has already set up our gear. As we embark on the hour-long boat ride, I take advantage of the fact that Andy Brandy Casagrande IV

is on board to shoot video. The GoPro-sponsored daredevil makes a living being fearless around sharks, including swimming outside the cage with great whites. Of course I hit him up for advice on how to be fearless around the sharks. Or for me, perhaps simply less fearful.

He says the biggest thing is to not think or act like bait. The sharks will pick up on that instantly. And with that, I find my mantra: I am not bait.

Faulkner answers another prayer: She hands me a pair of fins. Dark blue ones.

In the water, the first few passes the sharks make are a simple display of power — Lamborghinis doing warm-up laps. I work to make my buoyancy as perfect as possible. I want to avoid needless kicking, so I make like a statue and simply watch.

Sharks are funny. Anyone who has swum with them confidently likens them to dogs. Puppies even. Part of me understands. When interacting with us, they are harmless. They rub against divers to get a reaction.

I think they’re more like cats: curious and seemingly packing an agenda. They’re processing infinite amounts of complex data in any given moment. They scheme.

This occurs to me as I watch them twitch their freckled snouts. The movements are small, almost imperceptible. Te sharks are angling their noses and bodies into different positions, like rotating satellite dishes, to provide better positioning for their jelly-filled, cuplike receptors — the ampullae of Lorenzini. This is how they smell fear.

It’s this moment that I want to hold onto. I’m watching my fear swim around me, and it’s beautiful.

4 tips for shooting oceanic whitetips

1. Stay Shallow Oceanics are most territorial — i.e., more likely to come 
in close — from zero to 10 feet. This is also the sweet spot for surface reflections, or dappled light on their backs.

2. Don’t Chase Pursuit will only scare the sharks away. The electrical field emitted by your strobes should attract their curiosity.

3. Body language showing too much confidence might prevent a close encounter. Break eye contact from time to time. Letting your guard down (just for show) should bring them in.

4. Strobe Strategy Your camera-to-shark distance can change instantly. Be prepared to reposition and change the output of your strobes from close to camera at low power for a dome-bumping pass to wide set at high power when they’re farther away.

NEED TO KNOW

When to go Oceanic whitetip sharks flock to Cat Island in April and May, coinciding with the tuna migration.

Diving Conditions April and May temps average 75 to 80 degrees F. Visibility extends 70 feet or greater.

Operator Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas (stuartcove.com) brings a custom-built, 36-foot Newton to Cat Island, running trips through
 Hawk’s Nest Resort and Marina.

Price tag From $2,082 per person for 4 nights/3 dive days.

New Sunset Beach Resort Nassau Winter Deal $694pp dbl

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Dive our beautiful reefs in Nassau, Bahamas

Nassau’s Newest Resort! Downtown Nassau across from the famous Junkanoo Beach! New rooms, great location, and 4 days, 3 nights with 2 days of 2-tank AM dives for ONLY $694pp/dbl!

Stuart Cove’s and the new Sunset Resort Nassau! Resort amenities include a business center, gift shop, tour desk, Pizzeria, convenient beach access, complimentary guest parking, in-room Wi-Fi access and complimentary continental breakfast. Located within walking distance of historic Downtown Nassau, this property is the newest jewel to join the list of hotels that cater divers! With modern, upscale charm against an urban backdrop, the cozy feeling of laid back island living permeates the atmosphere. It is easy to forget the cares of the world and indulge in the warm and friendly island aura of Sunset Resort Bahamas.

Price: $694
Package Validity – Start Date: Dec 10th, 2015
Package Validity – End Date: Feb 20th, 2016
Travel must be booked by: Feb 25th, 2016
Website: www.stuartcove.com
Booking Email Address: pam@stuartcove.com
Booking Telephone: 954-524-5755

Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas Underwater Hollywood Dive

Monday, August 10th, 2015

Watch as Stuart Cove’s Dive of a Lifetime contest winner, Dallas Staheli, explores the wrecks that James Bond once dove at Underwater Hollywood in the Bahamas.

For more information about Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas visit www.stuartcove.com or call 800-879-9832
Click here to download the free Stuart Cove’s app, and start planning your next dive today.