“My First Tiger (on my 5th dive😳)” by Cole Watkins

The year was 2014 and I was boarding my first liveaboard, the Carib Dancer, now known as the Bahamas Aggressor, and getting ready to make my first dive. No one quite explained exactly what Tiger Beach was to me; but I learned quickly. If you want sharks in the Caribbean, this is where you go!

The first few dives of the week went well. I remember doing my OW skills at the Sugar Wreck and getting a glance at my first sharks. Even these 5 ft Caribbean Reef Sharks got my heart racing.

As a green, 25 year old, I was (and still am) up for any adventure but I had zero interest in swimming with sharks. Like most non-divers, I let the movies and media warp my mind on the narrative of these big, beautiful fish.

A couple of days later, at a very experienced level of 4 dives under my belt; we pulled up to “Tiger Beach” dive site. This site is a beautiful beach area that sits in 15 feet of water. There’s a white sandy bottom that seems to always have Shark activity. Most of the Sharks seen are Lemon Sharks, Reef Sharks, and Nurse Sharks ranging from 4-7 feet in length. Occasionally a Tiger Shark will come through.

I remember laying flat in the sand watching the lemons and reef sharks swim around and counting down the minutes for them to leave so I could make my way to the ladder safely with no sharks in sight. And suddenly, it started happening. One by one these sharks started to swim off into the blue until there was nothing around but bubbles. My dive buddy and I decided to make our way to the ladder. Just as I am starting to hand my fins to the helpful staff member on the dive platform, I could hear a lot of shakers/noisemakers sounding off. I decided to take one more peak down and when I did, I could not believe my eyes. In swam a hefty 13′ Tiger Shark! And WOW! The shear size of this animal was so breath taking to me.

But I wasn’t as afraid as you think a diver on his 5th dive would be… Maybe its because I was still holding the ladder 😅. But watching this gentle giant come in and effortlessly move her big body through the water for a quick hello and goodbye, was calming to me. Maybe these sharks really aren’t ferocious man eaters. I think this is the moment I fell in love with sharks and a moment I will never forget.

by Cole Watkins, Director of Content Strategy

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