I just returned from a grueling trip to Bimini, Bahamas. Bimini is the closest of the Bahamas Islands to the US. It is only 60 miles from Miami. Ironically, it's the most goddamn difficult island of the Bahamas that I've had to get to. I write about the best way to get to Bimini in another blog post. I discuss here what divers and photographers should look for in a trip to see great hammerhead sharks in Bimini.
A trip to Bimini could easily be a perfect trip. Here’s a perfect trip for me: a land-based hotel, with great diving sites close by. A hotel that is not overly expensive but is safe, clean, and comfortable, with good free wifi and working air-conditioning. Decent food at the hotel and other restaurants nearby. A short ride to the dive sites. Reliable air travel to and from the destination, so you can make your plans and connecting flights without stress and worry and additional expense. Best of all, seeing large animals like great hammerhead sharks up close and fairly easily.
1. Make sure that the operator has been to Bimini many times, and that he/she recommends a good way to get there. If the operator recommends Silver Airways, then I’d say that the operator does not have enough experience. I myself will avoid Silver Airways at all costs, and I will try to fly to Bimini via Sky Bahamas.
For some reason, everyone kept telling me that Silver Airways was the best way to get there, but they were AWFUL. After the trip, I heard that SkyBahamas was a far better way to get to Bimini. I wonder why no one told me this beforehand. I asked several folks who should have known.
2. If you are staying at the Bimini Big Game Lodge, you’ll be better off if the operator gives you a package deal for room and meals. If you book yourself at the Big Game Lodge, you won’t know what room you are getting, exactly (they are all OK but you don’t want a second floor room); the room rates will increase even though you have a confirmation; and they’ll try to add charges like a $35 resort fee when you check out.
3. Lastly, I'd like to go with an operator who is comfortable with having me and other photographers get their (gloved) hands and cameras right under the mouths of these great hammerheads. I have a video clip on my blog as example. The shark handlers should be able to bring the sharks right over your head and your camera.
Our trip leader Mike Black had no problem bringing two divers at a time (one at each side) and creating shots where he'd hold the bait and bring the sharks right over our cameras (and my bare hands). It was good that the divers in the water were limited to two divers per shark handler (one on each side), and no more than 2 shark handlers at a time.