The waters off Bimini are home to many types of fish amongst which Caribbean Reefsharks and Southern Stingrays.
The Caribbean reefies are almost always present at some rockyreefs on the southside of the south island since shark feeding (while SCUBA diving) is a common practice at this spot. We did not bring bait to the spot so were only hoping to see some of the sharks while freediving. As soon as we anchored the boat the sharks started circling, hoping for a handout. The conditioning of the sharks was clearly working in our advantage because once we got in the water the sharks came in close and we would see up to 13 of them at a time.
Carribean reef sharks are cool and bulky sharks with an attitude. They are less odd than the hammerheads, but more sharky than the nurse sharks which we saw earlier in the trip. Diving down on the reef would sometimes make them come over to check you out. Joshua, George's 5 year old son, really insisted on getting in the water too. This kid is not growing up with sharks as a total danger, but a fascination for them (compared to most of us, because of horror stories and movies like JAWS). So, what do you do as a dad when your kid insists? You show the kid the sharks. Really awesome to see the little one enjoy the sharks as much as we did.
George only barely could get into freediving and photographing the sharks himself. :-)
After the dive we headed for the cay where southern stingrays are used to be fed. Another spot where we would benefit from conditioned animals. On our way to the cay we could clearly see the Sapona shipwreck lying on the reef. The ship was used historically as a place to store alcohol during the period of prohibition in the United States, but ran aground on the reef and broke apart in 1926 during a hurricane. Kind of a spooky ship to watch, especially in the choppy conditions.
Once we arrived at the cay about 20 stingrays had congregated in the area. The wind picked up so the water was a bit rough onsite, ruining hope for a decent split shot with the stingrays. Nontheless seeing them up close in big numbers was a really nice experience.
Again Joshua insisted on getting in with the boys and seeing the rays upclose himself.
I could not resist taking some images of him with his dad enjoying themselves. It all became a bit too much for Josh when a big mothership bumped into him and he went back to the boat to take a breather, leaving the rays to us in the water. :-)
Later in the evening Joshua showed his new drawing of the stingrays and explained that he really loved them too. He was just a bit scared when the big one came too close for comfort. Seeing the drawings made me realize how big of an impression these close encounters have on kids and why it is important to show them this wildlife.
Showing children the wildlife for what it really is, (in a wild environment) is important if you ask me. Their appreciation for wildlife (note the part "wild" in wildlife) will help in the conservation of species and habitat. Growing up with seeing animals in zoos only is just not realistic and sets a bad example to our next generations. If we are only willing to buy a ticket to see animals in cages and aquariums then how are we going to protect them and their real habitat? Sadly that's exactly what we are doing currently. We are degrading their (and our) habitat and racing towards a 6th mass extinction. If only half of what biologists and scientists say about the rate that we are loosing wildlife and habitat is true, then still it is a terrible waste and a tragic disaster. Yes, extinction of some species might be a natural thing too, but this rate is way beyond that if you ask me.
Seeing Joshua's enthusiasm for the sea and the animals living in it I guess he is going to be a great advocate for protecting wildlife and their habitat when he grows up.