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Trip Report Emerald Dive Charters Trip Report

Discussion in 'Florida' started by drrich2, May 9, 2017.

  1. drrich2

    drrich2 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,580
    6,312
    Just got back from a great trip to Jupiter, Florida, with 7 shark feed dives with Emerald Dive Charters (and 1 at Blue Heron Bridge). Given the controversial nature of shark feed diving, I did considerable research and prepared a write-up in advance, then wrapped my trip report info. into that write-up, which I present here. I'm not trying to sell anybody on taking up shark feed diving, but I'm offering some info. and links to help people make up their own minds and inform those who want to. Note: I'm having to go in and fix some hyperlinks that didn't port from numbered lists in Microsoft Word, so some parts may require fixing for the links to work.

    Emerald Dive Charter Trip Research & Report

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    This report emphasizes the logistics and experience of a shark feeding dive trip to Jupiter, FL. The purpose is to encounter larger numbers and more diverse species of sharks in closer quarters than usually possible without bait. Baiting (and especially feeding) sharks is controversial and I’ll discuss & provide links on that in Appendix V. Shark feed diving is illegal in Florida state waters (within 3 miles of the coast).

    Any prospective trip has these logistics; what kind of diving to do, where to go, who with and why there over other destinations. I live in southwestern KY, so travel time, airfare cost and cultural dynamics (e.g.: U.S. language, laws, money and electricity) favor U.S. destinations. Prefer warm water and good viz.

    I chose drift diving out of Jupiter for baited/fed cageless shark dives hoping to see species that seldom wander by (i.e.: not just Caribbean reef or nurse sharks; I wanted tigers, hammerheads, lemons and bull sharks). There are options for seeing ‘big stuff’ without baiting (see Appendix I), such as sand tiger sharks at offshore wrecks out of North Carolina (did that as a ‘prep. trip’ preparing for shark diving out of Jupiter) or Jupiter’s lemon shark migration.

    The warm Gulf Current flows up the coast bringing good viz., warm water and current for drift diving. Jupiter is just above a ‘bulge’ in the coastline, so the current runs more offshore and viz. isn’t as consistently good as some southern regions.

    But Jupiter’s got a rep. as the place in southeast FL to see ‘big stuff,’ plus the lemon shark migration (winter and early spring) and goliath grouper aggregation (fall). Jupiter’s the northernmost town in Palm Beach County, with 62,707 pop. (2015 census), rated as the 9th Happiest Seaside Town in America by Coastal Living in 2012. It lacks the touristy feel of Daytona Beach but has parks, beaches and other things to do.

    A number of reputable dive op.s serve the Jupiter area; I dove with Jupiter Dive Center in September 2014 for the goliath grouper aggregation and have high praise for JDC (see trip report for more on Jupiter diving and area activities). I’d use them again but JDC doesn’t do shark feed diving, and of those who do near Jupiter, the one I heard the most about was Emerald Charters (they’re booked through Scuba Works).

    Season

    I chose late April-to-early May for my trip based on a portion of a post by forum member @HalcyonDaze (Post #24):

    Jupiter is north enough for seasonal variation in water temp.s. I had a non-dive trip booked late Feb./early March and my order of desire was to see tigers, hammerheads, lemons, bulls then anything else (disclaimer: the Biblical directive ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’ leads me not to ask for an uncaged in-water encounter with a great white; gotta draw the line somewhere.)
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
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  2. drrich2

    drrich2 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,580
    6,312
    Where To Stay

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    I chose a single room at Best Western Intracoastal Inn and full-size SUV rental due to traveling with wife, 4-year old daughter & mother-in-law (none diving), and flew Southwest non-stop to/from Fort Lauderdale Hollywood Airport (Palm Beach Airport’s closer to Jupiter but lacked non-stop options; I figured non-stop compensated us the extra drive time and gave the airline less chance to lose our luggage). BWII was a modest-sized 2-story budget hotel, clean, 3-5 foot deep outdoor pool, included free breakfast (varied egg offerings, sausage, hash browns, 3 kinds of cereal, a waffle maker, pastries, a bowl of fruit, Activia, juices (orange, apple, passion guava) and more), a location fairly central to area offerings (about a half-mile to Scuba Works, then another half-mile to Emerald Charters boat) and is beside a nice, long boardwalk across the intracoastal to a marina, with a branch swinging behind the hotel – you can study the mangroves, watch crabs and lizards, etc…

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    Scuba Works

    A Jupiter-based dive shop renting and selling gear that handles bookings for DivOcean (Scuba Work’s own 36 foot Newton dive boat), Emerald Charters and Lazy Daze (a 30 foot Island Hopper dive boat for spear fishing and private groups, limited to 6 divers). They also hire out guides for Blue Heron Bridge diving. They were timely, helpful and clear with e-mail correspondence.

    I contacted Scuba Works by e-mail July 2016 and was told Emerald Trips tend to book out weekends 1st (hence the higher price), usually a week or more notice is enough to get a spot and they typically take bookings up to ~ 3 months out. Late Jan. 2017 I made a booking for 4 straight dive days April 30 – May 3, paying the 1st day boat trip cost as a deposit (4-25-17 got notice boat’d be in for maintenance May 2, so I booked May 4 instead).

    There’s a formal requirement sheet for Emerald Charters. Some highlights:

    1.) Require nitrox cert. & advanced dive cert. or equivalent of at least 50 logged dives with deep or drift diving experience. Last dive within 6 months of booked trip.

    2.) No white, pink, yellow or other bright colored fins/gloves/masks/snorkels/wetsuits/tanks. Require black hoods for long hair. Everyone has to wear wetsuits and gloves.

    3.) Safety Marker required.

    I asked Scuba Works questions by e-mail; they also want a hood on if you’re bald or have a ponytail needing tucking in. Wetsuit means a full wetsuit, not a shorty. Scuba Works only offers up to 100 cf steel tank rentals for these trips and told me they don’t accept or provide 120 cf tanks, which aren’t considered appropriate for Emerald Charters. I asked the reasoning and was told they quit renting those because many renters had no business with a 120 and it was too hard to gauge that on booking day. The list indicated up to 18 lbs. weight for $20; I was told by phone they could go to 20 lbs. but that was the limit as they didn’t want people over-weighted. In a follow-up e-mail I was told my limit was 16 lbs. due to diving 100 cf steel tanks.

    Reviews elsewhere mentioned that at $20/day rental fee for weights, if you dive a few days you could buy them and break even whether or not you kept them! I was told buying 16 lbs. would cost me $59.96 and was offered a 50% discount on the 4-day weight rental.

    Fees I was looking at Jan. 2017, excluding 6% sales tax or gratuity:

    Dive Trip Sat. or Sunday: $125 (I need 1).

    Weekday Dive Trip: $100 (I need 3).

    Steel Tank rental: $21.50 each (I need 3/day x 4 days).

    Weights: Up to 18 lbs. (I was told 20, then 16): $20/day (x 4 days).

    So bringing my own gear except tanks and weights, I came to $763 ($808.78 w/tax) + tips for planned 12 nitrox dives with the addition of shark feeding. They have 80 cf tanks at $16.50 each. A 50% weight rental discount would knock off $40.

    You could do their bundle package, 3 Steel Tanks & all other rental gear, at $110/day; for 4 days/12 dives, $440 rental fees + $425 = $865, $916.90 w/tax. So bringing my own gear saved $108.12. A set of scuba gear takes most of a suitcase & a round trip checked 2nd bag cost is around $70 (unless you get 2 free checked bags flying South West or other deal).
     
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  3. drrich2

    drrich2 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,580
    6,312
    Emerald Charters

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    Emerald Charters is a single 42-foot boat 7 day/week 3-tank dive trip op. limited to nitrox-certified ‘experienced, good’ divers (link to page; click by ‘Are You A Good Diver?’). Per their description, good divers show up promptly for dives, don’t ‘no show,’ dove in the past year in conditions they’re about to dive or ‘warm up’ 1st in easier conditions, don’t try multi-tasking after gear changes till adjusted, control buoyancy at all times, know about what weight they need and don’t over-weight. Captain Randy Jordon conducts shark feed dives in federal waters.

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    Jupiter diving is often deep drift diving with limited viz. (I’d estimate 20-50 feet) and much of the dive may be at depth (i.e.: not multi-level with an average depth much shallower than max.). Boats typically do ‘hot drops’ and pickups (boat doesn’t anchor or moor; divers quickly giant stride off the back and may dive as a group followed by the boat, then ladder exit. Due to depth nitrox is needed to prevent NDLs from cutting dive times short. On a prior trip I inferred the ‘typical’ Jupiter diver is more seasoned rather than ‘newbies’ recently out of OW training.

    A repeated theme in reviews of diving with Emerald Charters is it’s not for beginners (rather for ‘advanced’ and maybe ‘intermediate’ divers (what I consider myself)) or those expecting valet diving or handholding. Reviews indicate you pick up and transport your own gear to/from Scuba Works, and assemble it onboard. Don’t expect staff to assign you a dive buddy.

    Emerald’s website mentions the included ‘gourmet’ box lunch; and it was talked up in reviews. I liked it.

    @soundfield in Jan. 2016 posted a trip report and said Randy enters 1st, heads directly down without waiting for others, if equalizing/buoyancy issues occur you may have to get down to the wreck on your own, if you ascend before Randy (with current, perhaps limited viz. and maybe sharks around) you deploy your own SMB and wait for pickup, some divers go into deco., it’s a fast-paced ‘have your act together’ kind of boat, and everyone on the boat that day was Dive Master or above. Randy told divers if they felt more comfortable they could watch from the deck of the wreck further away and shallower, which some did. They dove EAN 38%. HalcyonDaze (Post #9) gave added specifics about workflow at a couple of sites used, Hole in the Wall and the Esso Bonaire wreck.

    @Viron in June 2016 gave a trip report with a different flavor; at just over 20 dives, he was less seasoned than I associate with reports of Emerald’s clientele, but found the dive relaxing, he petted sharks throughout the dive, and HalcyonDaze (Post #11) wrote about changes he’d seen on the Emerald.
     
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  4. drrich2

    drrich2 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,580
    6,312
    My Emerald Charters Trip Report.

    July 2016: Contacted Scuba Works; was told usually a week or more notice is enough to get a spot on Emerald Charters, and they typically take bookings up to ~ 3 months out. They don’t consider 120 cf tanks appropriate for Emerald; I was disappointed but in practice, I found their generously filled 100 cf steel tanks did just fine.

    Late January 2017: Phoned and booked 4 days; Sunday 4-30-17 – Wed. 5-3-17.

    Feb. 2017: Was offered 50% discount on weight rental due to diving a few days, since buying would otherwise be cheaper. Was told the largest size wet suit they rent is a 3XL (they used Deep See brand), which would be pushing it for me. I needed a full wetsuit (required for the Emerald), so I ordered a Henderson Lycra Hot Skin to wear under my 3 mm shorty; got a 5XL shipped < $90, thin, light, buoyancy neutral, not about thermal protection but met the full suit requirement.

    April 2017: Was told you can check in the evening before if you want to speed up your day. Never was a problem in practice. Best Western’s breakfast starts at 7 p.m. (same time Scuba Works opens), but I could eat fast and reach Scuba Works in plenty of time to do daily disclaimer paperwork, pick up & analyze 3 nitrox tanks, and reach Emerald’s boat in good time. On 4-25-17 got a call the Emerald would be in for maintenance Tuesday 5-2-17, so I had that day’s diving shifted to Thursday 5-4-17. New plan: Dive Sunday-Monday, Wednesday-Thursday.

    We (wife, mother-in-law, 4-year old daughter and me) flew into Fort Lauderdale 4-29-17, rented a Chevy Tahoe and drove to Best Western Intracoastal Inn in Jupiter. The next morning my wife took me up the road ~ ½ mile to Scuba Works dive shop for 3 100-cf steel tanks with nitrox and weights, then dropped me off ~ ½ mile farther where the Emerald docks alongside other boats.

    Sunday 4-30-17. Happy with Scuba Works; friendly people, shop was never crowded, relaxed but competent atmosphere, my 3 reserved tanks always had my 1st name taped on them, the 2 analyzers were easy (gave pressure & EAN %) and you log tank ID, EAN % and starting pressure. Of my 3 1 would be EAN 32%, 2 EAN 35-36%. Got to the boat expecting no help with anything; staff loaded my tanks on a cart & took them to/from the drop-off area to the boat.

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    Emerald’s the right boat of the 3.

    Randy wasn’t on that day; Josh gave the boat orientation, briefings and guided the group and fed sharks. Good mix of straight-forward and serious but fun and good-natured. Josh asked me to cut some white-backed ID tags off my gear due to high contract; I did, accidently cut my finger and bled quite awhile (note: it’s my understanding fish blood/juices, not human, is thought to excite sharks).

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    You can’t see well here, but the back is open to sun, the front section covered. Up front and high are pretzels and cookies. The brown chest in front of the crewmen (center) has Diet Coke, Coke and water free to divers. Up front and right is a large brown container that’s a dry box; use it! Waves happen and your stuff can get soaked. Front and center is a floor mat for cameras; once I saw the boat rock when seas were high I decided a camera table might not be wise. The Emerald isn’t a 6-pack, but it’s not a huge boat, either. Toward the rear (not seen here) is a big white ice chest with fish for bait/feeding.

    There is a below-deck marine head but they didn’t want us using it. Pee in your wetsuit. Randy is infamous for saying ‘If you sh*t on my boat, I’ll kill you.’ He did when with us Wednesday, but in a humorous enough context it wasn’t mean or threatening. But seriously; don’t crap on the boat.

    I was sleep-deprived, stressed, ate a somewhat greasy breakfast, and since I’m not prone to seasickness, didn’t take Bonine. The sea was moderately rough, and we’d get periodic big swells picking the front of the boat way up, then the back. I got queasy, watched the horizon and coped.

    We only got to do the 1st dive, since conditions weren’t considered safe enough for more (I’m guessing due to climbing the rear ladder if a swell hit). The other 10 divers that day were Italians; the leader thought he’d booked the boat as a private charter and while polite clearly wasn’t happy I was a ‘+1.’ Only happened the one day.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
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  5. drrich2

    drrich2 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,580
    6,312
    Workflow is like this:

    1.) It’s not ‘valet diving’ – set up your own gear. Nobody assigns you a buddy. The group will follow the guide/feeder, but he’s not there to point out little reef creatures, etc… Later in the dive, he’ll send up a lift bag with a line to his reel. If you run low on gas, you are to ascend independently beside that line to the lift bag and await pickup. Spare Air and many pony tanks are bright yellow; if you want a redundant air source, plan it out in advance.

    2.) It’s ‘hot drop’ diving – boat doesn’t anchor or moor. You get a 10-minute warning to get ready (please have your BCD & reg. on the tank and your wetsuit on before this), gear up, staff can bring your camera.

    3.) Captain yells ‘Dive, Dive, Dive!’ Josh (the feeder) jumps in 1st and descends a bit. Divers go one after the other, drop down a few feet and find him.

    4.) If you can’t descend, equalize or what-have-you, climb out and skip the dive. They don’t do re-drops.

    5.) Josh goes down with a couple of black plastic milk crates of chopped/sliced fish. He may also spear one, or Randy may spear one elsewhere and bring it. The group follows him.

    6.) Josh feeds sharks. You watch and take photos. Generally try to stay behind him and don’t get in too close. If a lemon shark bumps you, probably no big deal, but you can put your hand on its head and press down to divert it (I did once). Watching numbers of 6 to 8 foot+ lemon sharks weave around in close quarters is unnerving at 1st, but soon not worrisome.

    7.) If a tiger shark shows up, watch that to the exclusion of the other sharks. Tigers are curious; you can turn around and find one ‘in your face’ if you don’t watch out. Even then it’s not likely to hurt you, but I found the tigers raised more tension, even though all 3 we saw were non-threatening and acted much like the lemon sharks. The 2 females (Sassy and Jenny) were probably close to 10 feet long. The male was Patrick. You can divert a tiger shark as you do a lemon, only if necessary; otherwise don’t touch the sharks and do not put yourself in front of a tiger as an excuse to touch it.

    8.) Josh brings the group up, keeps feeding and the sharks come, too. Know how safety stops can get boring? Well, with a tiger shark passing back and forth through the group they’re really not…
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    9.) Never know what you’re gonna get; Josh gave me a chipped tooth fresh from Jenny the tiger shark! Awesome memento!

    10.) In 2014 diving with Jupiter Dive Center, the Captain backed the boat up to us to re-board. Emerald didn’t do that. You may surface away from the boat, and surface swim toward the middle side (aim for the rear and current may take you past it). Exit via ladder one by one. Despite the sharks it’s not fearful or high drama.

    11.) In 7 dives over 3 days with 3 tiger sharks, 2 party-crashing silky sharks, at least a couple of nurse sharks, a number of bull sharks and more lemons than I counted, I never saw a shark get aggressive with anyone. One lemon got pushy with Josh, but not aggressive.

    12.) The guide calls when to end the dive. When he says go up, go up. If you need to get to 15 feet instead of 20 to start your computer’s safety stop count down, do it. When the guide says go up, it’s not time to point at your computer & claim you’ve got to wait. While I’d read of some divers choosing deco. on past trips, never saw any of that my trip; when Josh called the dive, everybody ended it. The only ‘independent customer action’ was a spearfisherman with a scooter who had himself dropped elsewhere to catch up with us one dive, and a photographer who joined him on another. Nobody speared on our group dives except Josh, and I saw little of that.

    13.) I saw no rinse tanks near the boat, but Scuba Works had one. If you’re diving again the next day, you can leave your gear and they’ll lock it up (somebody arranged mine nicely on a hanger).
     
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  6. drrich2

    drrich2 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,580
    6,312
    Sunday 4-30-17. Only 1 dive due to weather, at a site called Submarine. It was a wreck; plan was head to the far end, settle and watch Josh feed sharks in the sand. The Italians weren’t new to this and did it right; I was hesitant, held onto some sort of post sticking up, and couldn’t see the bull sharks fed clearly but saw lemon sharks very close up on ascent. This also applies to shark feeds watching from the Esso Bonaire wreck; don’t mess around. Fin to the back and grab your spot (but carefully; I’ve seen a scorpionfish on that wreck).
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    My dive data: Duration 37:30, max. depth 83 feet, average depth 45.93 feet, starting PSI 3,818, final 1,479, EAN 32%, minimum temp. 76. (Note: Data from Cobalt 2 imported into MacDive, except used an Oceanic VT3 for temp.s).

    Monday 5-1-17. Trip cancelled due to continued bad weather. I got the call the prior afternoon. Headed to Zoo Miami with the family.
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    Tuesday 5-2-17. Boat in for scheduled maintenance. Wife and I took our 4-year old daughter to Juno Beach Park, a long, sandy beach with a huge pier. Some pretty big swells/waves came in; our kid had a ball for about 3 hours. Didn’t put sunscreen on my legs, which fried from knees to feet. Wore the dive skin when we came back Saturday.
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    Wednesday 5-3-17. 3 Dives; 2 on the Esso Bonaire, 1 at an upside down sunken barge (?) site called Hammer Beach. 1 Tiger shark (Sassy) the 1st 2 dives; 2 Tiger sharks (Patrick and Jenny) at Hammer Beach. On an Esso Bonaire dive, Josh feeds on the sand behind the wreck, the group starts atop the stern of the wreck, 1st timers might stay there the 1st time, but repeaters Josh may wave down once the action is underway. At Hammer Beach you swim across the flat wreck, then rest sheltered by the ledge it forms from the current.

    My dive 1 data: Duration 39 minutes, max. depth 84.73 feet, average depth 63.64 feet, start pressure 3,580, end pressure 1,491, min. temp. 74.
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    My dive 2 data: Duration 36 minutes, max. depth 85.87 feet, average depth 58.35 feet, start pressure 3,834, end pressure 1,877, min. temp. 74.
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    My dive 3 data: Duration 44 minutes, max. depth 71.48 feet, average depth 57.92 feet, start pressure 3,819, end pressure 1,842, min. temp. 75.
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    Thursday 5-4-17. 3 Dives; 1 at Cave of the Bulls on the Deep Ledge, then 2 at the Esso Bonaire wreck. We got several bull sharks on dive one, and a couple of silky sharks crashed the party late and shallow. On dive 2, a loggerhead sea turtle crashed the party, and on dive 3, Jenny the Tiger shark showed up.

    My dive 1 data: Duration 49.30 minutes, max. depth 101.87 feet (was told it’s 130 feet to the bottom), average depth 47.79 feet, start pressure 3,875, end pressure 1,152, min. temp. 75.
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    My dive 2 data: Duration 45 minutes, max. depth 87.77 feet, average depth 65.70 feet, start pressure 3,864, end pressure 1,890, min. temp. 75.
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    My dive 3 data: Duration 44:30 minutes, max. depth 86.46 feet, average depth 47.37 feet, start pressure 3,884, end pressure 1,869, min. temp. 75.

    They could’ve gotten me on the boat as an extra Friday, but I opted to take the day off with family (went to Lion Country Safari) and got in a Blue Heron Bridge dive (trip report).

    Summary: I had a great time and here’s a big shout out to the crew of Emerald Dive Charters!!! Woo-hoo, great trip! Once I got used to the sharks it commanded my respect but not much fear, the dives weren’t all that difficult (though I bounced around more than most; watch Josh, watch the tiger shark, watch my gauge, take a picture, whoops where’d that tiger shark go…), and I got an experience of a life-time I’d never get otherwise. That said, I recommend good buoyancy control, experience with drift and deep diving, nitrox is a must and highly suggest getting less ‘big and in your face’ shark diving experience first (e.g.: Morehead City, North Carolina diving with the sand tigers).
     
  7. drrich2

    drrich2 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,580
    6,312
    Appendix I. Diving for Big Stuff.

    Jupiter is a fine destination for the U.S.-based diver seeking big animals, but you’ve got options. For reliable sizeable shark encounters without baiting, in the U.S. the 2 main options are North Carolina’s offshore wrecks, and Jupiter’s seasonal lemon shark migration.

    1.) North Carolina – sand tiger sharks congregate around the deep wrecks and are mid-size, approachable, scary-looking but non-threatening (disclaimer: assuming you don’t touch, corner or spear fish around them) but conditions are strongly seasonal and there’s not much coral reef (trip report summarizing the region).
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    2.) California – a very long coast plus the Channel Islands offering a range of cold water diving, with harbor seals and California sea lions to be seen. My report summarizing California diving.
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    3.) The Flower Gardens and Stetson Banks, often reached aboard the Fling Charters live-aboard out of Freeport, TX. Hammerhead sharks are seasonal; unfortunately in a colder water part, and the Gulf of Mexico without nearby coast or islands means unpredictable conditions can cancel your trip. Trips are short (e.g.: 2 or 3 days). If flying in from out of state, consider staying long enough to go on two. Undercurrent’s free access report M/V Fling, Flower Gardens, Texas.

    4.) The Socorros – a group of islands under Mexican jurisdiction served by a few live-aboard boats. This is Pacific Ocean diving, not Caribbean. Aim to see mantas, sharks and dolphins. Hintermann’s Socorro Trip Report – May 10-18, 2016.

    5.) Guadalupe – an island under Mexican jurisdiction where great white sharks congregate served by a few live-aboard boats. Mainly cage diving while baiting brings GWS in close.

    6.) Tiger Beach – an area off Grand Bahama Island known for tiger sharks, but also lemon sharks. Served by some live-aboards. One of the cheaper options is the Bahamas Aggressor when on its Tiger Beach itinerary.

    7.) Cat Island – in the Bahamas and known for oceanic white-tip shark encounters. These sharks are known to make things interesting for people in the water with them. Scuba Diving’s article on Operation No Fear: Diving With And Photographing Oceanic Whitetips (Dec. 22, 2015).

    8.) Cocos Island. Roger_Scuba gave an extensive overview/trip report– Cocos Island trip review with Aggressor Okeanos, Sept. 6-16th, 2015, RS86’s Trip Report Cocos Island on Undersea Hunter’s M/V Argos 2-12 Nov. 2016. PeeweeDiver’s Cocos Island Trip with Undersea Hunter Group (2016). Pros and Cons between Galapagos, Socorro, Coco or Malpelo (2016).

    9.) Galapagos – there’s land-based diving but live-aboards garner the most attention, hitting Wolf and Darwin Islands. Judy01’s Galapagos Sky Review 21-28 Aug. 2016. BluewaterPhotos’ Galapagos El Nino Dive Report (2016). Help Please…planning a Galapagos and maybe Machu Picchu trip (2016).

    10.) For reef sharks and nurse sharks, the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos are good picks. Some Roatan dive op.s offer an extra charge shark feeding dive, and an extra charge dolphin encounter dive.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
  8. drrich2

    drrich2 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,580
    6,312
    Appendix II.) Trip Reports for Emerald Charters.

    Lemon Sharks of the shipwreck “Esso Bonaire III” with Emerald Charters (2016).

    Divers and Sharks (2016).

    Jupiter Shark Dive (2015).

    Shark Feeding Off Florida: Crossing The Line? By Mary Frances Emmons, Aug. 15, 2015 on Scuba Diving. An overview of the issue and despite the title, I think they had a blast on their trip.

    Trip Advisor Page for Emerald Charters (Note: While Trip Advisor isn’t 1st choice for dedicated dive trip impressions by some, given the ‘advanced’ nature of Emerald’s clientele, I believe there’s merit in a number of the reviews.

    Appendix III.) Useful Links.

    Emerald Charters – Website. Facebook Page. Trip Advisor Page.
    Scuba Works – Website. Facebook Page. Trip Advisor Page.
    Jupiter Trip Report 2014 with Jupiter Dive Center (a more general Jupiter Dive Trip with an excellent dive op.).

    Appendix IV.) Shark Feed Diving-related Resources.
    1.) The Sharks of Palm Beach County (dedicated to sharing photos & videos of area shark action). Good to see what species were seen on trips at various times of year.
     
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  9. drrich2

    drrich2 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,580
    6,312
    Appendix V.) The Shark Feeding Dive Controversy.

    Few topics on Scuba Board set off hot debate faster than shark feed diving. Opponents liken it to feeding bears or alligators, teaching potentially dangerous predators to associate humans with food and approach them, endangering innocent non-participants when big sharks ‘shake down’ divers not on feeding dives. Resultant menacing or attacks could bring bad P.R., calls for shark culls and undermine conservation efforts. Some just don’t like ‘interference’ in animal’s affairs by humans (though we interfere scaring a plethora of animals when we dive in and fin around).

    Proponents advocate the fun, perceived right to choose one’s own risk, perceived (by some) benign safety record for customers (staff feeding are another issue) and enlightening larger numbers in the public of the presence, beauty, value and relative safety of sharks, encouraging human pleasure, tourism money and shark conservation.

    It’s hard to agree on what’s being debated. If one op. uses bait scent but doesn’t feed, another uses a chum sickle and a 3rd hand feeds fish chunks to sharks, are they the same? If one operator brings in almost exclusively Caribbean reef sharks, and another tiger and great hammerheads, is that the same thing? How much does it matter whether shark feeding is done on sites also used for non-feeding ‘routine’ recreational dives?

    I’ll provide a long list of forum threads debating the issues, but here’s my impression of the gist of some of it:

    1.) Does shark feeding alter local shark behavior? Sometimes. Caribbean reef and nurse sharks coming near (to see if divers have food) were reported. I’ve not seen reports of tiger sharks or bull sharks accosting (non-spear fishing) divers outside of feeds, or strong evidence that feeds are interfering with normal migratory patterns. Possible foreign exception – a single series of attacks in the Red Sea.

    2.) Is it commonly believed in the recreational dive community there’s been a big uptick in serious shark attacks localizing in regions with shark feeding? Not that I’ve heard of. Some posts suggest sharks appear to recognize whether divers have food, and don’t take divers to be food or stay when there’s no food. The concern feeding sharks is equivalent to feeding bears and gators doesn’t seem to pan out.

    3.) Are big sharks coming in close the check out humans outside these dives, causing a panic and call for culling? Not that I’ve read.

    4.) Some hold ‘natural’ shark encounters (yet you’re in an alien environment with life support gear creating a scary presence; ‘unfacilitated’ would be a better term) are more gratifying than baited ones. To see reef sharks in the Bahamas or Turks & Caicos or the sand tigers of North Carolina that’s fine. Some species seldom approach and many divers get precious few hours in the water in a year, and want to see select species (or a variety) close.

    A special case involves spear fishing, sometimes prone to attract sharks. If shark feed diving leads more sharks to investigate divers, what happens when they find one with a speared, bleeding (maybe thrashing) fish he won’t give up? That’s a problem without shark feeding; do feed ‘conditioned’ sharks make it worse? Spear fishermen were historically taught to avoid letting sharks take their catch to prevent that. It has to be judged anecdotally, but some say regional shark populations have rebounded from historic lows, so if spear fishermen are challenged more often, is that from shark feeds, or just more sharks? There seems little concern about spear fishermen teaching sharks to associate man with food. A minority of spear fishermen use a little chum, such as to attract bull sharks to shoot cobia that hang with them, as discussed in the thread 7-Foot Bull Shark Attacks Diver Off Riviera Beach.

    Aside from the danger to spear fishermen, there’s risk to sharks they may kill in self-defense (see Bad Shark). And what about those who only take up spear fishing to kill invasive lionfish, and may lack the knowledge many mainstream spear fishermen hold?

    Don’t gloss over the fact a small minority of the diving public get seriously injured or killed by sharks; Dumpster Diver (Posts #46 & 48) wrote of 2 divers attacked within a few months, a local operator with 2 people killed on shark feed dives (in the Bahamas; one deemed from sharks, the other uncertain), many operators use chain mesh suits due to danger and a rebreather diver was killed years ago. @sheeper (Post #53) wrote his group of divers noticed increased aggressiveness in local sharks (he dives the Jupiter & surrounding region), and sharks spending more time around diver groups and getting closer; the sound of a spear gun going off can attract them. Dumpster Diver (Post #57) noted there are “…WAY more sharks, maybe 10 or 50 times more sharks in the local area compared to the way it was 15 or 20 years ago.”

    There’s a reported customer fatality from a shark feed dive; TekkyDiver (Post #2) showed a Sun-Sentinel article noting 49 year old Markus Groh of Vienna dove ~ 50 miles east of Fort Lauderdale near the Bahamas and got a fatal bite. The dive op. was Jim Abernathy’s Scuba Adventures, but there’s some risk inherent to cageless shark diving independent of the dive op. and customers sign on knowing that. DiverAmy (Post #35) shared a report by GrindTV.com on 63-year old John Petty who disappeared on a Tiger Beach Bahamas dive in 2014; his gear was later found (strangely without the body).

    Political warning: Bahamas Dive Association President Neal Watson was critical of Abernathy’s operation but his motives/agenda were questioned by some (Post # 70 & Post #72; an OceanDreams ’08 Blog, Blog post by Felix Leander); he’s viewed as Abernathy’s competitor. Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center’s Great Hammerhead Safari trip page shows close-in contact with large hammerheads (and a bait container) without shark cages; Manuel Sam (Posts #3 & 4) dove with BSC in early 2017 and said sharks were hand-fed.

    Wikipedia’s article on the 2010 Sharm El Sheikh shark attacks recounts 4 people seriously injured Dec. 1 and one killed Dec. 5, while wading or snorkeling near shore in the Red Sea. It’s theorized sheep carcass dumping brought sharks inshore, but some suspected shark feed diving might be an issue. An international team of shark experts found 2 species were involved; mako and oceanic white-tip.

    Participating (or not) in shark feed diving is a matter of informed conscience and assumption of risk.
     
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  10. drrich2

    drrich2 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,580
    6,312
    Listing of Scuba Board threads debating shark feed diving.

    2005 - Shark Dives vs Au Natural.

    2005 - Feeding Sharks.

    2008 - Shark Bites Live-aboard Guest.

    2009 - Shark Feeding.

    2010 - Shark Feeding Dives in USA? Why Not???

    2010 - Shark And Other Fish Feeding.

    2011 - Chumming/Baiting For Shark Dives.

    2013 – 7-Foot Bull Shark Attacks Diver Off Riviera Beach – Includes discussion of using a little chum to draw in bull sharks so spear fishermen can shoot cobia who hang with the bulls.

    2014 - Shark Divine…Florida? Bahamas?

    2014 - Shark Feeding Merits Discussion.

    2014 – Off-topic Discussion moved from Diver Missing in the Bahamas thread – Interesting debate.

    2015 - Jim Abernathy Baited Shark Dive. News article reported a 49-year-old man died from a shark bite near the Bahamas.

    2015 - Shark Court For Randy Emerald Charters Jupiter. Randy was accused of shark feeding within FL state waters (i.e.: within 3 miles of the coast).

    2015 – Diver bit off Jupiter during shark feed. Turns out shark feeding staff face some risk. Rumor has it the injury wasn’t serious (Post #45).

    2015 - Proposed interactive shark diving in the Caymans - (this thread was noteworthy for broader discussion of locations & shark species).

    2016 - Lemon Sharks of the shipwreck “Esso Bonaire III” with Emerald Charters – Forum Member SoundField’s trip report and video. Under questioning he discusses the ‘workflow’ of diving with Emerald Charters.

    2016 – Divers and Sharks - Forum Member Viron, a less experienced diver at the time, discussed an Emerald Charters trip with a ‘gentler’ feel.

    2016- There’s a bill in Congress to ban shark feed dives – Interesting debate over the issue & efforts to ban shark feeding in federal waters, which would basically shut it down around Florida.

    2017 – Bad Shark – Video and discussion of bull shark attacking a diver who killed it in self-defense. Interesting discussion of how spear fishermen deal with being accosted by sharks. Note: This took place in Australia.
     
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