Nurse sharks are one of the highlights of our Day Tour and are found throughout the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas. The scientific name for the nurse shark is Ginglymostoma cirratum. The name is a mix of Greek and Latin and means “curled, hinged mouth”.
Nurse sharks tend to swim near the bottom of their chosen areas, are slow-moving and are relatively harmless to humans. Unlike their more carnivorous and curious cousins, they prefer to stay on their regular diet. They have very strong jaws to crush and eat shellfish but their preference is fish, shrimp, and squid. They have thousands (yes, thousands!) of tiny, serrated teeth, and will bite if stepped on, provoked or bothered by divers. They can grow up to 14 feet in length and have a beautiful greige coloring. Their distinctive tail fins, which help them maneuver ever so gracefully in the shallow Caribbean waters, can be up to one-fourth their total length. Nurse sharks are smoother to the touch than most other sharks which have very abrasive, rougher skin.
The warm, shallow waters of the Bahamas and western Atlantic are the perfect habitat for these creatures. They frequent our shores and marinas and of course, Compass Cay, where they are abundant. They are a very healthy species and an awesome sight to see while on holiday in the islands. Each of the sharks that frequent the Cay have names. Check out the sign on the dock where you enter the water and see if you can identify them!
Top 5 Unknown Facts About Nurse Sharks
- You’ll see possibly hundreds of our bottom-dwelling friends while here in the islands during a bright, sunny Bahamian day but they are nocturnal
- It’s not uncommon for dozens of Nurse sharks to pile on top of one another on the sea floor during daylight hours
- Divers encounter Nurse sharks most often in and around the waters of Florida although other, more dangerous species like Reef, Tiger, Hammerheads and Great Whites do linger in the shallows as well
- Male nurse sharks will seize and drag a female to mate in cooler, deeper waters
- The Nurse shark’s name is likely from the sound it makes when eating, like a nursing baby suckling
So, while you’re island hopping with us in the Exuma’s, take a while and appreciate these gentle and friendly fishes. But, please, respect their surroundings and their homes. After all, we’re in their space. We need to do everything we can to keep these waters clean and healthy to continue to enjoy these natural wonders of the oceans.