Nurse Sharks of Compass Cay – Bahamas - Atlas Obscura

Nurse Sharks of Compass Cay

They squeal, they nosh, they look like predators. 


Nurse sharks are kind of like Bahamian catfish in the shape of a predator. Bottom feeders, nurse sharks mostly appear to sit down on the bottom of the shallows and suck sediment and little critters from the sand. If you are underwater near them, you can hear them squeal a high-pitched sound.

While they may be benign and catfish-like, the reality is that they look like a shark. They have a dorsal fin. They are big. Did we mention the dorsal fin, that sign so often associated with the terrifying man-eating monsters of the sea ever since Spielberg focused his attention on a young Richard Dreyfuss and that small town’s celebration of the Fourth of July near the sea?

At Compass Cay, which is a private island in the Outer Exumas, just south of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the marina workers feed the fish. This makes them very friendly animals; they’re not likely to expend the extra effort to gnaw off a leg when they know that they’re going to get something much better hand-fed to them. They have names. They swim up to you. They are photogenic.

Please be aware that they can, and will bite, if they feel menaced. In July 2018, a 19-year-old model was attacked (without major consequences) while taking pictures with them.

Know Before You Go

From Staniel Cay, it's a bit of a stretch by whaler. It can be done, but a larger boat is better.

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