Swimming with pigs at Pig Beach is perhaps the more well known animal excursion; there is a local animal encounter underwater that shouldn’t be missed!

Nurse sharks are great for those who want to get close to the charismatic megafauna of the Bahamas while keeping the danger levels low.

There are several locations in the Exumas where you can swim amongst these gentle giants. In this guide, we’ll give you the low down on everything you need to know about these creatures, where to find them, and what to expect when you face your fears and dive in for the first time.

About Nurse Sharks

Photo Credit: Vladimir Turkenich

Nurse sharks are among the most docile and slow moving of all the shark species. They frequent the warm, shallow waters of the Atlantic, particularly around coral reefs and sandy flats. These gentle giants can grow up to 10 feet in length and weigh up to 330 pounds.

Their distinctive appearance also gives them a friendlier look than typical sharks. Nurse sharks have broad, flat heads and a set of small barbels growing off their chins that resemble a mustache. This unique feature helps nurse sharks easily detect prey along the ocean floor.

Nurse sharks aren’t the only sharks in the area. You may also encounter Caribbean reef sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks, and hammerheads. However, swimming with nurse sharks is the safest shark diving excursion you’ll find in the Great Exumas.

Shark Swims in the Bahamas Are Safe

Swimming with nurse sharks is generally considered safe as they are typically non-aggressive and very docile. Known for their calm demeanor, these creatures enjoy exploring the sand bars and shallow waters, scouring for prey. Since their prey consists of small marine animals, like crustaceans and small fish, they do not generally seem inclined to snack on humans.

While nurse sharks are typically harmless, it is important to remember that they are wild animals. Any interaction with them should still proceed with caution. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations posted, and look to staff and tour guides for guidelines on how to safely interact with these beautiful marine animals.

Swimming with Nurse Sharks at Compass Cay

Photo Credit: Zoe Esteban

The most popular shark swimming excursion in the Exuma Cays is on Compass Cay’s island. Nestled in the heart of the Exumas, this secluded island is home to a few dozen nurse sharks who frequent the Compass Cay marina. Over time, the local sharks have become accustomed to human interaction, allowing visitors to swim alongside them in turquoise blue waters.

Getting to Compass Cay

From Staniel Cay, it’s a 30-40  minute boat ride from the island, making it the perfect day trip. You can rent a boat and set off as the captain of your own adventure or enlist the help of a trusty tour guide by booking an excursion.

If you’re coming from Nassau or other major Bahamian islands, you can hop on a seaplane (check out Bahamas Air Tours) for a quick flight to Compass Cay. This option is more expensive but also extremely scenic, as it offers stunning panoramic views of the Exuma Cays and the beautiful turquoise waters below.

Other Shark Swims in the Bahamas

Photo Credit: Danita Delimont

This isn’t your only opportunity to swim the sharks. On the island of Staniel Cay, you can also see them swimming around the marina at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Sometimes, you can even find a guide willing to take you for a dip in the sea with these fantastic creatures.

You’ll also catch a variety of shark species in their natural habitats while snorkeling or scuba diving off the island’s coast. Thunderball Grotto is home to several species of sharks, and you can sometimes catch a glimpse of them while exploring these underground caverns.

Do You Need to Book a Tour to Swim with the Sharks?

Visiting Compass Cay with a tour group is not required, but plenty are available in the area. If you travel privately, keep in mind that there are fees to access the island and a docking fee, depending on the length of your boat. Contact us for more information about how we can help book these accommodations for you!

When is the Best Time to Swim with the Sharks in the Bahamas

Photo Credit: NeHomo

With warmer temperatures and tropical weather, swimming with the nurse sharks is possible any time of year in the Bahamas. This excursion is open year-round. However, each season offers its own set of unique benefits.


The warming waters attract a variety of marine life to the marinas in the spring. In addition to having nurse sharks as your swimming companions, you’ll find a diverse array of stingrays, colorful fish, and other sea creatures to interact with this time of year. Spring also marks the beginning of the tourist season, but the crowds have yet to surge to the fuller capacity of summer months.


Summer is the peak season in the Exuma Cays. Extended daylight hours allow for more fun in the sun and more time to swim with the sharks. You’ll find that more day tours are available in the summer, and just like in spring, marine life is abundant in the warmer waters. This time of year is perhaps the best swimming weather as the waters are seasonably warm and a welcome relief from the day’s heat.


With thinning crowds and cooler temps, fall is a more peaceful and serene time to swim with the nurse sharks. Despite cooler temperatures, the waters in the Exumas remain warm and balmy, making swimming in the fall quite comfortable. With fewer visitors, the nurse sharks seem to relax a bit, and you may see more of their natural behavior, which provides a unique perspective of these impressive creatures.


Cooler weather brings cooler waters, but with the right gear, swimming is still a comfortable excursion in the Bahamas winter. The cooling temperatures bring clearer waters, which enhance visibility when participating in excursions like swimming with sharks. Winter’s lower tourist traffic means visitors get to experience the sharks even more intimately and often enjoy longer, less interrupted interactions with these docile beasts.

What to Know Before You Go

When visiting Compass Cay and swimming with the sharks, there are several things you need to keep in mind:

  • Always follow all guidance from your local guides and operators.
  • If you’re not ready to take the plunge and swim with the sharks, you can observe them and get up close on the shallow deck that provides access to the water.  The sharks often come up and lay on the deck during low tide.
  • Mind your manners around these wild creatures.  Be sure to be respectful of their presence and their home.
  • If you need to access a bathroom, there are two to the right of the Compass Cay dock located down a short path.

Other Things to Do at Compass Cay

Photo Credit: Khoroshunova Olga

While the sharks at Compass Cay are the main attraction on this small island, they are certainly not the only ones. You can easily spend a full day here. You’ll find plenty of white sandy beaches perfect for relaxing in the sun. When you get too hot, you can jump in the turquoise waters to cool off or scuba dive and take in all the beautiful marine life surrounding this Cay.

You’ll also find an expansive network of trails along the island. The Bat Cave Trail and Jungle Trail are popular hikes crossing this scenic island. If you’re up for a trek, venture to the top of Compass Peak for a view from the top of the island. You’ll also find a quaint lagoon called Rachel’s Bubble Bath, aptly named for the bubbles that sometimes rise to the surface here.

In addition to beautiful beaches and hiking trails, you’ll find lots of options for fishing nearby. These places are accessible by boat, but booking a trip is well worth the effort, as you’re often rewarded with prize catches of game fish like snapper, grouper, or tuna.

Stay at Lazy Bay Villas

Swimming with sharks is a Bahamian adventure you won’t soon forget and just one of many incredible experiences available in the Exuma Cays. When planning your next vacation, our luxury rentals make the perfect home base after your island excursions.

On your vacation to Staniel Cay, you’ll never run out of amazing adventures. Book your rental, plan your flight, and discover your next grand Bahamas adventure with Staniel Rental today!