Web photos by David Benz
Underwater images copyright 2000, Michael Lawrence

Michael Lawrence's life has been a twisting, turning path of wildly divergent careers. He was "a musician for more than 25 years, playing jazz guitar, doing studio and orchestral work, stage shows, arranging and conducting and doing anything else I could to turn jazz pennies into real dollars."

In 1980, Michael did a gig on a cruise ship. Soon after, he learned to dive. "I knew as soon as I stuck my face in the water that it would change my life," he says. Now the camera is his instrument and dive travelers are his audience. He started writing for Skin Diver in 1990 and to date has written more than 150 articles for the magazine.

Michael is also the author of Lonely Planet Diving and Snorkeling Guide to Dominica and is currently working on a new Dive Guide to the Bahamas.

  • February 8, 2000...Day 8

    Nassau Scuba Centre
    "Man, I felt like I was in a scene from Hitchcock's The Birds. It was way high on the 'oh shit!'-o-meter." These were David's first words after getting out of the water. He was all fired up about Nassau Scuba Centre's approach to shark feeding, a complete immersion, baptism-by-fire and pedal-to-the-metal experience of being engulfed by a horde of sharks.

    What David and Michael have to look forward to.
    Now, I should interject one fact-David was wearing a full chainmail shark suit. Yours truly was not so privileged. No, I was laying in the sand with sharks slamming into the dome port of my housing, sliding across the dome port of my somewhat balding head, adjusting my strobes with determined hits and hugging up to me like they wanted to become very good friends. I am an admittedly friendly guy, but there are limits.

    Loading up the boat.
    Let me backtrack a bit. When I spoke with Gene Kruger, owner of Nassau Scuba Centre, yesterday, he asked what we wanted to do. Being professional and diplomatic, I asked him what he wanted us to do. It was more shark diving, but with a twist. This one is called the Shark Suit Adventure.

    Heading out with Nassau Scuba Centre.
    So, here is David, my partner-in-crime, dressed in an outfit the knights of yesteryear would envy, cracking Monty Python jokes and reflecting on the similarities between feeding sharks from a pole spear and "shark jousting." He is the Bob to my Marlin Perkins ("Bob will now attempt to circumcise the wild water buffalo.") He gravitates to the center of the vessel, wondering what would happen if he fell overboard wearing this 20-pound, full-body weightbelt. We look at each other and he says, "I'd be in deep kim chee, wouldn't I?"

    David preparing for the fight.
    The gravity of this situation may be dawning on him. Yes, it will be fun. Yes, it will be challenging, and it may be frightening. It is a situation few divers find themselves in-feeding wild sharks with only a thin sheet of protection. As the saying goes, be careful what you ask for.

    In your face action at the NSC shark dive.
    The dive was beyond our expectations. It was both emotionally and photographically challenging for me as I tried to get a clear shot of David and the feeding sharks. Black Grouper and Yellowtail Snapper added to the chaos, racing in to steal the bait while the sharks were still trying to find it.

    David fought his own demons. After the rush of adrenaline wore off, I asked him if he was comfortable down there. He looked at me and replied honestly (and with none of his usual jokes), "Mostly, but not always."

    Divers in chainmail surrounded by sharks.
    This dive is a balls-to-the-wall shark feed, and it is well administered, but it must be taken seriously. Do that and you will have an experience to remember.

    In addition to the Shark Suit Adventure, there is a standard shark feed and an advanced shark feeder program. Beyond these high energy programs, NSC offers a full array of wreck, reef and wall dives, as well as a dedicated snorkeling program.

    As to our conch adventure. The area of note in yesterday's post is Arawak Cay on the north shore of New Providence. A number of conch vendors have transformed their tiny shacks into rustic dining spots-inexpensive, tasty and as local as possible.

    Mural on the NSC bus.
    For stewed conch (conch immersed in a rich, brown sauce) we decided the hands down winner was Geneva's in Freeport-local and right! Thick, sweet, creamy and full of delectable conch-my mouth is watering even as I write these words.

    Michael Lawrence sings about the shark dive.
    This is the last day of Dave and Mike's Excellent Adventure, but stay tuned, because we will be live and wired from a new dive destination soon. Reporting from the field to Skin Diver Online was a new experience for me and it was a blast. I hope you had as much fun getting a taste of the action as it unfolded. The dolphins, sharks, blue holes and wrecks we dived add up to only a fraction of what the Bahamas has to offer. We only scratched the surface, and hopefully, we've left you hungry for more. Pick up the May issue and turn to the "Ultimate Guide to Bahamas Diving" to get the whole story in print.

    Get more info:
    History | Geology | Dolphins
    Sharks | Conch | Blue Holes

    [Day 1 & 2] [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5]
    [Day 6] [Day 7] [Day 8]
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    Abaco Beach Resort Dive Center (800-838-4189)
    Brendals Dive Center International (800-780-9941)
    Dive Abaco Ltd. (800-247-5338)
    Walkers Cay Hotel (800-327-8150)

    Andros Undersea Adventures (800-327-8150)
    Seascape Inn (242-369-0342)
    Small Hope Bay Lodge (800-223-6961)

    Bimini Undersea (800-348-4644)
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    Greenwood Dive Center & Beach Resort (242-342-3053)

    Scuba Chub Cay Undersea Adventures (800-327-8150)

    Exuma Dive Center & Watersports (800-874-7213)
    Peace & Plenty (800-525-2210)

    Grand Bahama Scuba (800-753-7282)
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    Bahama Divers Ltd (800-398-DIVE)
    Custom Aquatics Ltd. (242-362-1492)
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    Nassau Scuba Centre (888-962-7728)
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    Sea Dragon (954-522-0161)
    Sea Fever Diving Cruises (800-443-3837)

    Undersea Adventures (800-327-8150)
    Bahamas Ministry of Tourism (800-866-DIVE)
    Bahamas Tourist Office - Miami (800-866-DIVE)

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