DOLPHIN! The cry goes up and everyone scrabbles for fins, masks and snorkels. Then it's off in the RIB, scouting the sea where they were last seen.
I'm sure the dolphins do it to annoy us. It's a common enough event on liveaboards the world over. They put their smiley heads up, do a few leaps or spins, cavort around the bows and then bugger off the moment youre ready to join them in the water.
Rarely do they hang around, less so if you have a camera.
How much better it would be if the dolphin wanted to stick around and enjoy sharing the water with divers, rather than just teasing them.
Well, there are a few places in the world where that happens, and a couple are in the Bahamas.
The Bahamas always seem synonymous with luxury, but while its great to savour the spacious suite at the Pelican Bay Hotel on Grand Bahama, with its large living room, en-suite facilities and separate bedroom, the price is attainable. Pelican Bay is in the glitzy Port Lucaya Marina and convenient for UNEXSO across the yard. UNEXSO (the Underwater Explorers Society) was the first tourist diving centre to open its doors anywhere in the world, and many of todays diving establishment started their careers there.
It's a pity that the few counter staff at UNEXSO continue to demonstrate an unfriendly attitude. I wrote about this the first time I visited around 10 years ago, and evidently the management is still smarting from my harsh words.
First impressions count. What a shame that nothing seems to have changed in this quarter, especially as the front-of-house attitude in no way reflected that of the other staff and management, who are as friendly and helpful as you could wish for.
UNEXSO used to concentrate on the budget American market that has, since 9/11, more or less retreated back to holidaying at home. The upside for other visitors is that we no longer have to compete with the madding crowd.
Although UNEXSO can offer both wreck and reef dives, its the keynote dives with dolphins and sharks that set it aside from other dive operations.
Nearby is Sanctuary Bay, where Atlantic bottlenose dolphins rescued from circuses and dolphinaria live with their offspring.
The UNEXSO boat takes you there, to be joined by a small skiff with Dolphin Experience staff in attendance. The two boats drive into the open ocean, to a suitable site about 15m deep. A couple of chosen dolphins swim with them, encouraged by regular hand-outs of herring.
The dolphins are as excited by the prospect of swimming free in the ocean with scuba-divers as we are at the prospect of swimming with them. They occasionally leap from the water as we travel together, and Im sure these leaps are higher and wilder than anything totally wild dolphins do.
Once were under water, the dolphins seem to perform to order. Rather like dogs let off the leash in the park, they race off as fast as they can from time to time, hurtling back and coming to a dead stop in front of a diver, usually the one with a camera.
Its an impressive display of manoeuvrability matched only by their ability to hurtle upwards and out of the water to breathe, before returning at warp speed to their exact previous position. Witnessing their fluid motion is wonderful. I enjoyed 40 minutes of close encounters with these cheerful creatures before the game ended and they were sent home.
At the last moment one dolphin came over and offered me a flank as I made my safety stop, so that I could stroke her and thank her for all her co-operation and hard work! Then it was: So long and thanks for all the fish!
It may sound a little contrived, but I can assure you that it is tremendously exciting to see these muscular animals so close-up in the open ocean.
They are not wild animals and can never be rehabilitated but theyre fun to be with. If its a circus act, at least youre in the cage with the animals!

ATLANTIC BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS are large mammals with an immeasurably tough hide and tremendous power.
Theyre so agile that they make sharks look a little fragile, and predictable swimmers. Of course, theyre not. Shark!
UNEXSO originated shark feeds in the Bahamas. When it first started shark-diving 20 years ago, most divers had been instructed to leave the water quietly if they saw a shark. UNEXSO used life-sized tethered models!
They progressed to real sharks but the dive was still conducted with a degree of high drama, and a certain amount of fear was instilled in the participants.
All that has changed. Today UNEXSO simply takes divers to a regular shark-feed site, after briefing them not to touch the sharks unless invited to, and to sit on the sand in line abreast.
The feeders wear full chain-mail suits so they can interact closely with the sharks, caressing and stroking the bigger females, which appear to enjoy it.
The only other person to wear chain-mail is UNEXSOs videographer, there to take control should something untoward occur. The guest divers are there in wetsuits or swimming costumes.
Some of the guys and gals in the grey suits, mainly Caribbean reef sharks, can be quite big, especially the females. As they sense a free meal in the offing, up to a dozen in the vicinity get drawn in.
For 30-40 minutes you get to see the sharks close up and things can become quite frenetic. You are often pushed and shoved as passing sharks make the tight turns required of an animal that cannot stop swimming but is intent on feeding.
From time to time the feeder will caress a likely candidate shark, invert it and carry it over in its state of tonic immobility for a guest diver to stroke.
On my last UNEXSO shark dive, a nurse shark on which I had previously wasted a whole normal reef dive trying to approach to photograph now kept getting in the way of my camera, stirring up the sand as it competed for the food.
This dive will give any diver a new and refreshing perspective on sharks.

ITS NOT ALL SHOW-TIME diving around Grand Bahama. There are reefs and wrecks to explore too.
All the wrecks were sunk deliberately for divers, but some have been submerged for so long, and subject to the ravages of so many hurricanes, that they feel like the real deal.
Theos Wreck is a huge freighter lying on its side with a resident population of schooling horse-eye and huge almaco jack. The very pretty Sea Star has a large population of grunts and schoolmasters, the latter clustering round the controls of a small crane that went down with the wreck, and if youre lucky you might encounter a couple of loggerhead turtles.
Wrecks such as the Etheridge are small and less interesting.
Grand Bahama is also famous is its cenotes, or blue holes. Cave-diving is not for everyone. Im not sure its for me nowadays, but UNEXSO offers a limited cavern-diving course as a taster.
I went with Christina Zenato, an experienced UNEXSO cave-diving instructor, to visit Bens Cavern. Ben Rose was a pioneer of both shark- and cave-diving in Grand Bahama.
The cavern is the entrance to a blue hole in Lucayan National Park. Its one entrance to a complicated cave system that I had explored with expert Steffi Schwabe 10 years previously.
Christina takes in no more than four divers at a time. You dont go far, and never lose sight of the daylight that signals the way out, but you get to see plenty of stalactites and stalagmites and the masses of bats that roost in the dry cave roof. Its also cool to leave this type of diving until the last dive of the trip, because its a convenient way to wash all your equipment in fresh water!
Grand Bahama was very popular with divers once, but seems to have been temporarily forgotten. Take advantage of this today, diving in small groups and having once-famous dive sites almost to yourself.

GETTING THERE: Fly with BA and Bahamas Air
DIVING: UNEXSO, Port Lucaya,
WHEN TO GO: Late December-May - avoid August-October. Water temperature is 22-27°C.
MONEY: US $ and Bahamian Dollar (parity). Major credit cards.
HEALTH: Recompression chamber, US Coastguard rescue - be sure to have insurance adequate for US-type medical care.
PRICES: Bahamas Flavour offers a typical eight-day package including return flights, B&B accommodation at the Pelican Bay Hotel in Port Lucaya and diving with UNEXSO, including a dolphin dive, a shark dive, a two-tank wreck or reef dive, a night dive and a cavern dive. The price is £1359,