Diving in the Bahamas
iving in the Bahamas
The warm, crystal-clear waters that surround the islands of the Bahamas are a huge undersea playground for divers and snorkelers, with over 1,000 dive sites spread across 700 islands. Many dive operations offer excursions to coral reefs and shipwrecks, as well as other activities such as swimming with dolphins.
Divers can even experience shark feeding just a few feet away, by sitting on the ocean floor and watching a dive master wearing chain mail or other protection feed several large sharks. The islands are flanked by huge barrier reefs and vast undersea caves teeming with colorful marine life, and each island has something unique to offer.
the islands of the Bahamas are a huge undersea playground for divers and snorkelers
New Providence – Hollywood Beneath the Sea
For a true Hollywood adventure, you can strap on your scuba gear and explore the wrecks planted by film crews off the southwest corner of New Providence. Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea was filmed here, as were the underwater scenes of several James Bond films.
You can dive off the Southwest Side Shark Wall, with its rich abundance of coral and marine life, to visit the site of the downed Vulcan Bomber used in the movie “Thunderball.” This wreck was used again in the Bond film “Never Say Never Again,” in which Bond eluded a Tiger Shark, because shark sightings are frequent here. For visitors who don’t want to get wet, the Atlantis Submarine can take you to the reefs off Lyford Cay and alongside wrecks.
Abacos – Colorful Reefs and Lost Treasure
The beautiful Abacos islands, with their shallow waters and rich reefs full of colorful fish, offer fantastic diving adventures. One of the best reefs for diving or snorkeling in the Abacos is Fowl Cay Reef in the Fowl Cay Bahamas National Trust Preserve. Another popular spot, Sandy Cay Reef, is part of the underwater wildlife sanctuary at Pelican Cay Land and Sea Park. Fishing is strictly controlled in reef areas, so marine life is abundant with plenty of green turtles, porpoises, seahorses, and moray eels in and around harbors. If exploring wrecks is your passion, you won’t want to miss the USS Adirondack, a Civil War gunboat built in 1862 that struck a reef that same year. Two rusting 13-foot cannons and boilers remain, but shipworms have eaten most of the wooden structures. It’s estimated that more than 500 Spanish galleons sunk in the waters off the Abacos, taking their treasures to the bottom of the sea with them, so your dive might even prove profitable!
Andros – Legendary Blue Holes
Andros Island is home to the Andros Barrier Reef, the third largest barrier reef in the world. This huge reef plunges dramatically into the abyss known as the Tongue of the Ocean, a partially enclosed basin more than a mile deep. Andros is also famous worldwide for almost 200 “blue holes,” deep fissures in the ocean floor formed by water erosion then flooded at the end of the last ice age.
Diving in the BahamasThe oceanic holes connect to an intricate inland underwater cave system with some of the world’s longest, deepest, and most stunning caves. If you decide to explore a blue hole, do your exploring carefully, because some of them are extremely deep! There are many legends about the blue holes, such as the story of serpents known as Luska that are said to drag unsuspecting swimmers and fishermen to their deaths. Several exciting wreck dive sites around Andros include the Potomac, a steel-hulled barge that sank just after World War II and is now home to grouper, parrotfish, and some impressive barracuda.
Grand Bahama – Dramatic Underwater Caves
Some of the best diving facilities in the Bahamas can be found on Grand Bahama Island. The Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO) offers eight levels of instruction, a dive pool and recompression chamber, and several unique programs such as dolphin encounters and shark diving. Grand Bahama has the world’s most extensive underwater cave system containing dramatic formations of stalagmites and stalactites, but this excursion is for advanced divers only and should never be attempted alone.
The waters around Grand Bahama, treacherous for ships, are a paradise for divers who love exploring wrecks. Treasure Reef was the cause of many a ship’s demise, and treasure has actually been found here by lucky divers. Theo’s Wreck is a freighter that was intentionally sunk for divers off Lucaya to provide a safe wreck for novice divers. The MS Comberbach, a 103-foot ship, lies only 100 feet deep and is not far from a 45-foot pleasure cruiser that sank accidentally in a storm.
Eleuthera – A Wreck Diver’s Paradise
The dive sites on Eleuthera welcome both novice divers and experts to explore the Devil’s Backbone, an 8-mile stretch of shallow, sharp reefs containing four wreck sites in less than 40 feet of water. A 19th century passenger steamship provides some grand adventuring, and one dive site is actually the wreck of a train, where a barge sank with its cargo on its way to Cuba.
A 300-year old shipwreck at Yankee Channel lies in only 10 feet of water, and 4 miles south of Royal Island is an old freighter sunk by fire while loaded with a cargo of bat guano. Fish love the guano, and the wreck is home to enormous beautiful fish such as 15-pound angelfish and 30-pound parrotfish. For some thrilling diving, try riding the Current Cut on the incoming tide, which shoots you between islands in just 10 minutes at a speed of about 7 knots.
Exuma – Where Life Began
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is a 176-square mile area stretching between Wax Cay and Conch Cut that offers more delights for undersea explorers. Beautiful coral and limestone reefs, blue holes, and shipwrecks provide an excellent setting for observing marine wildlife. You can even visit the oldest evidence of life on earth, the stromatolite reef on the eastern shore of Stocking Island. This growing reef of layered limestone is a living fossil. You also won’t want to miss the underwater valley at Ocean Rock, the huge black coral caves called the Iron Curtain, or Thunderball Grotto at Staniel Cay, where part of the James Bond movie was filmed.
San Salvador – Exotic Coral Reefs
The island that claims to have been the first stopping place for Columbus can also lay claim to some of the best diving in the Bahamas. There are over 80 dive sites on San Salvador that include large reefs of elk and staghorn coral in less than 50 feet of water, some of which are exposed at low tide. There are many wrecks to be explored, and the wall to the south and west of the island is very impressive, dropping to thousands of feet deep.
When diving in the Bahamas, be sure to carry plenty of oxygen and a first aid kit. In the summer the water temperature rises to about 84°F throughout the islands, but the waters are cooler in the winter months. Remember that spear guns are illegal, as are breaking off coral or harvesting starfish.
If you want to explore some of the best dive spots in the world, the islands of the Bahamas are the perfect destination. No matter how many times or how many places you’ve dived before, you haven’t really dived until you’ve dived the Bahamas!