Home to far more than tropical drinks and beach umbrellas, the Bahamas comprise a grouping of more than 700 Caribbean Islands located just off the south-east coast of Florida. With hundreds of spectacular and pristine diving destinations, including incredible blue holes, underwater caves, and sunken Spanish galleons, the Bahamas offer one of the most complete diving experiences anywhere. Huge expanses of shallow, intricate reef systems teeming with vibrant life frame a tropical paradise that offers something for everyone, from the beginner to the accomplished diver. The variety of dive sites in this coral-based archipelago is extensive, as is the breathtaking diversity of marine life, from the smallest of colourful damselfish to the abundant populations of sharks and wild dolphins.
Yours to Discover
As a former British colony, English is still the country’s official language, and as the region’s largest airport, the Nassau International Airport on the island of New Providence makes a great place to begin your dream diving vacation in the Bahamas. Well over two-thirds of the country’s 380,000 residents live in the capital city of Nassau, so it’s not hard to believe that only a few dozen of the region’s hundreds of islands are actually inhabited. When you choose to dive at some of the Bahamas’ wilder and more untouched sites, be prepared for an almost infinite array of stunning aquatic vistas that offer huge potential for discovery and exploration.
Here, There and Everywhere
The best diving and snorkeling in the Bahamas is offshore, and includes sites like the massive Andros Barrier Reef, Thunderball Grotto (of James Bond fame), and the black-coral gardens off Bimini, but if you are a big shore diving fan, you’ll want to head straight for the Abaco Islands. Divers can choose to explore shipwrecks and underwater movie sets in the waters just off Nassau, or can go beyond such popular tourist destinations to any of the hundreds of less-visited islands such as Andros Island, Cat Island, Conception Island, San Salvador, and The Exumas. A liveaboard trip aboard one of Blackbeard’s vessels will give you a taste of some of these Out Islands, while divers wanting to explore the sites at any of the hundreds of tiny, pristine and remote islands of the Northern Exumas, can do so aboard Aqua Cat Cruises.
So Many Islands, So Little Time
Andros Island is the largest island in the Bahamas, yet it’s still one of the wildest and most beautiful. It’s well known for its concentration of blue holes (both ocean and inland), for having the third largest barrier reef in the world, that’s home to more than 160 species of coral and fish, and for its vast, underwater canyon known as The Tongue of the Ocean. This site offers high-drama wall diving off its almost infinite depth of 1800 meters (6000 feet). On the virtually untouched Cat Island, you can view the sunrise from the highest point in the Bahamas, Mt. Alvernia, and meet up with the locals at Sharkey’s Bar. Conception Island is an uninhabited, reef-rimmed and protected park that serves as a hatching site for green turtles, as well as a nesting site for a wide range of seabirds. Meanwhile, divers come from far and wide to explore San Salvador, the exposed peak of a sub-sea mountain surrounded by numerous walls. This site features spectacular, world-class diving, and is frequently visited by schools of hammerhead sharks. More seabirds breed on San Salvador than in any other locality in the Bahamas.
Year-Round Vacation Destination
Top-side activities in the islands range from biking, to birding, to nature trails, and with the temperature of the crystal-blue water averaging an amazing 26oC (80°F) year-round, it’s perfect for such adventures as kite-boarding, kayaking, and wave-running. The warm, agreeable climate of the Bahamas barely changes throughout the year, and in spite of hurricane season spanning June through November, scuba divers can enjoy memorable marine encounters from January, right through to December. From late January to early February, you can witness huge shoals of majestic groupers spawning around Andros Island, Cat Island, and a handful of others, and you won’t want to miss the region’s classic “March of the Lobsters” that takes place in November. You’re unlikely to have seen anything like this event, where swarming lines of hundreds of spiny lobsters march across the shallows of the Little Bahamas banks like advancing cavalry. Typical dive depths range from 5-40 meters (16-131 feet) throughout the Bahamas, and water visibility is a highly attractive 20-50 meters (66-164 feet). With water temperatures that hold steady between 24-31oC (75-88oF) all year, any time is a good time to experience the many shark and dolphin encounters for which these “Shallow Seas” are renowned.