The saying goes, “It’s better in the Bahamas” and that is most certainly true when it comes to scuba diving. The Bahamas is actually a chain of over 700 islands that rest on an ancient limestone platform now completely covered in magnificent coral thanks to years and years of growth. Thanks to all this healthy coral life, marine life thrives in the area and gives the Bahamas the boasting rights of hosting some of the most popular dive sites in the world. Truly a diver’s paradise, the Bahamas can offer flooded caves, coral gardens, wrecks and walls, blue holes and calm cays of unparalleled beauty.
Perhaps the most famous of all locations is that of Atlantis resort on Paradise Island, a picture-perfect holiday destination for the whole family. Where ever you choose to stay in the Bahamas, the experience of scuba diving in its crystal clear waters with visibility of 30+ metres is definitely one to add to the diving log book.
Stella Maris Shark Diving
When the divers at Stella Maris began diving with sharks in the mid-seventies it raised a few eyebrows. The idea of telling divers that they were about to deliberately enter the water to see sharks seemed to contradict popular dive promotion of the day. But that was then. Now divers come from around the globe to sample Shark Diving in the Bahamas. And twenty-five years later, divers can still witness, first-hand, the beauty and power of the apex predator of the Bahamian and Caribbean reef: Carcharhimus perezi – the Caribbean reef shark, at Stella Maris.
Wild Dolphin Encounters
Grand Bahama Island lies off the coast of southern Florida, about 60 nautical miles east of West Palm Beach. The western edge of the Little Bahama Bank, north of West End, Grand Bahama is where the majority of dolphin encounters take place, although you can come across them just about anywhere in the region. This area is between 10-30ft deep, and a spectacular setting for swimming with dolphins – turquoise water over a white sandy bottom.
Best Diving Destinations in the Bahamas
With an abundance of dive sites to choose from, divers needn’t worry too much about their location in the Bahamas as every dive is likely to be an unforgettable experience. In fact, some of the sites that stretch along the immense Bahama Bank and the surrounding islands and cays may lead to undiscovered blue holes or new dive sites that are just waiting to be explored. With magnificent coral and plant life such as sea sponges and swaying sea fans, divers are offered a colourful background on which to spot a variety of marine life. Common sightings include the Nassau grouper, stingrays, clownfish and barracuda. It is also possible to dive and feed a number of species of reef shark for those with an adventurous spirit.
Something that is not to be missed whilst in the Bahamas is the chance to dive one of the many blue holes in the region. Although these natural phenomena are indeed found elsewhere in the world, the Bahamas holds the title for hosting the largest number of blue holes as well as the only blue holes in the world that are tidal in nature. Embrace the myth and mystery behind these natural wonders and take part of the culture home with you as you visit the lair of the mythical Luca creature who calls these blue holes its home. The majority of the blue holes can be found in shallow inland pools and over 50 of them are located in the shallow waters surrounding Andros Island. To the east of Andros Island lies the world’s third-biggest fringing barrier reef known as the Andros Barrier Reef. This area stretches over an impressive distance of 300 kilometres long and boasts over 160 species of fish and coral.
The main islands in the north of the Bahamas include Andros, Abaco and the smaller New Providence which is home to the nation’s capital, Nassau. There are endless scuba diving sites surrounding Nassau, with a large concentration on the western side of the island. Popular sites include Elkhorn Gardens, Stuart’s Cove and Abilin Wreck.
The Bimini Wall to the west of North Bimini Island is a site that has sparked much controversy between scientists and historians who cannot agree on its origins. Not only is the site popular for its black coral gardens, but there is what appears to be a road of limestone blocks which may or may not have archaeological significance and may be natural or man-made. If the conspiracy theories are true, it would mean that the road was actively used many years ago when the sea level was much lower.
Reaching closer to the Caribbean, the southern part of the Bahamas is home to the deepest blue hole in the ocean known as Dean’s Blue Hole. With an impressive depth of over 200 metres, Dean’s Blue Hole is highly popular with all levels of diver and has been the site of many free diving records in the past. Interestingly, the edge of Dean’s Blue Hole is just off the shores of an island.
Which Islands to Dive
Given all the choice, below are a few possible islands to experience.
Grand Bahamas with Freeport offers the best of all worlds for dive travellers, with superb diving, all the night life of a modern city (casinos and all) and the ability to escape the city to quiet idyllic tropical island locations outside of Freeport. Grand Bahamas offers access to Theos Wreck, a 228 foot freighter laying in 30 meters of water, where fang the 2 meter long moray lives. Also you can experience Dolphin Dive where dolphins will await divers to load before towing them out to play with them. (These dives are controlled by UNEXICO).
Andros is the largest of the islands and lies only 25 miles from Nassau. Andros features the blue holes of Andros where some of the tunnels reach unknown depths. Also the wreck of The Marion, a barge which has a mobile crane on deck is worth a dive.
Eleuthera which is known for its pink sand beach, features the famous Tram Wreck, a barge with railroad cars sunk in only 5 meters of water.
Exuma is known for its blue hole diving. It also offers excellent diving in Exuma Cays Land & Sea park, which has 177 square miles of untouched and protected underwater marine park.
Long Island offers diving access to the MV Comberbach, a steel cargo ship sitting in 30 meters of water, and still in excellent condition. Also Grouper Valley is known as a BIG FISH site where you can see 700 pound Jew fish. Also you can see shark feeding at Stella Maris Shark Reef.
Crooked Island and the Acklens are the southernmost islands, which look like a sea horse when viewed from the sky. Most of the diving is wall diving with the wall commencing as shallow as 11 meters. Worth seeing is Grandpa Grouper, a pet grouper weighing in at 300 pounds.
When to Visit the Bahamas
With mild water temperatures and mild currents throughout the majority of the year, the Bahamas is an ideal diving destination. Thanks to the warm Gulf Stream, even the winter months are pleasant to dive in, with water temperatures rarely going below 20°C. The air temperature is also unlikely to drop lower than the low 20s during this time. In the summer months of July to September, the water can be as warm as 30°C which is an absolute dream for divers, especially those who are generally quite sensitive to the cold. In fact, from May to October wearing a wetsuit is entirely optional with air temperatures regularly above 30°C.
The Bahamas does experience frequent storms and hurricanes, however, and these generally occur in the second half of summer and into autumn. For this reason, it’s best to plan your scuba diving trip for the spring or early summer months to avoid these rougher weather conditions.
The Bahamas offers so many options of where to dive and stay, the deciding can be quite a difficult task. The under water topography is very similar around many of the islands, a shallow reef at 3-5 meters, then a drop to another reef at 15 meters, and then a lower reef at 24-27 meters before dropping off into the ocean depths. The underwater topography mostly consists of limestone formations, created from a build up of corals. The Bahamas also has several blue holes, caverns/centotes which are fringed by shallow reef, that can be dived. Visibility for diving is always fabulous in the Bahamas, due to little to no island runoff, and the gulf stream continually flowing through and cleaning the water.
Climate: Mild and tropical 24-29 °C
Type: Wall Diving , Reef
Best Time to Dive: All year round
Water Temp: 24-29 °C
Map of the Bahamas
Getting to the Bahamas
Luckily for divers everywhere, the Bahamas is easily accessible by plane or boat from a number of destinations. The main hub for travelling into the Bahamas by plane is the Nassau International Airport (now known as Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport). There is also the option of the Grand Bahama International Airport which accepts regular landings from a number of international carriers. From these airports, there are dozens of smaller, domestic airports that allow visitors to easily connect to their destination of choice. For those travelling from Canada or the US, there are the additional options of the Rock Sound International Airport and the Exuma International Airport on the islands of Eleuthera and Exuma respectively.
For those wishing to travel across the seas by boat, many liveaboards and cruises depart from the ports in Miami, Florida in the United States. An easy and comfortable day trip will see you into the docks at Nassau or Freeport and from there your diving adventure can begin.
Where to Stay in the Bahamas
Scuba diving is a well-established sport in the Bahamas and as such divers are spoilt for choice when it comes to dive operators on the main islands. Each dive shop you encounter is likely to offer a number of different dive sites together with experienced guides, equipment for hire and even additional scuba training for those looking to advance their qualifications. Many dive operators also assist with full day trips and liveaboard trips.
Dive resorts and shore-based shops exist all over the Bahamas including on the Exuma chain of islands which boasts some amazing cays that are a must-see.
English is the offical language and the US dollar is the offical currency. Most of the population lives in Nassua on New Providence island or in Freeport on Grand Bahamas. The remaing islands are commonly referred to as the family islands.