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The Best Dive Sites in the Bahamas

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

This nation of roughly 700 islands and cays sits just east of the Florida coastline, and runs north-south for roughly 600 miles. As you’d expect, the diving is spectacular, and ranges from walls to reefs to drifts. Here are 10 of the best dive sites in the Bahamas.

Runway Wall, Nassau

Off the capital island of New Providence, most commonly called Nassau, divers can spend weeks exploring the many wrecks, dramatic walls and abundance of healthy reef systems. One of the most famous dive sites here is Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas Shark Arena, also known as Runway Wall. This dive has introduced thousands of divers from all over the world to Caribbean reef sharks, common in Bahamian waters. This incredible shark encounter gives divers the opportunity to swim with reef sharks in their natural underwater environment, followed by — for those seeking a bigger adrenaline rush — the shark-feed experience, wherein divers can get up close to these wonderful animals. As this dive site is in only 40 feet (12 m) of water, all certification levels are able to participate.

James Bond Wrecks, Nassau

As the latest James Bond film, “Spectre,” was released in November, it’s easy to look back on the Bond history in Nassau. Known as the ‘Underwater Hollywood,’ Nassau has played a big part as the backdrop for several Bond films. Diving off the southwestern end of New Providence, divers can experience their own bit of cinematic history by exploring the Vulcan Bomber from the 1965 film “Thunderball,” and the Tears of Allah shipwreck from the 1983 Bond film “Never Say Never Again.” Both flicks starred Sean Connery as the suave British agent. Apart from their starring role on the silver screen, these dive sites offer much more to all levels of divers. Found in 40 feet (12 m) of water, the coral growth creates a fantastic opportunity for photographers and videographers. The surrounding reef also supports an abundance of marine life.

Current Cut, Eleuthera

As we move slightly north to the island of Eleuthera, we’ll check out Current Cut, located between Great Eleuthera Island and Current Island. The best time to dive this great site is on an incoming tide, when the tidal change forces water through the narrow opening between the islands, creating a high-speed drift dive. With a maximum depth of 60 feet (18 m), divers can enjoy watching Bahamian reefs and marine life pass by without exerting any energy. As you move through the two islands, you’ll feel the current eventually starting to subside after 20 minutes or so. Surface slowly with your surface marker buoy (SMB) deployed, then ask your captain to take you through again. You never know what you’re going to see on this high-speed roadway.

Blue Hole
Blue Hole
San Salvador
San Salvador
Shark Feeding
Shark Feeding
Tears of Allah
Thunderball
Thunderball Stitch
Thunderball
Thunderball
Tiger Sharks
Tiger Sharks

Fowl, Sandy and Pelican Cay, Abaco

Running approximately 100 miles from Walker Cay, the northernmost island of the Bahamas, to just south of Elbow Cay in the east, is an extensive reef system. Abaco’s Sandy Cay, Fowl Cay and Pelican Cay National Parks help protect this incredible area for scuba divers and snorkelers alike. As this reef structure faces the Atlantic Ocean, plenty of nutrition comes in, providing the corals and marine life with a plentiful food source. With the deeper parts of the reef at 60 feet (18 m), divers can enjoy an extreme diversity of marine life and vegetation. With great visibility and a fixed bottom, it’s a good spot for new divers to practice their skills while the more advanced diver is given the freedom to explore the vibrant reef.

Tiger Beach, Grand Bahama

Moving to the most northwestern tip of the Bahamian chain, you’ll find Grand Bahama, specifically West End. Add a 27-mile boat journey to the north of that, and you’ll be at an underwater haven known as Tiger Beach. This area, found on the western edge of the Little Bahamas Bank, has become famous around the world for its healthy population of tiger sharks, and it’s been rated as one of the best 30-foot (9 m) dives in the world. In an area that supports a variety of shark species, the majestic tiger shark is the undisputed star here, with a backdrop of blue water and a white, sandy bottom. This dive site is not only perfect for avid photographers and videographers, but also for divers who want to add another level of shark experience to their logbook.

Victory Reef, Bimini

South and west of Grand Bahama are the ‘Islands in the Stream,’ better known as Bimini, made up of north and south islands. Bimini sits right on the edge of the Gulf Stream, which runs between the Bahamas and the east coast of Florida. Victory Reef just off Cat Cay, south of Bimini, is a 5-mile strip of reef line offering several dive spots ranging from 30 to 80 feet (9 to 24 m), thus appropriate for many experience levels. Because of the Gulf Stream location, divers can expect to see a large variety of marine life. From larger species like turtles, sharks and rays, to the vibrant reef fish that cover the corals, sponges and fans, there’s plenty of activity to keep divers busy. Visibility can be great here too, up to 100 feet (30 m).  There are also swim-throughs, small caverns and exaggerated reef structures to explore. Three of the best spots are Cathedral, Sponge Garden and Rainbow Valley.

The Crater, Andros

The largest island in the Bahamas is Andros, and it belongs on every diver’s bucket list because of the abundance of ocean and inland blue holes that can be found here. Some are dived regularly; many others remain unexplored. One of the best is the Crater, an oceanic blue hole off Small Hope Bay. Divers of any level can explore its outer rim and further down into the canyon-like environment until reaching the outer walls of the blue hole and its dark edges, where only those with appropriate certification levels should venture. The Crater is unique even among blue holes because it was once the ocean floor, falling into itself when the ground gave way to erosion, opening up the cave system below. Lots of marine life calls this area home; large turtles sleep on the bottom, and eels and rays swim in and among the coral-covered walls. For more experienced divers, the edges of the wall open up to the dark cave system below.

The Washing Machine, Exumas

We move from the Bahamas’ largest island to one of the nation’s most beautiful island groups, the Exumas. Made up of 350 cays and ringed by stunning beaches, waterways and reefs, the Exumas are home to the Bahamas National Trust’s Land and Sea Park. Outside the park, in the northern section of the Exuma Cays and just south of Highbourne Cay, is a site known as the Washing Machine. This fun drift dive begins in only about 15 feet (4.5 m) of water, where divers drop down to an insistent current, which picks them up and propels them, head-over-heels, through a narrow cut in the reef — hence the name “Washing Machine.” By the time the current releases divers, they’re at around 50 feet (15 m), cruising over a beautiful and colorful reef.

Columbus Point, Cat Island

On the very southeastern tip of Cat Island is Columbus Point, a remote spot that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. Because of this exposed position, the diving here tends to be more suited to advanced divers, who are comfortable in deeper waters. Underwater pinnacles come up from the ocean floor all around the point, attracting large grouper and big sharks. Currents can be strong, but when the weather cooperates, the beauty of this underwater world is breathtaking. A large population of oceanic whitetips are seasonal residents, and diving with them is another experience for the bucket list. As these sharks are pelagic, dive operators must take their guests out into the open ocean to see them. Here the only things interrupting the deep blue are the occasional large game fish swimming by, along with the oceanics and silky sharks. Columbus Point can be a challenging dive, but when the timing is right, it’s well worth it.

French Bay Wall, San Salvador Island

French Bay Wall is on the western coast of San Salvador Island, right in the middle of the Bahamas island chain. The wall is covered with dive sites, spread widely across the area. The wall here is so steep that is has a series of overhangs, undercuts and crevasses throughout. The top of the wall is at 40 feet (12 m), with visibility normally between 100 and 150 feet (30 to 45 m). A perfect spot for night dives, French Bay Wall is known for its abundant elkhorn and staghorn corals. Dive this site by swimming down the wall to about 100 feet and then taking one of the many crevasses, tunnels and swim-throughs back up to the dive boat, moored on the shallow reef. Specific sites to look out for are Grouper Gully, Stewpot, Devil’s Claw and Shark Alley.

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Dive Site: School House Reef, Nassau, Bahamas

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

NASA astronaut Douglas Wheelock, who was aboard the International Space Station in November 2010, reflected on a photograph taken from the station of the Bahamas, “Of all the places on our beautiful planet few can rival the beauty and richness of colors in the Bahamas.” The clear, turquoise waters that surround and flow between this group of about 700 atolls and cays, making up the Bahamian islands, are indeed a diver’s paradise.

The shallow waters surrounding New Providence hold gardens of coral heads, which are scattered across the sandy bottom, creating individual ecosystems. These hubs of activity are perfect spots for all water enthusiasts. From boaters and fishermen to snorkelers and scuba divers, the Great Bahama Bank has been a long-time resource for both locals and tourists alike.

Coral at School House Reef
Boat Silhouette at School House Reef
Puffer Fish at School House Reef

School House Reef is just one example of what shallow reef diving in the Bahamas is all about. The large cluster of coral heads, sponges and extensive rocky outcrop is an ideal spot for photo enthusiasts, students, non-certified divers and those who enjoy really examining all parts of a reef, especially for those elusive critters that are easy to miss such as blennies and gobies. Found in only 20 feet (6 m) of water, Schoolhouse Reef on a still and warm summer’s day truly illustrates the magic of the Bahamian ocean.

Coral at School House Reef
Angel Fish at School House Reef
Coral at School House Reef
Coral at School House Reef

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Dive Site: Tunnel Wall, New Providence, Nassau, Bahamas

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

The Island of New Providence, in the northern section of the Bahamian archipelago, is surrounded by a string of islands, leaving it nestled in the middle of the country but with the full advantage of the Florida Gulf Stream, Atlantic Ocean and the Tongue of the Ocean, all of which flow near and around it. This ideal location makes scuba diving off all sides of the island possible, and adds to the diversity of marine life.

Tunnel Wall 2

Tunnel Wall, much as its name implies, is an intricate section of our northern wall. With only a short boat ride around the western tip of New Providence, divers can experience shallow gardens of soft corals and fans at 30 feet (9m), with a dramatic vertical drop off the north face of the ocean floor. Here we tend to find a more rugged expanse of rocky outcrops, hard corals and tunnel-like swim- throughs. Larger reef fish swim off the edge of the wall here, with the much sought after pelagics frequenting this area.

Tunnel Wall 1

Tunnel Wall allows for great diving both to the west and east of the boat’s mooring. Gentle ocean currents make it a relaxing dive for people of all certification levels, and for those who enjoy a bit more of an adventure, the dramatic drop off and tunneled swim-throughs make the northern wall of New Providence a pleasure to dive.

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Dive Site: DC3, New Providence, Nassau, Bahamas

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

 

In 2005, Hollywood visited the Bahamas and used the southwestern end of New Providence as the shooting location for their latest action-adventure film “Into the Blue,” starring Paul Walker and Jessica Alba. In this treasure-hunting, drug- smuggling blockbuster, a 1932 DC3 airplane was staged underwater as the set for several of the high-adrenaline action-packed sequences. However, once the film wrapped, the DC3 was left behind and moved to its current location, facing south on the edge of New Providence’s southern wall. This once-majestic taildragger airplane has diminished greatly over the years, due to weather and deterioration caused by the salt water.

DSC_0072b

That being said, the remains of the airplane on this beautiful section of Nassau’s southern wall make it a great dive location. An expanse of colorful reef runs the full length of this dive site, making the vertical drop over the edge of the wall that much more dramatic. Advanced divers will enjoy the clarity of water here, as the wall gets deeper, just before the Tongue of the Ocean makes a sharp turn to the south. Vegetation grows off the wall here, competing for sunlight, while the ever- present marine wildlife swim frantically around searching for food and avoiding divers’ bubbles.

Paul_Walker_and_Stuart

The location of the DC3 makes it a great spot to visit towards the end of the dive. It is shallow enough to take advantage of what air you have left in your tank, exploring the dark nooks and crannies of the site to find whatever may be hiding there. There are not many places you can dive were an artificial reef was once the backdrop for a Hollywood film (other than the Bahamas), and over time this site has become just another part of the reef.

JessicaandStuart

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The Willaurie, New Providence, Nassau, Bahamas

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

In 1988, the Willaurie, a 130-foot (45m) long inter-island mail and freight boat was being towed during a storm from the northern side of New Providence to Sea Breeze Marina on Nassau’s southeastern coast. The ship broke free of its towlines and sank between the Clifton Bay caves and dock area. During the incident, the boat cut through the Shell and Texaco fuel lines, which lay it its path. On Christmas Day, Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas took boats, pumps and welding equipment out at low tide and started patching the Willaurie’s hull, in an attempt to float the ship. As the tide rose, the seawater was gradually pumped out and they managed to slowly pull it out into deeper water. However, it did not take long until the ship began to take on water again and finally sank for good, this time landing on keel in its current southwestern location.

Willaurie1

The Willaurie has grown into a truly remarkable dive site. On its deck there’s a cage structure that has an amazing display of coral growth. Over the years the soft corals have created a dense display of color and intricate formations, delicately hanging off the incredible framework. In fact the whole wreck offers divers the opportunity to see a large diversity of bright coral life. The prop area at the stern offers a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, purples and greens that’s a must-see on your dive.

Off the starboard side of the wreck are the scattered remnants of a Haitian sloop that sank several years ago. Although the wreckage has disintegrated significantly over time, it does add another point of interest to this dive site. Work your way over to the engine blocks and have a look for the spotted drum who has made his home here.

Willaurie2

The Willaurie has graced both the silver screen and television, as well as featuring in many a dive magazine and article about the Bahamas. The wreck’s latest star turn is in the “Wreckage” episode of the web series Water Born. Its structure has maintained integrity over time, and nestled as it is a safe distance from the formidable Tongue of the Ocean drop off, the Willaurie will continue to offer divers, from beginner to advanced, a good dive for many years to come.

 

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