The junction of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea is littered with the 700 islands and 2,400 coral cays of The Bahamas that offer North American travelers easy access to sparkling beaches, gleaming megaresorts and quaint West Indian-style inns. A reef that stretches 760 miles from Andros to Long Island offers world-class diving of all types, including shallow reefs, wrecks, blue holes, walls and shark dives. Divers can choose to dive with land-based operators or from liveaboard boats.
New Providence and Grand Bahama offer easy access and some truly excellent diving. New Providence (commonly referred to as Nassau, its capital city) is surrounded by shallow reefs and shipwrecks that pulse with tropical fish. The Tongue of the Ocean, a 6,000-foot-deep ocean trench, runs along the island’s western shore. To the east is an ocean blue hole, but it’s the big fish — sharks — that attract most divers to New Providence. Dive operators offer a variety of specialty diving, including shark encounters, nitrox and underwater photography. Grand Bahama Island is commonly known by the name of its major city, Freeport. Like everything else on the island, the diving comes neatly packaged. Specialty dives with sharks and dolphins are the norm, but Grand Bahama also boasts pristine dive sites on the island’s west end and a number of inland and ocean blue holes.
In the Out Islands of the Bahamas, you won’t find the glamor of Nassau’s and Freeport’s high-rise resorts or high-rolling casinos. The Out Islands offer isolated reefs, deserted beaches and a glimpse of real Bahamian life. While you may have to sacrifice some luxury and convenience to get to these islands, you can still dive them in comfort and style. The 130-mile-long archipelago known as the Abacos stretches northward on the east end of Little Bahama Bank. These remote islands start just north of Grand Bahama with privately owned Walker’s Cay, then boomerangs south to Great Abaco. Green Turtle Cay offers easy access to patch reefs and Civil War-era shipwrecks. Marsh Harbour, the third largest city in the Bahamas, is on Great Abaco. Here, patch reefs rise up from the sand bottom outside the harbor, some as shallow as 25 feet, others as deep as 70. Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas, is bordered on its east coast by a 142-mile-long barrier reef and the same Tongue of the Ocean that gives New Providence its wall diving. The 15-mile-long string of cays known as Bimini is just 55 miles east of Miami. You can dive wrecks, shallow reefs and deep sloping walls, plus have encounters with bull and hammerhead sharks. There are also inland sinkholes and caverns to explore on Eleuthera, and in the Exumas are the pristine reefs of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park and Thunderball Grotto, the backdrop for two James Bond movies. Long Island offers accessible reefs on both its east and west sides and is very near the virgin reefs of Rum Cay and Conception island. Dramatic coral formations and steep drop-offs characterize the diving off San Salvador. The drop-off starts just 500 yards off the leeward shore, and is covered with corals and deep-water gorgonians.
Weather: From December to May, temperatures range from 75 degrees to 60 degrees, while summer temps are in the low to mid-80s.
Average Water Temp: Summer water temps peak in the high 80s; winter temps drop to the 70s.
Average Visibility: 80 to 100 feet.