Dive it All on Grand Bahama
Courtesy of Bahamas Ministry of Tourism
Dive into a world of unparalleled beauty and discover the magic that lies beneath the surface of Grand Bahama Island.
Sharks, dolphins, wrecks, reefs, caverns and caves are all in the mix for experienced divers visiting Grand Bahama. The more experience you have as a diver, the more opportunities you can take advantage of on The Bahamas’ second most populated island.
Starting with the sharks. Caribbean reef sharks likely appear on most dives off Grand Bahama, with the site Shark Junction offering nearly guaranteed encounters. Reef Oasis Dive Club, a scuba centre operating out of the Wyndham, runs these shark dives regularly. “The main attraction of Grand Bahama is sharks,” says Michael Tadros, co-owner of Reef Oasis Dive Club, located at the Viva Wyndham Resort.
UNEXSO, another on-island dive centre, also offers these up-close encounters. They require that any diver who joins their active feeding dive have their Open Water Diver certification as well as one dive through UNEXSO. The experience is well worth it. “You’re so close that you can look into their eyes and really feel their beauty,” says Shelly Lazarre, Dive Operations Supervisor at UNEXSO.
Further afield, there’s also the world-famous Tiger Beach, 26 nautical miles off the west end of Grand Bahama. This area is one of six places in the world where divers can regularly encounter this impressive fish, spanning 10 to 13 feet in length. At a depth of 20 feet, this site, typically drenched in sunlight, makes for ample photography opportunities with this steely subject. Several local operators, including Reef Oasis Dive Club and Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center, offer this area as a day trip, with pickups from Freeport or West End.
Another only-here experience is the chance to dive in open water with dolphins. UNEXSO’s resident dolphins are brought to open water to meet up with divers. The experience includes a brief training prior to the start, so that divers learn the hand-signal commands that the dolphins respond to, including placing a flat palm out in front of you, in which the dolphin will place its rostrum and spin around.
Grand Bahama also offers a lot of metal in the form of wrecks in depths from 25 to 105 feet, including the Etheridge, a 1992-sunk car ferry; the 2002-sunk Sea Star cargo ship that allows for easy penetration and the Sinikurt, one of the newer wrecks, sitting perfectly intact at a depth of 90 feet. Lazarre’s favourite is Papa Doc, a 69-foot shrimp boat, found at 105 feet. “In the summertime, you get the cup corals that bloom on the roof of the wreck, looking just like nice, bright yellow elderflowers,” she says. Then there’s Theo’s Wreck. “Most everybody comes here for Theo’s Wreck,” says Lazarre of the 230-foot ship, down since 1982. It’s now split in two and covered in marine life. What really makes the site unique is its location. The ship sits close to the edge of a drop off, where bigger marine life cruises by. Turtles, grouper and sharks regularly come in close.
Those who want to explore overhead environments—either for the first time or to take their skills to the next level—can dive with UNEXSO and Calabash Eco Adventures. Ben’s Cavern is the perfect choice for those with at least 20 logged open water dives who want to experience stalactites, stalagmites, a halocline, fossilised shells and more.
Experienced cave divers can explore Owl’s Hole, a portal to three cave systems. Then there’s Mermaid’s Lair Cave, a true cave and advanced diving experience, offered through UNEXSO and Calabash Eco Adventures. A bonus: The caves, like the ocean dives, are also located close to the dive centres—reachable via a15-minute drive.
Of course, the island has coral reefs to explore, with sites in depths ranging from 20 to 80 feet. Some sites, such as Rainbow Reef, are shallow enough to bring the whole family or any group with a mix of snorkellers and divers of various abilities. Other sites, such as the ocean dive known as Caves, offers passageways through the corals that call for better buoyancy—a skill you can certainly take to the next level on Grand Bahama, whether you’re finning inside a wreck or delicately above a sand bottom of a cave while working toward your Full Cave Diver certification. This island has it all.