Divers Guide to The Bahamas | Scuba Diving

Divers Guide to The Bahamas

Sheer walls, shallow beginner sites and a wealth of marine life rank this budget-friendly divers' gem as perennial favorite.

bahamas hammerhead

The Bahamas are ­practically synonymous with shark dives, and Bimini’s great hammerhead experience is truly bucket-list worthy.

Greg Lecoeur

Good to Know

Language: English

Currency: Bahamian dollar

Signature Dish: Conch salad, a ceviche where the conch meat is “cooked” by lime juice. In addition to the minced conch meat, the mix typically contains onions, tomatoes and peppers, both bell and Scotch bonnet.

Signature Topside Activity: When in the Exuma Cays, a stop at Pig Beach, found on the island just north of Staniel Cay, is a must. Recently, it was reported that several of the adult pigs died, but now, piglets inhabit the otherwise uninhabited beach.

Main Airport: Nassau’s main airport, code NAS, is Lynden Pindling International Airport.

Water Temp/Visibility: 75-88 degrees; visibility averages 60 feet, with 200 feet on a good day.

Travel Tip: You might experience delays when connecting to an interisland flight. If you have a connecting flight, you might want to consider spending the night in Nassau (or wherever your last interisland flight lands).

Two colors come to mind when the word Bahamas is uttered: white and turquoise. This destination is equally as famous for its white-sand beaches, especially those of the Exuma Cays and the rest of the Out Islands, as it is for turquoise water, beckoning divers with sparkling clarity. Scores of sharks contribute to the Bahamas’ reputation among divers. From daily dives with Caribbean reef sharks to seasonal offerings with oceanic whitetips and hammerheads, this destination packs big in a big way. Then add in the wrecks, and it’s easy to see how this place colors most divers just one way: happy.

Big Animals

The Bahamian Six-Pack

Great hammerhead, Caribbean reef, tiger, bull, oceanic whitetip and lemon sharks. Six species of shark are regularly found in these Atlantic waters — and each species is another reason the Bahamas were named, yet again, the No. 1 destination for big animals in the Readers Choice Awards.

If you haven’t been to South Bimini, add it to your list. December through March, great hammerheads come in close to shore, making for incredibly ­intimate encounters. Or, in April and May, consider Cat Island, where you can swim with oceanic whitetips.

Go Tigers

Grand Bahama’s Tiger Beach, an hour by boat from the western end of the island, is said to be the best place on the planet to dive with tiger sharks, thanks to consistently good conditions and a nearly 100 percent likelihood of sightings. Bring your camera: Shutterbugs can log 60-minute dives in 30 feet of clear water.

Photography

Wide-Angle Action

From north to south, the Bahamas has a stunning visual appeal for photographers. The water clarity, healthy reefs and abundance of animals earned the islands a top-five ranking in the 2019 Readers Choice Awards for underwater photography.

Expert Opinion

At Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas, photo pros are ready to help divers with camera setup and ­nailing the perfect shot. And this team knows how to get the shot. Hollywood and commercial directors have relied on these experts since the 1970s, giving them decades of experience.

Best Overall Diving

Seven Hundred Flavors

The Bahamian Islands, 700 in total, ranked third in the Caribbean/Atlantic region in the Readers Choice Awards for best overall destination. In large part, it’s because these islands deliver so much diversity. Choose Nassau for nightlife, casinos and even the waterpark slide at Atlantis Bahamas resort, which whirls guests over and through a tank of sharks. Or choose the Out Islands for a quieter escape.

Best Beginner Diving

Beginner’s Luck Underwater visibility goes a long way in creating a sense of comfort, building diver confidence, and the Bahamas has plenty of it — 60 feet and counting. Add to that the fact that teams on Nassau have purpose-sunk a ­handful of wrecks 40 feet and shallower. One of the more unusual sites, a Cessna airplane in 26 feet of water, can even be enjoyed by snorkelers.

Wrecks

The Hull Experience

Just about every island in the Bahamas has one — or several — signature wreck dives. Off Nassau, one might argue that the Ray of Hope is the island’s best dive, bringing together a bit of the best from several realms. It sits at the edge of a wall, and it’s smack near a shark-feeding site, so Caribbean reef sharks patrol the ship, as do goliath groupers. Off Bimini, the SS Sapona is the ship not to miss. This might be the only concrete-walled ship you’ll ever dive or snorkel in your lifetime. Because it’s so shallow, it’s a sanctuary for tons of marine life, including angelfish, green moray eels and schools of sergeant majors, creole wrasse and more. Long Island’s wreck claim to fame is M/V Comberbach, one of the Bahamas’ deeper sunken treasures, at a maximum depth of 115 feet.

The Bonuses

Blue Holes, Caves and Caverns These islands are riddled with blue holes, caves, caverns and other unique geography winding through limestone. Some, like Dean’s Blue Hole — the second deepest in the world — are a playground for freedivers, offering 600 feet of finning room, found on Long Island. On Grand Bahama, you can dive a handful of caves and caverns, including Ben’s Cavern. Or choose Andros Island, home to 50 blue holes and countless caves.

2019 Readers Choice Awards

  • 1st Place: Big Animals
  • 2nd Place: Underwater Photography
  • 3rd Place: Best Overall Dive Destination; Beginner Diving
  • 4th Place: Wreck Diving; Advanced Diving
  • 5th Place: Best Value
  • Top 10, Most Unusual Dive Site: Washing Machine, Exuma Cays
  • Top 10, Best Animal Encounters: Caribbean reef sharks, New Providence Island; Hammerhead sharks, Bimini
  • Top 10, Best Cultural Experience: Junkanoo, Nassau, New Providence Island