Scuba Diving Bahamas
Home to the world’s third-longest barrier reef and has the clearest waters in the world. Diving with Sharks, Blue Holes & Shipwrecks.
Just a short distance out of Florida – the Bahamas are comprised of 700 islands and 2,400 coral cays sprinkled over 100,000 square miles of ocean. They start just 50 miles off the east coast of Florida (across from Palm Beach) and continue south to the Turks & Caicos Islands and to the east of Cuba. The capital is Nassau on the island of New Providence. The Bahamas are also home to the site of Columbus’ first landfall in the New World in 1492.
One of the most prosperous countries in the West Indies, the Bahamas relies on tourism to generate most of its economic activity. Tourism as an industry not only accounts for over 60 percent of the Bahamian GDP, but also provides jobs for more than half of the country’s workforce.
Of interest to divers and other marine explorers, the Bahamas are home to the world’s third largest barrier reef and five per cent of the world’s coral can be found in the waters of the Bahamas. The Islands are made entirely of calcium carbonate, which is mainly produced or precipitated by the organisms of coral reefs.
The Bahamas has the clearest waters in the world, with visibility of over 61m (200 ft). It has been scientifically proven that a specific alga, which requires light to live, is found deeper in The Bahamas than anywhere else on earth.
The Lucayan National Park on Grand Bahama Island is the site of the world’s longest known underwater cave and cavern system.
Even though they are located in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean Sea, we have chosen to include them with Caribbean diving since their proximity and diving conditions are so similar.
SCUBA DIVING BAHAMAS
The Bahamas are made up of many different islands with their own unique diving experiences. Andros is home to the world’s third-longest barrier reef, which protects the entire 140-mile-long coastline. The reef has tunnels, caves, coral gardens and many wrecks for divers to explore. The Blue Holes of Andros lead to complex underwater cave systems that house giant stalactites and stalagmites. Bimini is home to the wreck of the Saponam, which was used for target practice in World War II and has many holes for divers to swim in and out of. Bimini is also home to the ruins of the road that some scientists believe may reveal evidence of ancient Atlantis. Eluthera/Harbour Island has a razor-sharp reef named Devil’s Backbone that has claimed several ships leading to many wrecks for divers to explore. A rare underwater site on the island is an underwater train wreck.
One of the high points for many divers is the large numbers of very healthy sharks in the Bahamas. Several dive operators conduct shark dives that are known around the world. The Bahamas are one of the top diving destinations in the entire world for shark dives.
If you like sharks, then come Bahamas diving and you’re in for a treat. These beautiful, diver-friendly creatures are found around all the islands of The Bahamas. Nurse, black tip, bull, tiger, great hammerhead and Caribbean reef sharks all love our clear blue waters. Their favourite spots are the coasts of islands fringing the deep water of the ‘Tongue of the Ocean’, including New Providence, the Exuma Cays and the outer reefs of The Abacos. Having a close encounter with a shark is one of life’s unforgettable moments. If you’re shark diving in The Bahamas, you might meet up with dozens in a single day!
There are several live-aboard dive boats that operate in the Bahamas. Due to their ability to move throughout the islands, many believe that a live-aboard is the easiest way to sample a number of islands during one vacation.
HIGHLIGHT DIVE AREAS
Nassau/Paradise Island: If you are looking for paradise, look no further than the waters of Nassau/Paradise Island. Here, you will find crystal-clear, warm waters and drop-offs that are close to shore. You will find all types of diving – blue holes and caves, historical wrecks and amazing reefs, soaring wall dives and thrilling shark diving, great for both the new or experienced diver.
Grand Bahama Island: Grand Bahama Island is located about 56 miles east of Palm Beach, Florida. It is 96 miles long and 17 miles wide, with little humidity and rainfall. You will find the diving in Grand Bahama Island is pristine year-round.
Long Island: On Long Island, you can dive Dean’s Blue Hole, said to be the world’s deepest blue hole and the second largest underwater chamber, which dips 663 feet into the ocean floor. You will find great reef dives and sites like the upright wreck of The Comberbach in 90 feet of water and walls that drop to 1830 6,000 feet.
Abacos: Directly exposed to the Atlantic, the reefs of the Abaco take a different form from much of the Bahamas. Many sites are relatively shallow, 60 feet or less. The waters are also subjected to slightly cooler temperatures during the wintertime.
Andros: The dive experiences in Andros range from shallow water, wreck and blue hole dives to spectacular wall dives off the 6,000 feet deep Tongue of the Ocean. The Andros Barrier Reef, the world’s third largest barrier reef, is located approximately 1 mile off to the east.
Bimini: South of the Bimini is a short underwater limestone rock formation. The north section (called North Bimini Wall) begins in 120 feet of water and is typically a drift dive for experienced divers. To the south are many other walls such as the South Cat Cay Wall, Victory Cays Drop-off and Riding Rock Wall that begin in about 30 – 90 feet of water.
San Salvador: San Salvador is renowned for great diving, with more than 50 dive sites on the island’s lee side, including ruins and shipwrecks. Unusual ones are Devil’s Claw and Vicky’s Reef, with stingrays and sharks; and French Bay, with Elkhorn and staghorn coral.
DIVING SEASON: Year around. Seasonally different pelagic fish concentrate in the Bahamas. Spring is mating season for many fish and lobster (crawfish), schools of Mahi Dolphin fish are abundant. During June, Mutton Snapper school up. During late summer the Orange Sponges spoor. In October Manta Rays are more common. December/January you can find massive Nassau Grouper mating schools. Winter you may see schools of Hammerhead sharks (San Sal and Conception) or a even a whale shark.
VISIBILITY: Average of 80-100 feet (24-30 m)
WATER TEMPERATURE: Water temperatures average 75° F (24° C) during the winter (December to March), 80° F (27° C) in spring and 88° F (31° C) in the summer (June to August).
WEATHER: Weather Patterns in the Bahamas: April and May are “spring” months, while June, July, August, and September are of a “summer” pattern. Summer weather has a consistent east to southeast wind 10 to 15 knots or less, with the long days, warm waters and calm seas; the “summer” months have great diving conditions. Summer is also “hurricane” season in the Caribbean.
In the Bahamas the peak of this storm risk is mid September, oddly enough September has the calmest sea conditions of the year – unless you get a hurricane. On average The Bahamas get a storm every 5 or 6 years, they last about 2 days but stir up the visibility for a couple of weeks. June and July have low risk of storms, but by mid August it is wise to watch the weather forecasts closely. Many businesses take September off for resupply.
October begins the “fall” weather pattern of warm water diving with cooler evenings and excellent diving until the winter weather patter begins sometime in November. Early December may have periods of “Indian Summer” for those who might want a dive trip in the lull between “Thanksgiving” and “Christmas”
The gradual arrival of the winter weather pattern begins in November with the first “Cold Front”. Cold Fronts arrive from the northwest and are a burst of cooler denser air preceded by a line of thunderstorms followed by clear blue skies (sometimes breezy north east winds for a few days). January through March Fronts arrive about once every 10 days. Some fronts are mild and only show a wind direction shift. Some fronts are strong (locally called “Anchor Rattlers”) which might reduce water visibility for a day or two. Cold fronts are generally over by April.
SKILL LEVEL: Diving opportunities are available for all diver experience levels in the Bahamas.
MARINE LIFE: With a diverse array of marine life, nearly all divers will find what they are looking for – especially Nassau Grouper – the national fish of the Bahamas. When these groupers spawn, they gather in the hundreds of thousands. Spiny lobsters are also common and the “March of the Spiny Lobsters” takes place a couple times a year in shallow water. Divers will also likely see conch, dolphins, hammerhead sharks, reef sharks and sea turtles
CLIMATE: The ocean temperature and the trade winds control the climate. Year round highs are in the 80s with lows in the 70s. The wet season runs from June to November; the two wettest months are October and June. Although some days are wet and grey in the rainy season, showers usually pass quickly. The island has over 300 days of sunshine each year. Although officially in the hurricane belt, hurricanes rarely hit the Bahamas, they usually pass to the west and head towards the U.S. mainland or south towards Cuba and Jamaica.
LANGUAGE: English is the official language of the Bahamas. A local dialect adds descriptive terms and a distinct accent to give their English a distinct local flavor.
ELECTRICITY: Officially 120V, 60Hz, which is identical to the U.S. and Canadian standard.
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: US Dollars are equal to the Bahamian Dollar 1:1 and readily accepted throughout the Bahamas. Most shops, Tours and restaurants accept credit cards and travelers Checks. Some smaller venues will accept cash only.
GRATUITIES: Tip according to quality of service. Remember to tip your dive guides and boat captains. Much of their income is from your gratuities.
PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: Phone and cell phone service varies throughout the country. Major resorts have extensive service, while smaller venues may not have phone service available. Wireless Internet service is becoming more available throughout the islands, but there are still pockets where service is impossible or difficult to get, and it’s likely to be slower than you may be accustomed to.
VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: Passports are required for all visitors. Visas are not required for US, Canada, UK and members of the EU. Residents of other countries should check to determine is a visa is required.
CUSTOMS: Bahamian Customs allow you to bring in 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, or 1 pound of tobacco, plus 1 quart of spirits (hard liquor). You can also bring in items classified as “personal effects,” and all the money you wish.
DEPARTURE TAX: A departure tax is charged for each person that leaves. It is currently US$15.00.
GETTING THERE: The largest airports in the Bahamas are at the capital Nassau, on New Providence (NAS), and Freeport, on Grand Bahama (FPO). Smaller airports are scattered amongst the other islands. The Bahamas are a popular port of call for cruise ships plying the Caribbean. The capital, Nassau, on New Providence Island is one of the world’s busiest cruise ship ports, and is well served by ships that originate from Florida. Freeport on Grand Bahama Island is a growing destination as well.
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