Scuba Diving Abacos, Bahamas
Abundant of fish life and one of the most unique shark dives in the Bahamas.
The Abaco Islands consist of two main islands: Great Abaco and Little Abaco with the Great Abaco Island extending some 90 plus miles long, yet not more than four miles wide on average.
Located just east of Grand Bahama, the Abacos lay at the north tip of the Bahamas Islands chain and directly East of Palm Beach, Florida.
The Abacos consists of its own 120-mile-long island chain, basically a mini-Bahamas complete with its own Out Islands. Great Abaco Island and Little Abaco serve as the “mainland,” with a string of barrier islands separating them from the Atlantic. The body of water between – a turquoise Nirvana for those boaters and sailors – is the calm, shallow Sea of Abaco.
Great Abaco Island is home to Marsh Harbour, the “bright lights and big city” of the Out Islands. And to put that into perspective, Marsh Harbour has exactly one traffic light (the only operative one in all The Bahamas Out Islands!). Along with having a great selection of hotels, restaurants and bars, Marsh Harbour is charter boat central, with several full-service marinas where you can dock your own boat or find a rental – both live aboard sailboats and powerboats are available.
The outer islands up to Great Guana are easily reached by the Abacos scheduled ferry service – think local bus, but with a much better view and friendlier passengers – from Marsh Harbour. To reach Green Turtle Cay, you first head north on Great Abaco to Treasure Cay, where you can catch a boat for the short hop. There you’ll find the quaint town along with a full-service marina and hotels and dive and snorkel services.
The Abacos Islands have four dedicated national parks. Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park, South of Tilloo Cay protects the barrier islands and coral reefs on its fringe. It is perfect for snorkeling with underwater caves abound with exotic marine life like eagle rays and sea turtles. Tilloo Cay National Reserve is a vital nesting place and habitat for many birds including the beautiful and rare White Tailed Tropicbird. Abaco National Park in Southern Abaco near Hole In The Wall Lighthouse and is a designated natural preservation area protecting 20,500 acres containing the native habitat of the endangered Bahama Parrot, exotic birds and other wildlife. The Black Sound Cay National Reserve, adjacent to Green Turtle Cay, with its lush mangrove swamps is a bird watchers paradise. However, all of the Abaco islands are covered by scrub and pine forests so bird watching and nature hiking are keen everywhere, making the Abacos a popular Caribbean vacation destination for nature enthusiasts. Bring your binoculars!
SCUBA DIVING ABACOS
The diving and snorkeling is excellent all through Abacos, with several cays protected underwater areas such as Fowl Cay National Reserve and Pelican Cays National Park, massive reefs with swim-through caves that are seasonally filled wall to wall with silver baitfish, and even dive spots at the edge of the reef where you’re almost guaranteed to see Caribbean reef sharks.
Directly exposed to the Atlantic, the reefs of the Abacos take a different from much of the Bahamas. Many sites are relatively shallow, 60 feet or less. Subjected to slightly cooler temperatures during the winter, they are just on the edge of what hard corals require to survive. The general form of the fringing reefs is an ornate, extinct coral base with a healthy top growth of Star and Elkhorn corals. The base reef has been etched out by tidal flow to form a maze of interconnecting tunnels and cathedral-like caverns.
Professional dive services are a given in the Abacos. Walker’s Cay, the northernmost island, has been an Out Islands of the Bahamas diving tradition for decades. In addition to myriad mazes of shallow and complex caverns, an abundance of fish and some deeper sloping walls, Walker’s Cay features one of the most unique shark dives in the Bahamas. Groups of up to 150 sharks gather at the sound of the dive boat’s engines in a coral arena to feed on the bait, while divers mingle with them. Some refer to this as an underwater cocktail party.
Green Turtle Cay features shallow reefs as well as superb fish life, one of the earmarks of the Abacos. There is a huge selection of sites for snorkeling and diving at Marsh Harbour. Maxi-Caves is an historically great spot for comfortable cavern dives where you’ll find friendly groupers and barracuda.
HIGHLIGHTED DIVE AREAS
See map for reference numbers of dive sites
1) Green Turtle Cay – Beach access diving and snorkeling from Green Turtle’s eastern beaches, especially on the northern end of the cay, is exceptional. While the barrier reef should be accessed by small boat, the inner reef system offers enough underwater scenery to keep the novice as well as experienced diver occupied for weeks. Right off the beach on the northern end of the cay, the inner reef is as close as 1 foot below the surface at low tide, and The Abacos’ tides rarely vary by more than 3.5
2) Great Guana Cay – Guana offers miles of spectacular near-shore reefs and dive spots as well as almost deserted stretches of dune-lined beaches. Some of the most spectacular diving to be found in The Abacos is easily discovered on Guana’s northernmost beaches. Shore diving is as easy as it comes, and the rainbow-streaked rewards for novices as well as experienced divers makes this a “must see” site
3) Johnny’s Cay – This dive spot is great for snorkeling on the outer reef or just offshore of Johnny’s. Although local knowledge is always helpful when you’re exploring new dive or snorkeling sites, common sense can guide experienced snorkelers to a huge variety of incredible sites in this relatively undiscovered undersea gallery
4) No Name Cay – (the first Cay south of Green Turtle) No Name offers great beaches and equally impressive dive opportunities in water as shallow as 35′. Just a few miles south of Green Turtle Cay, the remains of the Adirondack lie in 35-50′ of gin-clear water. While not for absolute novices, this site offers a wide range of sea life and marine artifacts to explore, with two sites at 35 feet. During lobster season, this is a popular site for locals as well as Travelers to catch the increasingly scarce Bahamian lobster
5) Fowl Cay Government Preserve – (North side of Man-O-War Cay) Set aside by the Bahamian government as a national Land and Sea Park, this (approximately) 3 square mile reserve is conveniently reached from most central Abacos cays and settlements. While the reefs and three 25′ to 40′ dive spots in untouched water are truly spectacular, if a “rage” is in the forecast (strong winds and subsequent rough sea conditions), the waters in this area can be rough. With a variety of tunnels and towers to explore, the sea life is abundant — -almost as if it knows it is protected
6) The Adirondack – (near Man-O-War Cay) The scattered remains of an old ship can be found in a little more than 30′ of water. With cannons exposed and well preserved, The Adirondack is home to rainbows of fish and a huge variety of coral formations
7) Sandy Cay – (about 2 miles north of Hidden Harbour) This is reported to be the location of the largest stand of elkhorn coral in the world.
HOW TO GET HERE
Two airports serve The Abacos: Marsh Harbour International Airport (MHH) and Treasure Cay International Airport (TCB), plus there are airstrips at Moore’s Island, Sandy Point, Scotland’s Cay and Spanish Cay. Frequent domestic and international service is available. Chartered air can be arranged through any certified carrier. By sea, you can travel from Nassau with Bahamas Ferry Services on a fully air-conditioned vessel, or a mailboat that provides service to several towns on a weekly (or more frequent) basis. From Grand Bahama Island, Pinder’s Ferry operates twice daily, leaving from McLean’s Town in the East. The fare is $50 one way.
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