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Scuba Diving in The Bahamas

The Bahamas, with its sun-bleached tropical islands, islets, and cays, is a scuba diving mecca. Its nearly unspoiled coral reefs and mystical blue holes offer breathtaking underwater adventures.

Geography of The Bahamas

The Bahamas is a coral-based archipelago just a few miles east of South Florida and north of Cuba. It’s made up of 700 islands and more than 2,500 cays and rocks spread out over a 100,000-square mile piece of the Atlantic Ocean. In total, The Bahamas is divided into 31 districts, each boasting sandy coasts fringed by coral reefs and fathomless channels that attract divers of all aptitudes.

New Providence

Graced with warm ocean currents and a teeming marine ecosystem, New Providence (where the capital city of Nassau is situated) is home to popular snorkeling and diving spots. Experiences range from shipwrecks and shallow reefs to coral walls and open ocean shark encounters—all of which are easily accessible from the grit and bustle of Nassau.

Southwest Reef

This dive site is proof that you don’t need to go deep and far to see breathtaking marine flora and fauna. Just six miles off the west coast of Nassau, this sunlit wonderland is brimming with marine life like the butterflyfish, trumpetfish, groupers, rays, and even whitetip reef sharks. DPV-certified divers will surely love exploring this protected reef in the fast lane while admiring the plateaus of massive bulkhead and elkhorn coral formations below.

James Bond Wrecks

After being used as props for the James Bond film Never Say Never Again, this dive spot has attracted droves of wreck enthusiasts and film aficionados. Accessed via a short boat ride, divers of all certification levels will enjoy the site’s crystal-clear visibility, warm waters, and mild currents. The deepest point is 45 meters on the Tears of Allah, an island freighter deliberately sunk for the shooting of the film. Advanced divers may get a peek inside the wreck and admire the corals adorning its interior.

Razorback Wall

Fin along a towering mural of starlet, staghorn, brain, and finger corals in this exhilarating dive site off the island’s southern coast. Reached only by a 20-minute boat ride, the Razorback Wall is like a vertical garden where thousands of fish and invertebrates congregate. Explore its secret tunnels and cap off this amazing dive by tapering into the deep abyss among elusive giants milling around the surf.

Grand Bahama

The world-famous island of Grand Bahama, where lively Freeport is located, is a diver’s paradise famous for the Spiny Lobster March and grouper spawning. Surrounding offshore waters host many dive spots, while several more can be accessed via a short boat ride from the coast.

Tiger Beach

If you’re in The Bahamas for the shark diving, don’t miss these two dive sites. While its sandy beds and gin-clear waters are unforgettable, Tiger Beach is better known for the many shark species frequenting this area. Prepare your underwater photography equipment and get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to swim among apex predators like tiger, nurse, and lemon sharks; hammerheads; and Caribbean reef sharks.

Theo’s Wreck

If you’re one for adrenaline-pumping dives into maritime history, you’ll enjoy cruising inside Theo’s Wreck. Located 1.5 miles from the coast of Grand Bahama, this 230-foot shipwreck rests on the ocean floor and edges into a 101-feet drop-off. This intriguing Bahamas diving destination is now occupied by a kaleidoscope of vegetation, fish, and corals. Get ready for varying current speeds as you penetrate the wreck’s enigmatic hull.

Littlehale’s Lair & Shark Junction

Known for its two iconic coral-made caverns rising from the sandy seabed, Littlehale’s Lair draws underwater photographers and wildlife enthusiasts year-round. With its clear, calm waters and proximity to Shark Junction, there’s a hundred and one percent chance you’ll spot sharks here. Take note that this expedition is done at 20- to 50-feet depths, so Advanced Scuba certification is required from all divers.

The Out Islands

The Out Islands and their sun-dappled reefs, mysterious blue holes, and untouched beaches have become a playground for scuba divers, locals and foreigners alike. Whether you want to take it slow or explore the expansive reefs in the fast lane, there’s something for every diver. Here’s a roundup of diving sites you can access in a single day by boat or liveaboard:

Andros Island

Andros Island is loved for its sun-soaked beaches and labyrinth of mangrove flats, estuaries, and seagrass meadows flooded by warm, azure waters. But its crowning glory is the Tongue of the Ocean, a deep oceanic trench that begins about 70 feet deep and plunges to more than 6,000 feet. Fringing this trench is the Andros Barrier Reef, one of the world’s largest reef systems and living organisms.

This ocean community is home to hundreds of species of soft and hard corals, as well as over 164 species of fish, including the sharp nose puffer fish, flying gurnard, rock lobster, and schooling red snappers. In just one island, you’ll experience 200 kilometers of spectacular reef and wall diving and blue hole expeditions like The Sleeping Giant and The Big Yard.

The Current Cut

Located in North Eleuthera, the Current Cut is arguably one of the most unique dive sites in the world, and it’s not for the faint-hearted. This deep, narrow divide has a very strong and fast current that runs between Current Island and the Current settlement. Take the drift through the cut and experience a thrilling ride at speeds comparable with that of a moving freight train (approx. 10 knots at maximum flow).

The Washing Machine (The Exumas)

A must-do when diving in The Exumas from a liveaboard, the Washing Machine, which is only a few miles from the Highbourne Cay Marina, boasts some dramatic drop-offs. Gear up for a unique and heart-thumping drift diving experience as the current here will sweep you down into the 40-foot hollow base then lift you right back up to 15 feet. Be ready for a zippy ride, tossing and turning all the way through in starfish formation.

Bimini Road

Bimini Road, sometimes called Bimini Wall, is an ancient limestone formation submerged beneath clear, blue waters in the westernmost part of The Bahamas. The steps lining the path appear to be cut at the right angles, which has led people to believe that these formations are remnants of the mythical lost world of Atlantis.

Some scientists argue, however, that these pavements are the result of generations of beachrock cementation influenced by coastline erosion and ocean tides. Either way, Bimini Road is a must-see site for novice and advanced divers. The site is also home to spectacular marine life, sunken Spanish galleons, inland blue holes, and popcorn-shaped coral heads.

Marine Life in The Bahamas

From the shallows fringing the archipelago’s many islands down to the 1,820-meter deep oceanic trench in Andros, The Bahamas is home to countless species of marine plants and animals. Keep your eyes peeled for these creatures when scuba diving in The Bahamas:

  • Spiny Lobster - Also called the Bahamian Lobster, this clawless crustacean burrows in coral nooks and crevices. As a response to the onset of summer storms, these lobsters band together and march in synchronized movements across the ocean floor in search of calmer waters.
  • Nassau Grouper - Like most groupers, the Nassau grouper is a predatory fish that play a crucial role in preserving the health of Bahamian reefs. These massive ambush predators prey on large crabs, lobsters, and several reef fish.
  • Goby - This fish species may not look much, but it provides the best cleaning services for reefs. It eats away seaweed, which tend to hover above corals and steal their precious, sunny real estate.
  • Bahama Sea Star - Also called the cushion sea star, this mollusk is abundant throughout Bahamian shallows and reefs. It comes in myriad shades of red, orange, yellow, and brown, and can measure up to 50 cm across.

Shark, turtle, and batoid encounters are pretty much guaranteed when you dive in The Bahamas. The reef between Nassau and the islands of Andros is among the world’s largest, most biodiverse marine ecosystems, so expect to spot an array of unique, tropical sea creatures like barracudas, clown fish, queen conch, and green moray eels. There’s also a great chance you’ll encounter humpback whales and dolphins when island hopping.

Other Attractions

  • Bahamian Fish Fry at Arawak Cay - Dine among the locals in Arawak Cay and experience an authentic Bahamian feast. This eatery on West Bay Street is only 15 minutes away from downtown Nassau.
  • Clifton Heritage National Park - Take a break from underwater adventures and witness the other natural wonders that The Bahamas has to offer. This park features scenic trails that cut through a variety of ecosystems, from coastal wetlands and sandy beaches to dunes and cliffs.
  • Pink Sands Beach - Leave the crowds and casinos of Nassau to unwind in this pristine beach on Harbour Island, a few miles west of Eleuthera. It features colorful, quaint cottages, long pink sand beaches, and a port town that’s full of character.

How to Get to The Bahamas

Anyone with a valid passport can visit The Bahamas. A visa may only be required for very specific countries or for visitors who will stay longer than 3 months. Here’s how to get there:

By Air
The easiest way to get to The Bahamas is to fly from Miami to Nassau and take a connecting flight or book a domestic flight there if you’re going to an Out Island. If you’re coming from Europe, catch a British Airways non-stop flight from Heathrow to Nassau. Some of the most popular Out Islands—including Andros, The Abacos, Bimini, The Exumas, The Berry Islands, and Eleuthera—are mere 15 to 30 minutes flying time from Nassau. There are a number of airports, which serve a long list of airlines sprinkled throughout the archipelago, so getting there should be easy.

By Sea
The Bahamas is one of the most famous cruise destinations in the world, so your options are endless. There are 71 cruise ships that sail to the archipelago. Popular lines include the Royal Caribbean, Oasis of the Seas, Disney Magic, and Norwegian Cruise, which dock in Freeport, Nassau Castaway Cay, Coco Cay, Half Moon Cay, Great Stirrup Cay, and Princess Cays. There are currently no reliable ferry services from South Florida due to unpredictable weather and rough seas on the Gulf Stream, so chartering a yacht from the mainland is also not an option.

Getting Around

If you’re staying on one island, the best way to get around and make the most of your holiday is to rent a car. Hiring a motor scooter or bike and taking a cab or jitney (bus) are also good options. To explore nearby cays or the Out Islands, you can take a water taxi or charter a private yacht or catamaran for an authentic Bahamian escapade.

Best Time to Visit The Bahamas

The perfect time to visit The Bahamas is winter, which runs from Mid-December to April when the weather is temperate, like a perpetual late spring. Between April and May, it starts to get warm and rainy by day and chilly in the early morning and at night. While these months fall in the peak season, there’s a low chance of hurricane activity. Since the islands are part of the hurricane belt, storms and trade winds are common between June to November, but aren’t as frequent or turbulent as the ones occurring along the east coast of the United States.

Required Trainings & Certifications

All card-carrying divers from around the world can dive in The Bahamas. As a world-class scuba diving destination, the islands have no shortage of training centers and certification agencies. If you’re a beginner and wish to get certified when you arrive, it would help to prepare and take introductory online courses.

Miscellaneous Information

Currency
The Bahamian dollar is the legal tender throughout the islands, which is equivalent to the US dollar, which means both currencies are accepted interchangeably for all cash transactions. You may change your money to either US dollars or Bahamian dollars if you’re coming from another country. Most credit cards are accepted throughout the main islands, especially in tourist spots, while you might need cash for most purchases and rental fees in the Out Islands.

Language
The official language of The Bahamas is English, more British than American, and infused with a unique Bahamian dialect. Creole is also spoken in areas heavily-populated by Haitian-Bahamians.

Time Zone
The Bahamas observes Eastern Standard Time (the same time zone as New York City), and uses Eastern Daylight Time from April to October in conjunction with US summer hours.

Driving Side
Driving in The Bahamas can be tricky. Traffic drives on the left side of the road, but since most vehicles are imported from the US, expect to do left-hand driving. Take caution when driving in both urban and rural areas. Cities are notorious for aggressive motorists, while some roads in remote areas can be narrow, winding, and in poor condition.

Calling Code
The country code is +1. Dialing 1-242 after the DID will allow you to call The Bahamas from another country.

ISO 3166 code
The Bahamas is assigned the ISO 3166-2 alpha-2 code “BS” for 1 island (New Providence) and 31 districts.

Internet TLD
.bs is the Internet country code top-level domain for The Bahamas.