About Diving the Bahamas
The Bahamas is an island chain that extends 760 miles with over 700 islands and 2,400 cays. The northern boundary of the nation is east of West Palm Beach, and the southern reaches almost to Haiti.
Bimini Island is the westernmost portion of the island nation and is just 50 miles off the coast of Florida. The Bahamas wraps around the world’s third-largest reef system and the mile-deep abyss Tongue of the Ocean.
Only thirty of the islands are inhabited. However, 61 have airports or landing strips. If you ask the locals, there are two Bahamas, the Main Islands – New Providence with the connected small Paradise Island, and Grand Bahama Island– and the Family Islands also called the Out Islands.
The Bahama's population totaled 306,611, in the 2000 census of which 80% lived on the two main island. Nassau on New Providence Island, has 70% of the population, is the country's capital and the main tourism hub.
Tourism is the country's largest industry in both revenue and employment. The Port of Nassau has more cruise ship arrivals than any other port in the world.
Cruise ships represents 70% of the country's tourism. The port is protected from the sea by a long narrow island, once called Hog Island as the island was only hog farms and a lighthouse at its point.
As tourism grew, the island became home to upscale resorts and was renamed Paradise Island. Grand Bahama Island is the nations shipping hub, and also has a sizable tourism industry. The city of Freeport is the most noted.
The 20% of the population that does not live on the main islands feel they live in the real Bahamas. Abaco is by far the largest of the islands in the Bahamas.
However, it is the third largest population center with only 10% of the country's population. The remaining 10% of the population is spread over the other 28 populated islands.
When is The Best Time to Dive The Bahamas?
The diving is great year round in the Bahamas. The hurricane season, June 1 to November 30, has the most unpredictable weather. Still, hurricanes strike less often then they do the US mainland.
Water temperatures are good all year. January and February have the coldest water about 75°F (22°C) about right for a 3mm or 5mm wetsuit. In August, the water is about 83°F(28°C) and most divers just wear a dive skin.
Marine life found in the Bahamas
Having deep trenches, a barrier reef and thousands in coral cays in tropical waters gives the Bahamas the widest range of marine life.
Expect to see:
- Queen conch the symbol of the Bahamas. It is also a staple in the local cuisine.
- Nassau grouper. One of the largest of the grouper family. Normally seen solitary, however, will school in the hundreds during the spawning season of late January and early February.
- Sharks. Over a dozen different species. The Oceanic Whitetip can widely be seen, while rarely spotted in other parts of the world. Caribbean reef sharks and Hammerheads are also very common here. Lemon sharks, bull sharks and tiger sharks are somewhat seasonal but smaller number are year round.
- Whales are seasonal in the colder months. Sperm whales, humpbacks, minke whales, and pilot whales are seen.
- Atlantic spotted dolphins and the common bottlenose dolphins are abundant.
- While no turtle nesting stations are known in the Bahamas, adult green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles are often seen.
Most popular u/w attractions in the Bahamas
Having so many islands and cays to choose from over such a long distance, it difficult to say what is best. Here are some suggestions.
Main islands Nassau has a number of dive operators and there are many outstanding site sites around the island. While there are wrecks sites, the reefs are a bigger draw.
Some underwater scenes from early James Bond movies were filmed in the area. The dive sites around the Tongue of the Ocean deserve a special note and are a must dive if you are in Nassau.
These dive sites are shallow reefs, most between 30 and 60 feet, with seemly unlimited visibility. The coral cover is very good and the marine life varied.
Large pelagic species are near constant visitors to the reef. The edge of the reefs drop straight down into the abyss. Here every dive is a shark dive, you can stay on the reef and watch them swim around or hang out over the abyss and watch them in the deep and raising to the reefs.
Grand Bahama Island is best know for shark dives. While sharks are plentiful in all the Bahama's, it was in Grand Bahama Island where the art and science of shark feeding evolved. Shark interaction is still a large part of the diving here.
Out Islands Unlike most popular dive destinations, the Out islands present outstanding low-density dives. There are more dive sites than divers.
Bimini Island is noted for its seasonal hammerheads and bull sharks The U.S. State of Florida has outlawed shark feeding, so some U.S. Dive operators visit here for shark feeding dives working with local dive centers.
The out island built their diving reputations on the big game fish and other large predators including sharks. They have also been recognized as some of the best places for macro marine life.
Private Islands As mentioned about, 70% of the tourist arrive on cruise ships. Cruise ships are not especially noted for their scuba diving opportunities. However, Bahama cruises are an exception.
Nassau departures are normally late evening so divers can enjoy a full day of diving in that port. Many of the cruise lines own small private islands in the Bahamas.
While geared to provide their guest with outstanding beach days, they also offer scuba divers some outstanding reef dives. The dive sites are lightly used and offer great conditions.
Also read: Top 4 Wreck Dives in the Bahamas
How to get to the Bahamas?
From the US: The Nassau airport is the major international airport. Most of the major U.S. Airlines fly into the Bahamas, with service from 25 cities. There are a dozen smaller international airports with connections only to Miami.
From Europe: Only the U.K. Has direct service to Nassau, other European travelers can make connections in London or one of the US cities.
From SEA: There are a 34 ports of entry into the country used by boaters
How to Get Around in the Bahamas?
Between Islands: Nassau International airport services 23 domestic airports. Ferries are used to connect islands close to the airports. Private boats and seaplanes are also available.
Main Islands: Public transportation including taxis are readily available.
Family Islands: On most of the family Islands there is no formal transportation system. Your hotel or resort will likely provide transportation, often a golf cart.
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