While Florida has long laid claim to the title of “America’s Playground”, those in the states wishing to head out on a foreign vacation often choose the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The nation, which is composed of 700 islands, is synonymous with tropical travel and can be reached via a quick trip from the U.S. mainland. Millions of people worldwide visit each year to kick back and enjoy the balmy weather, white beaches and invitingly warm water.
Because of it’s location and history, the country is truly a diver’s paradise. For most of the year the water temperature ranges from the upper 70s to the mid-80s, and the air is rarely below 70 degrees. Numerous reefs abound with vibrantly-colored coral and fish. And since they lay in the middle of shipping lanes, the islands were a major haven for pirates during the 17th and 18th centuries (Nassau was virtually ruled by them in the beginning of the 1700s). The surrounding waters are filled with hundreds of vessels sent to the bottom due to plundering and storms.
The following is a brief rundown of some popular dive spots:
New Providence Island- Home to the capital city of Nassau, this island’s south side features the shark wall, a steep drop-off that’s turned into an underwater buffet. When dive guides insert prepared baitfish into cracks and crevices, reef sharks swim in for a snack and present visitors with a one-of-a-kind photo op.
Bimini - Besides three miles of reefs, Bimini features several blue holes, unique formations common to the Bahamas that are the result of an underwater cave’s roof collapsing. Divers can also explore the Bimini Road, a mysterious rock formation that some claim is part of the lost city of Atlantis.
Great Guana Cay – This small island is a nesting ground for several species of turtles as well as a magnificent reef composed of elkhorn and staghorn coral.
Lucayan National Park - Within this Grand Bahama Island sanctuary, divers can experience the thrill of winding their way through six miles of subterranean freshwater caves, the longest complex of its kind in the world.
Harbor Island (Eleuthera) - Several wrecks lie at rest in the surrounding waters, including the remains of a steam locomotive sold by the Confederate States of America in order to fund its involvement in the Civil War.
Andros- Off the eastern shore of this island lies a massive fringing-barrier reef, the third largest in the world. Divers can swim among a plethora of marine life including French Angelfish, Nassau Grouper, Stoplight Parrotfish and view giant tube sponges, brain coral and Venus Sea Fans.