Text and Photography by Michael Lawrence
Conch shells and casinos, beaches and ballyhoo, sharks, straw markets and shopping, turtles, travelers and touristsóin Nassau, it is all a part of the rich tapestry. Itís a destination slowly being transformed into a big part of the modern world; all the while trying to maintain itís own personal sense of the old world.
In many ways, Nassau is the archetypal tropical Magic City, the Oz of The Bahamas. If you love a fantasy sense of vacation but also want the natural world to jump out and stare you in the face, Nassau will fit the bill admirably.
For divers specifically, Nassau/New Providence is an underwater wonderland of surprises. You can snorkel shallow reefs, experience the thrills of underwater Hollywood sets and dive natural and artificial wrecks. You can sail over breathtaking walls, dive and snorkel with sharks, possess the potential of seeing whales or dolphins and also have access to blue holes, Out Island adventures and almost anything else you desireóall with the knowledge that you can be shopping, gambling or eating at a truly fine restaurant soon after. While divers are in the water, the rest of the family can while away the time shopping, golfing, playing tennis or beaching it. If you want it in The Bahamas, Nassau has it!
| Both Nassau and Paradise Island just across the water (shown here), offer a fast pace and all the amenities.|
Once you are on-island, you will soon understand there are two different faces to New Providence. One is the big hotel high life of Nassau and Paradise Island. The other is the quiet, Out Island ambiance of the southwest corner of the island. Both are equally attractive and all sides of the island offer not only fine accommodations but also excellent dive services.
There are excellent professional dive operators on every important corner of the island. It is really a question of atmosphere. In Nassau, Cable Beach or other areas on the north side of the island, including Paradise Island, you will have immediate access to all the goodies such as big hotels, golfing, windsurfing, parasailing, international restaurants, sparkling casinos, elegant nightlife and all of the other fine diversions travelers love.
If you are on the southwest coast, you will have much of the same along with quiet isolated beaches, starlit skies and the chance to experience peaceful personal moments. The two are not that separate. It takes only 20 minutes to get from one side to the other, rental cars are plentiful and taxis are fast. Also, if you choose to stay in the heart of the action, all the southern dive operators offer free, door-to-door pick-up and delivery services for divers and snorkelers desiring to experience the other side of the island.
Nassau Wrecks Nassauís available wrecks range from former movie sets that are now artificial reefs, to victims of natural disasters. They include the sets for James Bond 007 films (request the Vulcan Bomber!) to older and out-of-use Bahamian vessels such as the Willaurie, to sailboats, military vessels and small planes, to a brand new freighter sunk within the last few months just off South Ocean Beach. The north coast, off Paradise Island, offers a number of wrecks.
Reefs and Walls It doesnít matter if you snorkel or dive, the possibilities are limitless. Shallow reefs abound on all sides of the island. You just canít beat spots like Southwest Reef, Goulding Cay, Fish Hotel, Barracuda Shoals, Pumpkin Patch or Razorback. While some reefs are simple patch reefs, many shallow reefs tend to blend into a sloping drop that abruptly plummets over the wall and into the depths. Naming reefs is a little foolish as there are so many. The same holds true for walls, especially when you start exploring the superb wall sites along the east side of the Tongue of the Ocean. Say what your heart desires and trust your dive operator to take you to the best spot accessible on any given day.
Sharks This is one of the biggest attractions. The Bahamas are famed for their shark dives and Nassau/New Providence is right at the forefront. If you have not experienced this, the first time will be an eye-opener.
The Nassau shark dives take a couple of different forms. Some dive operators utilize only chainmail arms and gloves on the feeders. These dives tend to be orderly, relatively speaking. Some dive operators wear complete chainmail shark suits. On these dives, the sharks tend to be more active and personal with the feeders but still sidestep guests.
An extra special activity is the Shark Suit Adventure. You, too, can step into a chainmail suit and soon have sharks feeding out of your hand. The adrenaline rush of sharks bumping, brushing and bowling you over will keep you reeling for days!
A different type of shark dive is Shark Buoy, a massive buoy anchored in 6,000 feet of water in the Tongue of the Ocean. Schools of open ocean sharks called Silky Sharks tend to congregate under it, feeding on jacks and other fish. Being suspended in the deep blue and having the sharks approach is a different and equally satisfying experience.
The bottom line on Nassau is this: If you want it, you can find it here. Visitors come from all over the world to sample Nassauís pleasures. Dining can go from conch salad on Arawak Cay or under the Paradise Island bridge to the finest international cuisine possible. Water experiences can go from shallow snorkeling to diving shallow reefs or walls to playing with high-energy sharks. Nightlife can be either the glitter and glitz of the casinos or the glistening sparkle of the stars and the moon off the sea. ItĎs your choiceóand you canít go wrong.
The Bahamas Experience | Parade of Marine Life | Shark Diving | Grand Bahama Island | Bahamas Dolphins Encounters | Nassau | Out Islands of The Bahamas | Ten Reasons To Take The Whole Family | Walls and Blue Holes | Rapture of The Wrecks | Exploring The Bahamas by Live Aboard | Bahamas By Snorkel | Bahamas Diving Association | Index