Today, more and more people are rediscovering the simple joys of snorkeling and free diving, and I canít think of any destination more capable of satisfying everyone, from the casual snorkeler to the serious free diver, than The Bahamas. The reasons are numerous. Letís start with the very quality of the water. An unmatched clarity combines with a striking spectrum of blues to create a highly attractive picture. The shallows sparkle with aquamarine and azure highlights bouncing off the white sand bottom. This gorgeous water is a shining blanket overlaying thousands of square miles of lush coral reefs.
Virtually every professional dive operator offers dedicated snorkeling trips, so the questions come down to these: What style of snorkel adventures do you want, and where do you want to go?
In The Bahamas, every single island is surrounded by shallow reefs, many of which reach to within a few feet of the surface. Farther out, this same theme continues, with tens of thousands of shallow water sites on the banks peppered with coral heads and reefs.
In the Abacos, off the east side of the Little Bahamas Bank, the primary reef structures are seldom deeper than 30 to 40 feet. There are open cavern systems and excellent shallow wrecks. Bordering the north edge of Eleuthera is the infamous Devilís Backbone, a jagged line of shallow reef that has came as an unwelcome surprise to many mariners. Today it is a treasure for snorkelers. It offers tons of fish, lots of other marine life and a fascinating glimpse into history. Off the west side of Eleuthera is one of the most distinctive snorkel sites in The BahamasóCurrent Cut. Here, a relatively narrow cut runs from the bank to the outer waters. The current screams through this cut, creating a perfect feeding ground for marine animals. Harbour Island, off the east side, shares some fine reef structures.
South of Eleuthera is Cat Island, home to Dry Heads, one of the healthiest shallow reefs in the islands.
Long Island offers a huge number of snorkeling possibilities. Shallow reefs are found right offshore, as well as at boat-accessible sites.
The Exumas have some of the thickest concentrations of shallow reefs
in The Bahamas, as well as shallow blue holes.
There are other important snorkeling islands. Bimini features fine shallow reefs, one great shallow wreck, the Sapona, and big animal experiences.
Then there are the islands of the Bimini chain to the south and the Berry Islands (particularly Chub Cay) to the north of Bimini. There is excellent snorkeling off San Salvador, too.
Snorkelers can also get in on The Bahamas dolphin and shark action. At Walkerís Cay, snorkelers can view up to 200 sharks at a time from the surface or dive down to interact with them. Dependable snorkeling encounters with Atlantic Spotted Dolphins have been occurring at White Sand Ridge, northwest of Grand Bahama, for decades. Itís the same in the southern Bimini chain, near Orange Cay. These areas are both live-aboard territory.
Just north of Bimini, a pod of resident Spotted Dolphins is making itself accessible on an almost daily basis.
The islands of New Providence (Nassau) and Grand Bahama (Freeport), offer tremendous snorkeling opportunities along with an infrastructure that makes access a breeze. Another big plus is Stuart Coveís Shark Snorkeling Adventure. Similar to the Walkerís Cay experience, free divers can view a big-time shark experience safely from the surface.
Grand Bahama has always been a classic snorkeling destination. There are even marked snorkeling trails off the West End, at Old Bahama Bay. One not-to-be-missed adventure is the Dolphin Experience. Visitors have a choice of snorkeling either in an inland bay or in the open ocean with tame dolphins.
Andros is also popular with snorkelers, offering shallow reefs, glimpses over the deep wall, inland blue holes and occasional dolphin encounters.
This has just been a taste of the snorkeling opportunities available in The Bahamas. To find out more, contact any of the dive operators listed on page 62 in this issue. Better yet, pack a set of snorkeling gear and "go Bahamas."