Walls, Wrecks, Reefs & Sharks;
Nassau Scuba Centre Offers
An Adventure for Every Diver
by Bill Harrigan, Jul. 1997
There are so many excellent reasons to dive with Nassau Scuba Centre, it's hard to know where to start. There are small things such as the guaranteed minimum 3,000 psi tank fills and the hot water shower on Sea Hunter. Then there are the staff members who make you feel like part of the family and the free transportation to and from your hotel. The huge variety of diving courses available and the very high quality of the rental equipment are appealing, too. The best reasons though are underwater: two blue holes, half a dozen wrecks, scores of sharks, miles of walls and acres of coral reef. There are underwater adventures for everyone at the Nassau Scuba Centre.
There is a palpable bit of tension in the air as divers suit up for a Nassau Scuba Centre shark dive but it is replaced by rapt fascination once everyone is in the water. The sharks are not in a frenzy and it is immediately obvious they do not consider the divers a food source. About two dozen five to eight foot Caribbean Reef Sharks arrive and cruise around the divers. Although the dive is normal length, it seems to last only minutes as you observe these magnificent creatures at close quarters. This is an experience that never fails to change a diver's outlook on sharks. If you began the day fearful, you'll end it with a new found confidence.
There are three levels to the shark experience at Nassau Scuba Centre. The Shark Encounter is a two tank event that includes a reef dive with sharks in their natural habitat and a shark feed. The Shark Awareness Course adds a PADI specialty certification to the two tank shark encounter. Divers with a keen sense of adventure can actually wear a chainmail suit and feed the sharks on the Shark Suit Adventure Dive. I wore the suit on a shark feed recently and found it to be an amazing experience. I was knee deep in sharks at one point, with no concern that I was in danger. There just is no other way to get this close to so many sharks.
Nassau is a favorite location for filming the underwater scenes of Hollywood movies and many of the sets are still in place for divers. The Tears of Allah from Never Say Never Again rests in 45 feet near the framework of the Vulcan Bomber from Thunderball. The Cessna from Jaws IV is another popular movie set wreck. The Bahama Mama was intentionally sunk in 1995 and normally has two or three sharks cruising around its hull. The Willaurie is a 130 foot inter-island freighter that has been on the bottom long enough to grow a substantial crop of colorful corals and sponges, particularly around the prop and rudder. The Sea Viking is a 60 foot commercial fishing boat that was sunk recently in 65 feet, still looking ghostly and beginning to attract a lot of fish.
Diving Schoolhouse Reef is like swimming around a coral reef in an enormous pool. It's hard to imagine a more relaxing way to see a reef. There are actually two large mounds of coral here, sitting on a sandy bottom in only 15 feet of water. An hour is enough time to completely circle both mounds at a leisurely pace. There are enough species of fish and coral to fill two identification books, including a beautiful, healthy stand of Elkhorn Coral. The coral ridges of Southwest Reef rise about 10 feet off the sandy bottom. The maximum depth here is 25 feet and the undercut ridges are a maze of encrusting sponges, gently waving soft corals and globes of Brain Corals.
When the weather is right, Nassau Scuba Centre boats can run either east or west to visit a blue hole. Lost Blue Hole, off New Providence Island, looks like a deep blue circle against the shallow sand bottom. The 35 foot deep lip is encrusted with coral; the wall is cylindrical, dropping straight down to 165 feet. Stingrays gather around the rim after each dive, apparently attracted to the bubbles percolating up through the sand. Another blue hole dive is sometimes possible on Andros Island.
Although each dive site along the New Providence wall is different from the next, they all generally start at 45 or 50 feet and drop off to well past the 130 foot sport diving limit. Hole in the Head features a deep swim-through at the base of the wall and some of the best coral and sponge growth in the Caribbean. This dive is an excellent chance to observe Caribbean Reef Sharks in their natural environment. At Jack's Jump there is a double wall, with the first wall dropping from 40 to 70 feet. There is a gap of about 100 feet, then the second wall climbs back to 40. There is a second shallow ridge, then another drop down to a narrow ledge at 110 feet and off into the deep.
Nassau Scuba Centre offers dive and stay packages with several hotels. The Nassau Beach Hotel on famous Cable Beach offers all the amenities you expect from a high quality tropical resort. The rooms are large and luxurious, the grounds are impeccably groomed and there is a choice of restaurants and entertainment. The Orange Hill Inn offers comfortable accommodations and quiet tropical surroundings, with moderate prices. Other lodging options are also available.
Getting to Nassau is exceptionally easy. Several major airlines fly direct from cities all along the East Coast and there are numerous flights from Miami. U.S. citizens may enter with either a passport or a certified birth certificate with photo ID. Bahamian dollars are interchangeable with U.S. dollars and the electricity is the same, too.
For more information or reservations, contact Nassau Scuba Centre in the U.S. and Canada at (888) 962-7728. From other locations call (954) 462-3400 or fax (954) 462-4100. E-mail should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org or nealwatson@ aol.com. On the Internet you can find Nassau Scuba Centre at http://www. nassau-scuba-centre.com and www. twofin.com/twofin/nassau. htm.