Scuba Diving in the Bahamas – Bimini, Grand Bahamas, and San Salvador

Sandals - Photo from Flickr - Healther 0714
Sandals - Photo from Flickr - Heather 0714

The Bahamas are an archipelago, situated towards the west of the Central Atlantic, north of Cuba and comprise of over 700 islands and and are a combination of the rich Atlantic marine life and the best surroundings of the Caribbean. Bahamas holds an important place as the world’s top five diving sites, as the vertical walls and reefs covered with abundant corals and sponges, along with a lot of wrecks and blue holes, offer great visibility to some of the most spectacular, plentiful marine life.

It is possible for the Bahamas to offer such a great diving experience, because of its natural geographical formation. Most of the Bahamas are covered by the “Bahamas Banks” Plateaus and about 20 pinnacles that Bahamas is formed of ensure that most of the Bahamas has shallow water, divided by a lot of deep ocean trenches. Over time the lime stones in the Bahamas eroded considerably, which triggered the collapse of the underwater caverns thus naturally forming plenty of blue holes. Bahamas contains the largest number of blue holes in the whole world in the Grand Bahamas and the Cal Say Bank thus able to offer diving experiences that can be never matched by any other diving site of the world.

The diverse diving opportunity that Bahamas offers entices divers from all over the world and invites them again and again. Sharks, Manta Rays, Stringrays, Dolphins, Whale Sharks, and sometimes Pilot Whales are often sighted throughout the Bahamas range. The Grand Bahamas, Barry Island, Cay Sal, Andros, New Providence and Bimini are some of the great locations in the Bahamas that offer exhilarating diving experiences.

Bahamas enjoys a warm climate throughout the year ranging from 27 degrees Celsius to 32 degrees Celsius. The months between June and November, experience rains and water temperatures hover around 80 degrees Fahrenheit in summer (May to October) and about 70 degrees Fahrenheit during winter (November to April). The months between June and November are prone to hurricanes and divers would want to consider these months for diving in Bahamas.

Scuba Diving in Bimini

The Bimini Island is just over 7 miles long and the farthest point being just 700 feet long. It is located at a distance of about 50 miles from the Florida Coast and belongs to the smaller group of islands in the Bahamas. A single narrow water channel divides the Bimini Islands into two – the North Bimini and south Bimini.

Lionfish -photo mhedstrom
Lionfish -photo mhedstrom

Bimini lies on the borders of the Gulf Stream and the Grand Bahama Bank, and has crystal clear waters with great visibility. Its nearness to the Gulf Stream and the added nutrients that this proximity brings in ensures that Bahamas offers both small marine life as well as the pelagic like sharks and rays inhabit the waters of Bimini.

Though Bimini offers a limited number of diving sites, each of these diving sites offer great quality. Satisfaction is guaranteed for any type of diver who visits the Bimini Island as there are a variety of reef, drifts and wreck dives available in these islands.

The most famous and most curious of all the diving sites in Bimini is The Bimini Road. Two long, straight lime stone strips which look as if they were man-made, which are square stones about 6 feet long run parallel to each other makes everyone believe that it might be the remains of a lost city of the Atlantis. One cannot see any marine life forms in these limestone structures, however for the curiosity quotient of the site, it is certainly worth diving.

The Bimini Barge and Little Caverns are other exciting dive sites around the Bimini, as these provide the opportunity to witness some of the most prolific marine life. You may also want to try out The Bimini Wall, Nodules, Victory Reef and Sapora while you are in the Bimini.

Scuba Diving in the Grand Bahamas

The Grand Bahamas are located about 50 miles from Palm Beach in Florida and are the fourth largest of all the island groups in the Bahamas. The southern part of the island consisting of points like Port Lucaya and Silver Point is where the major development in tourism has happened. The Grand Bahamas are one of the most frequented tourist destinations of the Bahamas.

The scuba diving in the Bahamas is concentrated in and around these tourist areas in the South and the west which contain both shallow reefs as well as walls which merge into shallow areas as well as greater depths. There are a lot of small islands which also provide great diving experiences, however these are not frequented much as they are located far off.

Apart from scuba diving, the opportunity to come close enough to dolphins and sharks is another great attraction which the tourists and divers cannot resist.

The Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXCO) located in the Sanctuary Bay have started organizing an innovative program since the past few years which allow divers to see, dive and swim with the dolphins in the open water. The dive boats are usually accompanied by two big bottlenosed dolphins which swim alongside the boat leaping clear from the water. Once reaching the site, the divers settle in a 15-meter wide semi-circle in order to experience one of the most unique and genuine diving experience of interacting with the dolphins in close proximity. This is certainly one experience that should not be missed by anyone visiting the Bahamas.

For more brave and courageous divers, an equally exciting and unique opportunity is the shark feeding experience. In this feat, divers form a semicircle at about 15 feet deep with the trainer pulling out fish from containers. Sometime later, groups of 20+ Reef Sharks appear and start to circle the food. All this while, the sharks do not notice their captivated audience thus providing an insight into the nature and behavior of these great marine creatures. Both the above experiences are difficult to copy elsewhere and hence should not be missed at all.

The Poppa Doc, Jose Tugboat and the Theo’s Wreck are the most popular wreck dive sites in the Bahamas. The most popular among these three sites is the Theo’s Wreck, a 238 foot long Norwegian freighter which was intentionally sunk in order to provide a wreck dive site. After being sunk in 1982, this wreck sitting at a depth of about 100 feet is now home to corals and a large number of fish like the Barracudas, parrotfish and some morays.

Apart from the above sites, the Sea Hunt Reef, Buddha Heads and Lucayan Caverns offer equally good diving experiences. Diving in the Bahamas is fairly decent and the shark feeding and dolphin swimming experiences ensure it to be a memorable trip.

Scuba Diving in the San Salvador

San Salvador is the summit of one of the submerged mountains situated to the east of Bahamas. The depth of the San Salvador reaches to a depth of about 15000 feet below.

Although San Salvador island is a small island about 12 miles long and 5 miles wide the numerous walls and drop offs that surround it offer exciting diving experiences. Most of the dive sites are situated in the lee side of the island which is away from the strong Atlantic currents. The west side of the island is quite calm and here the shallow reefs and the walls combine to offer you some of the greatest diving experiences.

Even experienced divers frequent San Salvador because of the great wall dives that it offers. These walls are naturally formed by the large sea cliffs which start shallowly at about 15 meters (50 feet) deep but grow into greater depths further offshore.

The marine life found in the shallow reefs and those found in the deeper walls are different from each other. While the shallow reefs are home to smaller marine life such as the goatfish, snapper and squirrel fish, the deeper walls give an opportunity to come face to face with sharks, stingrays, barracudas and turtles.

San Salvador is most famous for the small and friendly fish groups called the Nassau Groupers which can be found around the caves and tunnels at depths of about 30 feet.

The Devil’s Claw, Runway 10, The Great Cut and the Telephone Pole are some of the other dive sites found in the area. For those who are fascinated about wreck diving, the shallow wreck of SS Frescate which was sunk on the New Years day of 1902 and later salvaged and demolished during the Second World War, is one of the well-known wreck dive sites. Today the wreck of the SS Frescate lies in just about 20 feet of water.

Overall San Salvador provides a good diving experience with visibility levels of up to 50 meters. Divers need to note that the hurricane season in the entire Bahamas begins in late July and continues up to early November. The Bahamas maintain a warm climate throughout the year with temperatures ranging between 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months between May and September.

Scuba Bahamas - Jim 79
Scuba Bahamas - Jim 79