The Commonwealth of the Bahamas are a collection of islands to the east of southern Florida. The two
largest cities are on two separate islands, the capital, Nassau, is its own island inhabited by roughly 70% of
the Commonwealth's population, and Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, one of the northernmost of the over
700 islands of the Bahamas. Gaining independence from Britain in 1973, there are still many vestiges of the
colonial past in the quaint towns (including driving on the left). Overground, all the islands are low and flat.
To avoid the casino/ spring break crowd, we settled on Grand Bahama island for this trip and, more
specifically Port Lucaya on the outskirts of Freeport, which is well served by a few dive outfits and there's
plenty of nightlife and things to do above water. Aside from stunning beaches, the great views, in my opinion
are underwater. In our short visit, we concentrated on ocean diving but the island also has an extensive
system of underwater caves, similar to the Cenotes in Mexico, including one of the longest underwater caves
yet discovered (the discoverer, Ben, runs underwater tours of some of those caverns, accessible via pools in the
Lucayan National Park)
There is one large SCUBA operator (UNEXSO) and several smaller operators that take people out. I
personally prefer the smaller outfits - the boats aren't as well appointed, but for the short boat rides (10 min), diving either by ourselves or
with 1 or 2 other people was more important to us. Regardless, our guides were thoroughly professional & expertly balanced between being laid
back, and being fully engaged in the event of challenges.
The dive sites we visited were in the 40 - 70 ft depth range and were excellent, with
interesting topography that consisted of coral canyons in some areas and mushroom-shaped coral islands on
top of flat sand in others. There was plenty of sea-life and 9+ft (3m) Grey Reef Sharks were constant
companions, along with the occasional barracuda, octopi, eels, large stingrays & groupers. An
exciting novelty at first, we soon (mostly!) got used to the sharks' presence as constant companions. The
videos below should give you an idea of what's down there:
Tunnels East and West: these two dives had lots of sea life,
coral canyons and the occasional swim through, making for a fun couple of dives.
Pygmy Caves, next to Tunnels, was on the border of where the reef ended and the sand began. The dive
started in terrain similar to Tunnels, but with more accessible canyons/ channels, some of which took us
alongside the tiny caves most too small to swim into but with a couple of swim throughs. The terrain changed
to more sand with interspersed coral islands & large blue parrot fish started appearing.
Airplane Reef had us spending more time among the coral islands with plenty of parrot fish as well as sharks.
The reef got its name from a single engine plane; now all but unrecognizable except for the
propellor since being battered by Hurricane Jeanne in 2004.
Last but certainly not least was Shark Alley. Shark Commute might have been a good alternate name,
given the numbers of them that swam between the coral islands, over the reef and, quite often, between us.
They certainly weren't alone: we also saw the occasional invasive Lionfish, rays and turtles, in
addition to a couple of large octopi and a huge grouper nestled under the wreck of a small twin prop boat.
All in all, highly enjoyable dives and even if the surface was a bit rough (as it was on one of our days),
underwater the diving was relaxing and fun, as long as you're comfortable with plenty of sharks. On the surface, everyone's
relaxed & very friendly & the beaches were superb.