We landed in Freeport, Grand Bahama late in the evening. An impressive connecting flight from Miami as the sun went down over the horizon, stepping off the plane gave the usual blast of hot air and welcomed me and my companions to the first island of my Bahamas trip. Although famous for the presence of tiger sharks, there is much more to this island than meets the eye. An early morning start the following day took us to snorkel vibrant reefs and kayak through mangroves teeming with wildlife.
This was shortly followed by my first ever experience diving with Caribbean reef sharks, catching site of these creatures set my heart racing but I quickly grew accustomed to their presence. The dive sites here are all relatively shallow, easily reached by the newly qualified diver and perfect for a first underwater adventure. My experience on Grand Bahama was short lived but will not be easily forgotten.
A short domestic flight takes you from Freeport to Bimini. Another shark diving hotspot. Greeted on arrival by bull sharks circling the harbour, we checked into the Bimini Big Game Club. A dive with great hammerheads is one for the bucket list, these graceful giants cruise close to the sand, nurse sharks move out of their way as they make their way toward you, I stood my ground and was within reaching distance multiple times. As soon as the hammerheads reached us they arched upwards and around. Out in the blue I caught sight of the tell-tale shape of bull sharks, short but wide and packed with muscle, even they were put off of coming close by the four hammerheads that circled us.
It isn’t all about the hammerheads here though, four new wrecks have been sunk as artificial reefs and are easily visited in the space of one or two drift dives. Drop offs present interesting topography in a place I previously thought only to have some very sandy dive sites. Another highlight came in the form of snorkelling with bottlenose dolphins, a short boat ride takes us to their feeding grounds, the wild dolphins here are particularly inquisitive especially if they have youngsters and we were lucky enough to visit a pod with two calves, unable to hold their breath as long as the adults to dive for food they were frequently with us on the surface and I used my limited freediving knowledge to try and get down with them.
This was a packed trip, and one that kept me constantly impressed. The next few days were spent on Andros, The Bahamas' largest but sparsely populated island. Small Hope Bay Lodge is the ideal location for an Outer Islands getaway; I felt like part of the family from the second I arrived at this remote dive location. Each lodge had been hand built one at a time with sustainability in mind and the dive centre sat on a wooden pier just out from the main beach. The dive sites here were as unique as the diving on the former two islands I had visited, this time the main attraction is the blue holes. Forty metres down (but easily reached at any depth) I looked up into the blue, divers above me silhouetted in the sunlight. The topography here is unlike any other and the holes themselves are still being explored and charted to this day, another undiscovered frontier in the world of diving.
The inland blue holes present freshwater diving opportunities, as well as a great excursion for the non-diver to go swimming or snorkelling. We were taken on a bush medicine walk to one of the blue holes which gave us insight into the medicinal properties of plants found in The Bahamas, recommended for a divers day off.
I didn’t want to leave the outer islands, but the remainder of my stay presented different opportunities. Nassau is the capital of The Bahamas, and even though it is a small island is packed with things to do, and full of dive sites. I am most interested in wreck diving and it was here that I explored the wreck of the Sea Trader, which now hangs precariously off the side of a wall, sharks circled below as I ventured out into the blue to embrace this impressive wreck and appreciate just how big it truly was. With night time brought a once in a lifetime opportunity, to dive on a wreck with sharks circling in the darkness, what more could I possibly ask for? Stuart Cove’s Dive Centre didn’t disappoint, and I was left beaming with the quality of diving that is present on Nassau.
Four islands in ten days; countless sharks, dolphins, barracuda, turtles; some truly amazing company; and of course, the ever-friendly Bahamians. When can I go back?