Choose the right resort and you can discover underwater treasures just a short swim away
With hundreds of miles of reefs, rocks and beaches scattered across some 700 islands, there’s no shortage of great snorkel sites in the Bahamas. Some are remote and difficult to reach; others will require a boat ride. But there are also a number of prime fish watching venues that lie just off popular beaches, and within close proximity to a waterfront resort. Here are five of our favorite island destinations where you can go right from the sand to the reef.
Love Beach, New Providence Island
The best place for nearshore snorkeling on the island of New Providence isn’t from the resorts at Cable Beach or Paradise Island, but instead can be found a few miles to the west at Love Beach. Getting there is easy by either public bus or rental car, but you’ll have to know the local ropes to gain access to the water, as this beach is flanked primarily by private homes. Guests of Compass Point Beach Resort have walk-on proximity, while day- trippers can pay a modest fee at nearby Nirvana Beach Club to gain entry, and enjoy changing facilities. From either starting point, the best area for snorkeling is toward the western end of the beach, where coral-covered rock ledges run closer to shore. Blue tangs and yellow-and-blue striped grunts hover in the shadows of overhangs, while the more gregarious yellowtail snapper will often approach. The sandy patches between the rocks hold conch and starfish, and keen-eyed snorkelers may spot the antenna of a spiny lobster hiding deep in a crevice.
Deadman’s Reef, Grand Bahama Island
Come for the day, or book a stay. Either option places you next to Grand Bahama’s favorite snorkeling destination: Deadman’s Reef. The reef lies just offshore of Paradise Cove Beach Resort, which is a 15-minute drive west of Freeport. The resort sits on an otherwise deserted stretch of beach, and in addition to snorkeling, offers a range of day-at-the-beach diversions for both the active and the just relaxing. Right from the sand, snorkelers wade into clear water that is usually calm, and swim less than 100 feet to the start of the reef. Usual sightings include angelfish, barracuda, colorful parrotfish and rays, plus the chance of a sea turtle. To add an extra element to the swim, you can rent a motorized sea scooter that will propel you along the reefs like James Bond.
Small Hope Bay, Andros
Andros is the largest and wildest island in the Bahamas, and home to some of the island nation’s most diverse diving and snorkeling adventures. Some take place from boats, but others await right off the beach. A long-time favorite starting point, and one of the island’s few full-service resorts, is Small Hope Bay Lodge. Snorkel adventures begin right at the resort beach, where guests can wade in to discover schools of tropical fish holding in the shadows of the resort dock. A bit farther out, a series of patch reefs provide hours of exploration. For a truly unique snorkeling adventure, sign up for a half-day inland trip to a pair of freshwater blue holes that includes a walking tour of forests where medicinal plants and more than 50 varieties of orchids thrive.
Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island
Harbour Island’s famous pink beach is among the prettiest in the Bahamas, and just offshore lie some equally enchanting coral grottoes. Because this beach faces the open Atlantic, conditions aren’t always favorable for snorkeling. But when the surf is down, those willing to fin their way 50 to 100 yards from shore will encounter a maze of coral heads cut by deep channels, tunnels and hidden grottoes. Fish flit in and out of hidden recesses, while sunlight dapples groves of Elkhorn coral. It’s a magical scene, whether you remain on the surface, or dip down into one of the recesses for a closer look. For immediate access to the beach, you can stay at the top- rated Pink Sands Resort, which perches on a bluff overlooking the beach, and is just a short stroll away from the Dunmore Town waterfront.
Stocking Island, Great Exuma
There are several spots along the shores of Great Exuma Island where reefs come close to shore. Some of the best are on the east side of Stocking Island, which is either a short ferry ride away from George Town, or a few steps from the front porch of cottages such as the Kevalli House. The eastern shores of the island are punctuated by caverns and caves that delve into the underlying limestone strata of the shoreline. Just offshore, coral gardens rise from depths of ten feet or less, providing shelter for a variety of colorful tropical fish. Another good right-from-the-beach option a few miles to the north is Three Sisters Beach, so named for the trio of rock outcroppings that lie within swimming distance of the shore. The Exuma Palms Hotel is the place to stay at Three Sisters. As compared to some of the newer, high-end resorts that have sprung up mid island, it’s smaller and reminiscent of a simpler time, offering clean, comfortable accommodations at a reasonable rate, with a first class restaurant, a magnificent beachfront location and a range of available water sports.