On the tip of the Tongue
Andros Island Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
When divers think of the Bahamas the first thing that often comes to
mind are sharks - mostly of the Tiger and Caribbean reef variety.
Search for the Bahamas on some of the popular underwater photography
websites and you see pictures of . . . sharks. This should come as no
surprise as two of the world's more famous dive centres, Jim Abernethy
and Stuart Cove, are based here. Even a recent article in one of the
UK's popular diving magazines focused (somewhat disparagingly) on the
shark diving, and not a single positive remark on the state of the
over-dived reefs and other fish life.
Andros is the largest of the islands in the Bahamas at 104 miles long and 40 miles at its widest point, yet it is the least developed with only about 6000 inhabitants. Much of the Island (in truth 3 islands; North Andros, Mangrove Cay and South Andros) is made of densely wooded areas and large parts of it are comprised of mangrove estuaries and tidal swamps. This means that not only is the land in a natural state but so are the reefs - especially in the area we visited at the southeast of the North Island around Cargill Creek.
How natural? Well, it is truly possible to dive on sites where there is no record of scuba divers having visited before. That's right - virgin sites! And what makes the diving so special is that the reef, the third largest barrier reef in the world, fringes the "Tongue of the Ocean"; a deep trench that drops to 6000ft. Of course, diving virgin reef sites presents the obvious problem to the photographer in that you do not know what to expect there, and if you don't know what to expect, then what lens do you take? Given that I spent three weeks in North Sulawesi just over a year ago and managed to get lots of macro shots, I decided to spend more time with the wide angle lenses and try out the Magic Filters, as well as the dual strobes and Nikon 10.
The first dive was, appropriately enough, a shark dive. We had landed and arrived at the dive centre (www.coralcavernsresort.com) with good weather so Paul, the Diving Director, decided to take us out to where he had recently discovered a great shark site. We needed good weather and little wind as we were to find ourselves right out in the blue; miles into the Tongue where the US Navy had secured a buoy with the bottom right down way way below us. Immediately upon dropping in we could see the occasional sleek, but distant, bodies of the Silkies that Paul assured us would be there. Hanging around the shot line that disappeared below us we were soon joined by more sharks than I could count.
As it turned out, after this dive the wind blew up enough that we couldn't safely moor up on the buoy again so we set about diving the reefs for the rest of the week. Having previously only dived the well-known and well-dived parts of the world, the thought of diving new sites was very exciting.
One of the lesser-known features of Bahamian diving is the Blue Holes made famous by the likes of Rob Palmer. These are cave systems and many link up an inland cave with a sea cave. They are subject to the tides and currents and can be dangerous places to dive - even by caving standards - shifting, as they do, huge amounts of water around the islands. Paul had been told of a small hole within the reef from a couple of local fisherman and had cautiously dived around it judging the movement of the water at various states of the tide. My buddy Mark and Paul dropped down into the hole during slack water whilst I satisfied myself with the occasional photo around the mouth of the cave - again with the 10.5mm and filter but also having a play with a strobe.
The rest of the week we spent around a number of what were called 'White Holes' - these are sandy areas within the reef surrounded by coral outcrops up to 3 metres tall in places. Many that we dived were totally encircled by the coral. These sites were totally undived. At the first, Paul stopped the boat, donned a mask and, hanging over the side, put his head in the water. He came back up with the words, "It's beautiful down there!". Well, you don't need much more incentive than that and with the anchor dropped into the sand, we plunged in.
Beautiful it certainly was! Not only this one but every single white hole we visited.
One new site we dived clearly had it's halcyon days well behind it. We named it "Parrot Reef" because there were very many parrot fish - and also because it is an ex-reef! It had clearly been battered by a storm in the past but was showing some signs of revival, but it will be some time before it's back to its previous glory. This was the only reef we came across in this state or, indeed, anything like it, but we did spot a resting nurse shark under a coral head as a nice highlight. Every other reef we dived really was in excellent condition and this is testament to the lack of diving done in these parts. In fact, not only did we not spot another diver in the week we were there, we did not even see another diving boat or any other boat for that matter. It really was fantastic!
As the dive centre was so easy to get to (direct flights to Nassau from London Heathrow followed by a ten minute flight to Andros Town and a ten minute drive to the centre) and the diving so good, we will be back to Andros and Coral Caverns and hopefully it will still be quiet, undeveloped and an absolute pleasure to dive. Next time though, I'll be after shots of the bigger fish and, who knows, maybe even some cracking natural shots of the sharks.