Now That's What I Call Vis
Culture Shock! I haven't been out country in years and I had
forgotten. With my job, it's like a semi truck cruising down a highway
at about 85. It's in control and I can slow down to make turns, but
it's still one high energy system. I got out in the Bahamas and
instantly there was no mistaking that the highway had ended on a sandy
beach. There was a lot of shaking and shimmying with me white knuckling
the steering wheel, trying to get things slowed down in control, but
still moving with some direction..
Really, I was too busy to look into things much before I traveled,
but before you get to Customs, the heat and humidity make you instantly
aware that this ain't Kansas anymore. Then just walking into Customs
clearly tells you that this isn't anywhere in the States either. This
is a place that operates on Island Time. It's people are of African
descent. After having spent some time in Latin Countries, this struck
me as a bit novel.
The Bahamas are a member of the
British Commonwealth, so they all
drive on the wrong side of the
road. They like traffic circles,
which seem so much more civilized
than traffic lights, but they have
those too, where needed. Much is
new and many buildings have a
Colonial look. It seems a fairly
clean country and what blemishes
there are, quickly get covered by
the thick undergrowth.
The hurricanes, as well as the economics of locally available
building materials, promote houses of concrete block and there are many
works in progress.
Value wise, there is no difference between American and Bahamian
On a tropical island, I sort of have visions of palm trees. No.
The island is covered with pine trees. All I saw were less than 50 feet
tall and many had broken off, presumably due to hurricanes. Under them
grew a thick brush of palms and ferns. Though I did get bit some, bugs
never seemed that noticable.
Like most Caribbean islands, this one really does not rise much
above sea level. Apparently, if you really like to count, you can count
700 islands in the Bahamas, 31 of which are inhabited. The main
islands, Grand Bahama and Nassau, are home to most of the islands
We took one of the many Mitsubishi vans to the condo as I tried
to adjust to the culture shock and heat. My first impression was that
the people were very nice. I eventually left with the same impression
which is saying a lot for any country overrun by tourists.
The main civic area of Grand Bahama is the older town of Freeport
and the new town of Lucaya. The whole area is pretty much within about
8 miles of the airport, so taxi's are a good enough option. Freeport
has the Casino and a new one will be opening in Lucaya by 2002. In both
towns, is an International Marketplace of various shops and restaurants.
It's a fun place to visit.
There are a few supermarkets on the island. They are pretty
similar to their US counterparts, but they are different in other ways.
Overall, the country is quite different and also quite similar to the US.
Once at the condo, you don't much notice it. It was time to turn on the
AC and get something cold to drink. Before long, it just seems quite
sunny and balmy outside.
While we were there, we took the standard tour. That included
the Grover Botanical gardens and the Liquor Warehouse as well as a
farmers market. I had fun with coconut. Many kinds of coconuts eaten
The restaurants I would mention are the restaurants at the Casino in
Freeport. One is more fancier than the other. Both have good food.
In Lucaya (at the marketplace) is Luciano's with good Italian food. Also
in Lucaya was our favorite, the Pub. We had
a big plate of Stone Crab claws with Lobster Bisque and Conch Chowder,
both of which had a nice zing of spice to them. Everything we had there,
including the drinks, were excellent. That was our favorite stop at the
I should mention that there are a number of vendors in the
Marketplaces that make a business of braiding beads into hair. Wifely
got some braids on each side of her head. They looked nice and we
decided that the next time there, that early in the trip, she would
get all or most of her hair braided and beaded. It was interesting...
Though they can be work to get out later.
I didn't know what to expect.
I sort of figured that it
would be similar to Florida
diving, which I thought
pretty, but not near as
spectacular as some of the
diving in the Carribean.
The diving ended up being
far better than I had
This was a land based expedition and due to that fact, dive
possibilities were far more limited than was really offered by the
Bahamas themselves. I heard that the best diving at Grand Bahama was
at the west end and I can well believe it. There is a dive operation on
that end of the island, but I wasn't there.
From what I saw, diving this area really should be done from a
live aboard and the diving was plenty good enough to warrant an extended
trip to check it out. There is far more diving in the Bahamas than any
one person is ever likely to get to explore. I suspect that it would also
take quite some time to get bored there.
I had made arrangements to dive with Grand Bahamas Scuba (GBS), which
was convenient because their operation was at the resort I was staying
at. It was about 100 feet from my front door to the docks. I like that.
It's not what you would call a full service dive shop... Well, not even
near that, but I had never planned on buying my gear at a resort.
They have a good compressor with AL 80's and some AL 100's. They
have soft weight belts. They have other gear for use, but hopefully,
you don't need much more.
There was a bigger group that
had been diving all week. They
went out with Devito (he also
functioned as instructor at GBS)
on the bigger boat. I and 3 other
divers went out with Robin and
Mauro in the smaller boat. That
made things pretty roomy for us.
It's just a few miles to the dive
area and was an easy trip.
Mooring there is to fixed mooring floats and that tells the story
of diving there. There are a number of mooring bouys in the area a couple
of miles offshore of Lucaya, but almost all diving from local boats is
actually in a fairly small area of a couple of square miles. It's good
for reef conservation, but I wasn't too sure of how the diving would be
in such a relatively restricted area. Luckily, they manage things pretty
well and so the diving does not show very much wear, but it just about
screams out to you that only a tiny tiny part of the island gets
regularly visited by divers. Most of the whole area must be extremely
lightly touched.... Now just how to get to it?
This was to be extremely casual diving. They said to go down the
anchor line and meet at the bottom. The only rule I heard was that they
wanted two safety stops. I was hoping that everyone kept in mind the
rule of coral diving... Don't touch anything.
I looked down and couldn't believe it. There was visibility. I
mean real visibility. The bottom was at about 70 feet and not only was
it easy to see the bottom, you could also see the bottom at a fair
distance from the boat. The water was in the high 70's and so a bit warm
for my taste, but certainly quite comfortable in a full suit. I had my
camera and I was ready to hunt down with it and ... shoot it...
There were high profile reefs
with sand channels between them.
It was very like Florida with
the coral garden of whips and
fans, but I could immediately
see that the reefs here were far
more beautiful, diverse and lush
than what I had seen in Florida.
As soon as I got down I was looking along a rock and there was a
golden crinoid. Joy grows more! Crinoids are just something special to
me. They just have a special exoticness to them. They don't necessarily
look alive. They certainly don't look more like an animal than a plant
and their potential for mobility seems seriously in question. They are
delicately beautiful and brightly colored. I had seen a few of them
elsewhere, but this was great. This one was fairly exposed and just
perfect for a picture. I had my new lens on and hoped to get some good
shots. Well, that was certainly a great way to start a dive. Later I
found out how badly my photography was going.
We were supposed to play follow the leader with our guide. It was
a very slow trip, but there was plenty to see so the speed seemed quite
appropriate. There were the beautiful lavender sponges that I always look
for. There was always some grouper or another. Nassau, tiger, whatever...
in a variety of sizes. Jacks zoomed by over head. Trigger fish were
munching away on the coral everywhere. This was a place loaded with sea
life. Our guide found one of those lime green anemones with the purple
tipped tenticles, at the base of a rock.
Other divers checked out various cleaner shrimps and Robin tried
to show me a Peacock Flounder (I blew that one though. It was under sand
and I didn't recognize it as something I had really wanted to see)
In this case, it came down to a style of diving dictated by the
diving conditions. We moved slowly and didn't move far. Mauro is this
very young... dive nut. He was nominally leading us. Robin was behind
and kept a very close watch on people. Most of the dive, the mooring
line up to the boat was visible. A lot of times this kind of slow motion
diving would have gotten on my nerves, but here there was so much to
see that it didn't bother me at all.
The channels between the rocks were a clean white sand. It is fun
to swim over the reef and see the fans, whips and other corals, but
swimming down in the channels between the rocks is even more like
flying and you are going to see different things. From down low is
where you are going to see the groupers that are tucked in under small
ledges, sort of trying not to be seen, but not trying too hard. There
were some of the long spined black urchins well tucked into holes. These
are missing from Florida where a disease killed them off some years
I was getting an abject lesson about the difficulties of using a
true close up lens. I was not used to having to get so close to my
subjects and I was quickly getting an increased respect for the people
that get those fantastic close up shots that we get to see. Later, I
got an unpleasant lesson about subject framing, but that was later.
While my MotorMarine lens did seem to fit my Sea and Sea camera,
the framer that came with the lens did not connect properly, so I was
using my method of having a wire sticking out from the camera to give
me my distance... As I said, I learned later that I had a framing
Notice the beautiful gold underneith
The dive continued and I was snapping away at red sponges, brain
corals and whatever looked interesting. We came back to the mooring line
and divers started to ascend. Talk about an easy and very beautiful
dive. That was a very good start.
The next dive was supposed to be The Bahamas Shark Dive. Say that
with feeling. This is where dive operations go and regularly feed the
sharks. Over time the sharks have very well gotten to know this and
come out for handouts. They come out in numbers. I had heard about
this and while I'm not all that intrigued by sharks and get to see
plenty locally, I was looking forward to the dive. The sharks I see
aren't what you would call civil, let alone domesticated and I had
heard that these sharks were just about hams. What I read was that
the divers would go down and hold hands to prevent accidents. Then a
dive leader wearing shark armor would come to feed pieces of fish or
squid to the sharks. Well, some outfits do that. Some don't. The plan
for the dive was to go down at the shark feeding area and see who was
hanging out. Later, the UNEXCO operation would be coming along and
would actually have food for them. I wasn't sure what we would be
We were told that the mooring line connected to a large old steel
recompression chamber on the bottom. We should proceed down to it and
relax near it. The quieter we were, the closer the sharks would come.
Again, it was great dropping into the clear warm water. The
old chamber was sitting on the sand as expected. This area had far more
open sand than the last area. In the distance were larger parts of the
reef, but here there were more large coral outcrops like isolated
boulders. It was interesting that the large outcrops near the chamber,
just sort of funneled all 4 divers to a sandy spot in front of a ring
of the outcrops. It was just a naturally defined viewing space in front
of a large sandy bottomed theater. I guess we also felt a bit better
with something behind us, because there were sharks. Many sharks. Fairly
large reef sharks. They stayed perhaps 50 feet away, but much closer
were jacks that were obviously looking to see if a handout was offered.
We all were settled on the bottom. I
would say we were all quite attentive,
possibly mesmerized. The sharks were
moving back and forth, slowly moving
closer as they got more comfortable
and wondering if we had food for them.
A large ray wasn't near as shy. He
came right up to us and plowed around
in the sand in front of us, obviously
expecting food. There were numerous
jacks, groupers and other large fish
as well, that all came close, but
stayed at their comfort distance
until there was some food to be had..
I was taking pictures with my focus set at about 18 feet, then 15
feet and then at 9 feet. Soon the sharks were getting within about 5
feet, but closer than that was going to take food. Mauro was waving
out his hand to try to get the sharks to check it out closer, but they
weren't interested. They can smell the real stuff. Soon there were about
a dozen sharks between 6 and 8 feet long, cruising by, hoping. I wish we
had had some food for them. Next time I don't plan to leave it to chance.
I'm not sure, but it may only be UNEXCO that actually feeds them.
After perhaps 15 minutes of this, divers started moving around,
looking at life on the nearby rocks. Again, the outcrops were covered
by thick beautiful life. There were many crinoids, but none were as
much in the open.
Soon, we were all heading to the area of the mooring line and
then to the surface. That was another great dive.
Grand Bahama Scuba Limited
Enjoy the diving, seahunt
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