Divers who don't have a full week to spend on a live-aboard dive trip can still experience some of the Bahamas' best diving when they sign on for a four-night Bimini trip with Blackbeard's Cruises. Lying less than 50 miles from Florida, the small island of Bimini is surrounded by shallow reefs and sand flats and sits less than a mile from the deep waters of the Straits of Florida. Within a few miles of the island there are a wealth of excellent shallow to moderate-depth dive sites in the 20- to 80-foot range. One of my favorite area sites is Tuna Alley, which is located a short distance south of Bimini near Cat Cay. Comprised largely of a reef slope running parallel with the flow of the Gulf Stream, the most dynamic portion of the slope begins at 50 feet and descends to 80. There, the reef's terse, 40-foot drop includes several long, deep ravines and archways big enough to lose yourself in. Adding to the site's beauty is the wide assortment of marine life, from schools of jacks, snappers and spadefish to larger denizens such as groupers, sharks, eagle rays and sea turtles, that also seem to favor it as a popular haunt. Close to Tuna Alley, facing the abyssal depths of the Florida Straits, is Nodules, a wall site often filled with plenty of energy. Starting at 70 feet, the vertical portion of drop begins as a series of convoluted formations, bisected by short, narrow ravines that give the site its name. Below the 100-foot mark, the wall disappears straight into the gloom of the far depths. The prevailing Gulf Stream current not only provides great visibility, it also brings everything from eagle rays, turtles and sharks (including greater and scalloped hammerheads), to passing pelagics like tuna, wahoo and marlin. Due to its proximity in the Gulf Stream, this dive is sometimes conducted as a drift. For more serious shark action, the Blackbeard's crews can arrange a shark feeding at a site called Bull Run. This spot normally features several brawny, gray reef sharks, as well as a few precocious nurse sharks and large groupers. When the feeding is finished, the site also offers a terrific series of huge, 15-foot high coral formations to explore, with several narrow, winding alleyways and caves. Lying in the shallows at depths of 15 to 20 feet are Bimini's three most popular wrecks dives, the Sapona, Miami-Rita, and Hesperus. These sites not only make for great, easy diving and snorkeling but offer some pretty amazing night dives. During the course of a typical four-night Blackbeard's cruise, divers will have the opportunity to make 12 or more dives on these and other exciting sites in the Bimini area.
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