RMS Rhone, BVIsThe RMS Rhone is one of the most popular wreck dives in the British Virgin Islands. Photograph by Jeff Yonover.
Carib Dancer, Bahamas
“Want to dive the blue hole?” asks Capt. Dennis. Fourteen excited divers exchange skeptical looks on board the Carib Dancer, which weaves its way from Nassau to the Exuma Cays and back over the course of a week.
“A little far from Belize, aren’t we?” I pipe up. Dennis, with a mischievous look in his eyes, replies, “Not as far as you think.” Evidently, the Bahamas sports its very own blue hole.
The week’s signature locations in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park are sprinkled through the island chain, which stretches some 120 miles. Amberjack and Danger reefs host both jacks and sharks, and they approach as soon as the boat is secured at the mooring line. In addition to the action midwater, these marine protected areas boast healthy populations of grouper and lobster, all large and relatively unafraid of divers.
Despite plentiful sea life, by day three we’re still curious about this mysterious blue hole. Capt. Dennis, however, is in no rush to share the secret and enjoys the suspense on board the boat. So we dive gorgeous swim-throughs, caves and crevices. Cracked Coral Head, Cathedral and Pillar Wall are decorated with colorful elephant ear and tube sponges, and we gaze upon schools of Atlantic spadefish, giant barracuda and sea turtles as they swim by.
By the fourth day of the weeklong journey, there was still no blue hole. Was Capt. Dennis just pulling our legs? I keep pressing him for an answer, and he responds: “Not before we make a wreck dive.” We descend onto the wreck of the Austin Smith, a 90-foot Bahamian Defense Force Cutter, which sits in only 60 feet of water. Joining us are some friendly angelfish and grouper, swimming in and out of the old structure.
Finally, the announcement comes — the now-infamous Lost Blue Hole is next. A perfect azure circle in the calm waters appears. The rim is surrounded by coral heads at 40 feet; at 80 feet, there are plentiful lobster-filled crevices and overhangs. Gazing up on ascent, a huge loggerhead turtle swims by while at least a dozen small blacktip reef sharks dart in and out of the opening.
“Thought I was telling you a tall tale?” asks Capt. Dennis later. We all just return a satisfied glance. From the dive deck of the Carib Dancer, the Bahamas really does have it all. — Michele Westmorland
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