My first dives in the Bahamas were in 1981. Several dive boats from Key Largo crossed the Gulf Stream in a flotilla just to dive the Cay Sal Wall. It amazed me then, and it amazes me now that just on the other side of that giant oceanic current is water of such spectacular clarity and wall decoration of such immense proportion and color. Even in those early slides, long before the “vibrance” tool existed in software, the electric-blue backgrounds revealed in the wide-angle shots were unlike any others. It should have been an inspiration to Crayola … Bahamas Blue. But no paraffin wax and pigment could truly duplicate the hues that rim these 700 islands.
In the intervening decades I’ve managed to visit some part of the Bahamas at least once a year. Memories include the early years in San Salvador, where Skin Diver publisher Paul Tzimoulis ran his School of Underwater Photography, and my first-ever shark dive at the Stella Maris Resort on Long Island, Bahamas. I remember diving caves full of silversides, with cathedral light punching like a laser through the ceiling of the caverns off the Abacos, and high-velocity drift dives at places like Current Cut on Eleuthera and Wax Cay in the Exumas.
I shot supermodels for Victoria’s Secret on a sandbar in the Exumas, and one of my favorite liveaboard adventures ever was with my family on the Aqua Cat, also in the Exumas. I photographed my daughter at 3 years old, snorkeling with a dolphin in the open ocean off Freeport with our friends from the Dolphin Experience. I continue to make memories today, with recent snorkeling amid the resident pod of spotted dolphins off White Sand Ridge ranking among the most memorable encounters of my career.
I have done countless commercial photo assignments with friends Stuart and Michelle Cove off the southwest end of New Providence Island; and I’ll never forget those early years flying to Chub Cay and Andros with Neal Watson, reveling in the rare pleasure of diving with a legend and gaining insight into his personal favorite spots. Diving off Green Turtle Cay with literally dozens of grouper coming to greet local dive expert Brendal Stevens was likewise inspiring.
I remember the team at the Underwater Explorer Society (UNEXSO) calling me to photograph what were their early attempts at establishing a shark encounter off Freeport, and then giving it the name “Shark Junction” in an article. There was an amazing “chumsicle” dive with scores of Caribbean reef sharks off Walker’s Cay, and there were the slick calm days in the summer snorkeling above acres of pristine elkhorn in the Berry Islands. And then there have been the many shipwrecks of the Bahamas, including the Sapona off Bimini, the Willaurie off New Providence, the Comberbach off Long Island, Theo’s Wreck off Freeport, the San Jacinto off Treasure Cay, and the Frascate off San Salvador. The maritime heritage is rich in the Bahamas.
It’s amazing how many captions below my favorite photos include the word “Bahamas.” It’s impossible to dive the Bahamas in a week, or even a lifetime. But I’ll say this: I’ve had fun trying!
© Alert Diver — Q4 Fall 2010