Snorkeling in the Abacos
The Abacos carry an unusual air, one that borrows heavily from the yachting atmosphere of New England and blending expertly with the Caribbean tropicality of The Bahamas. Look over the ocean and enjoy the vista of dozens of billowing sails doting the blue horizon. The result is a decidedly unique environment. From "busy" Marsh Harbour to elegant Green Turtle Cay to the exclusive private island of Walker's Cay, this chain of islands offers rich, shallow reefs, encounters with friendly fish and a fascinating yet relaxed attitude.
Defining the eastern and northern edge of the Little Bahama Bank, the Abacos begin at Great Abaco on the southern edge, hip-hopping up to tiny Walker's Cay, the northernmost island of The Bahamas.
Marsh Harbour, on the island of Great Abaco, is the largest settlement in the chain (the town even has a single stoplight!). This is the bustling population center, but remember this, in The Bahamas, busy takes on an entirely different meaning! Nearby, easily visited cays invite exploration. Photograph the candy-striped lighthouse of Hope Town on Elbow Cay. Visit with the historic shipbuilders of Man O'War Cay. Enjoy the excellent deep-sea fishing in the rich waters of the Atlantic. Look for wonderful beaches, old wrecks and beautiful stands of shallow elkhorn corals encircled by fish. At Pelican Cays National Park, small islets combine their resources with surrounding bands of lush, shallow coral gardens. The over-friendly grouper are a constant feature around these parts.
Head to Green Turtle Cay for a yachting atmosphere blended with tropical pleasures. Enjoy a stroll through the pastel-shaded, clap board and gingerbread houses of picturesque New Plymouth after an afternoon of coral exploration. The reefs are convenient, dramatically angular and chock full of fish. Water taxi's offer a convenient and romantic form of local travel.
Walker's Cay, long considered a hideaway for the rich and the famous, is a truly isolated getaway. Less than one mile in length, the day's activities are dedicated to fishing, snorkeling and relaxing.
On Guana Cay, aficionados of perfect beaches will find the sparsely inhabited island with one resort and a tiny village the perfect haven. Just 50 feet from shore a sprawling reef of coral heads, purple sea fans and soft, fuzzy sea whips can be seen. Occasionally wild dolphins come here to frolic. And at Spanish Cay, a marvelous development provides snorkeling adventures on virgin reefs just a stone's throw away.
Abaco Snorkeling Sites Sandy Cay Reef- Watch for spotted eagle rays and huge southern stingrays in the sandy patches.
Hope Town Reef- Elkhorn and brain coral with plenty of schooling fish to keep you entertained.
Fowl Cay Reef - The most famous resident of the reef is "Gillie" the friendly grouper.
Mermaid Reef - Schools of snapper and big green moray eels.
The Pillars - Huge Pillars of corals. Look for the fairy basslets darting over the reef.
Angelfish Reef - Angelfish swarm around the reef in less than 20 feet of water.
Elkhorn Park - Huge acres of elkhorn coral rise towards the surface, many octopus here.
Pelican Park - Often sea turtles will come here to rest and eagle rays patrol the area.
Blue Strip Reef - Fish spawning area with lots of tropical fish and schools of blue striped grunts.
Sanka Shoal - Lots of puffer fish that blow up like spiked basketballs.
Meghan's Mesa - A plethora of corals of every type. Look for the small plume worms.
Smugglers Rest - Plane wreck sits upright and porcupine fish have taken the controls.
Hobias Head - Watch for long spined sea urchins and sea stars.
Crawfish Shallows - The best place to find lobster. Watch for occasional sleeping nurse sharks.
Wreckers Reef - Where pirates once plundered unsuspecting ships. Watch for sea turtles.
Jeanette's Reef - Look for barracudas and garden eels. Also lots of small invertebrate critters roam the reef.
Spanish Cannon - Spanish galleon sunk on the reef. Look for the scattered cannons that lie among the ballast stones.
Pirate's Cathedral - A labyrinth of arches and caverns with safe swim through openings.
White Hole - Numerous grottos and caverns surround a well-protected coral basin.
Spiral Cavern - Large numbers of groupers congregate here.