Bimini, The Bahamas
June 6-8, 1997
Dive - Site..................Depth - Time
Located just 45 miles off the coast of Florida, Bimini is the closest of the Bahama islands to the United States. Most tourists bypass it for the better known islands of Nassau and Grand Bahama but it is known to big game fishermen and divers. Once again hooking up with the Lanier Dive Center crew, I hopped a plane and headed for Fort Lauderdale and the start of another dive trip.
Getting there is Half the Fun
While I was flying down, the rest of the group was driving. (I decided to avoid the 12 hour drive from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale). Of course, they couldn't drive all the way to the island and my flight didn't go there either. Instead, getting to Bimini involves a seaplane. We flew over to Bimini using the Pan Am Airbridge (formerly known as Chalks Air Service). One of the highlights of the trip over was a brief stop in Miami, in which we landed in the harbor alongside the large cruise ship docks. I saw several cruise ship passengers waving as we took off again.
Landing in Bimini, we were met by the representative from Keefes Bimini Undersea Adventures . Our group stayed at the Weeches Bimini Dock. The rooms were basic but clean and comfortable. After a brief period to settle in, we made our way to the dock for our first dive.
Diving Over Atlantis
Our first dive was a site called The Kinks. The Kinks were a set of coral outcroppings scattered over a sandy bottom. Visibility was around 80 feet (and stayed consistent the entire weekend). There was a good deal of life on and around the coral heads. Angelfish and squirrelfish were common as were damsels and basslets. I found the obligatory lizard fish. (I seem to come across one of these on every dive). On the way back to the boat we were met by a fairly large remora which seemed intent on attaching itself to someone in the group. After some splashing, it decided to go on its way.
We made one dive at the Kinks then returned there for a night dive. The night dive was excellent. A fairly bright moon combined with the clear water and fairly shallow depths (around 50 feet) to provide excellent visibility, even with lights turned off. We found several lobsters and crabs, including a shovelback crab, and a good number of hogfish. A shark showed up briefly but it immediately left the area as soon as the first dive light was shown on it.
We made several dives the next day. Our first dive was on the Bimini Barge . As our divemaster explained, no one really knows who sank the barge or why. They suspect that it was sunk by someone who had used it to carry building materials and supplies over from Florida. The barge sits very near the edge of the continental shelf where the bottom drops off for thousands of feet. Apparently the previous owner thought it would sink into the abyss.
Instead, it is now home to numerous fish and other sea life. The barge is almost completely overgrown with sponges and soft corals. A few divers ventured inside the barge, chasing out a few barracuda who lived there.
Our second dive of the morning was at Turtle Rocks . The site consist of two very large brain corals with a dense scattering of other coral formations around them. Apparently the two corals look like turtles on the surface at low tide. Fish were everywhere, mostly consisting of angelfish and file fish. We also found a good number of urchins hiding around the coral heads.
Swimming With the Dolphins
Saturday afternoon was to be the dolphin encounter. This was to be snorkel only; apparently the dolphins dislike bubbles. On the way out we were told the etiquette for the encounter. We were asked to not touch or grab the dolphins. The fear is that something on our hands may be harmful to them. We were also told not to feed or chase them. (Yeah, like one of us could catch up to a dolphin.)
We had barely reached the site when several dolphins appeared and started riding the bow wave ahead of the boat. Several more could be seen swimming around us. There is nothing here, just a flat sandy bottom at 30 feet. According to the divemaster, their theory is that the dolphins come to this area in the afternoons to play. The open spaces let them see any danger before it can get to them, so they can relax. And, they apparently think of us as playmates.
We were able to swim with the dolphins for about 45 minutes. We took turns, one group would enter the water for a while, then they would return to the boat while the next set of divers went in. The dolphins kept a slight distance away from people on the surface (for the most part; I saw one woman from the boat who was practically picked up by a pair of them) but if we dove down 10-20 feet then rolled over onto our backs and slowly kicked back up to the surface they would come up to us. Apparently they take this to be some sort of play behivior. I once was swimming with a dolphin only a few feet away when a shadow passed overhead. I ducked as three more dolphins passed only a foot or so over my head.
I would guess that there were about 20 to 30 dolphins around. All that I saw were spotted dolphins, but some people saw a few bottlenose as well. All too soon, it was time for us to return to shore. As we headed back in a few dolphins continued to play in our wake as if they were sorry play time was over.
Sunday was rainy. A few people went diving anyway but I stayed at the hotel (since I was flying out that evening). They reported seeing some lobsters and an octopus. Then, it was a short hop by seaplane back to Fort Lauderdale. I waved goodbye to the others at the airport as they climbed into their van for the long ride back to Atlanta then crossed the terminal to catch my flight back home.
Bimini has become my favorite dive destination. It was very uncrowded (and most of the tourists that were there were deep sea fishing, not diving). The diving was good and the dolphins were a special treat. It is definitely a place I plan to go back to again.
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