The Bahamas: Bimini Scuba
There is a unique reality to Bimini. Despite being the Bahamian island closest to the United States (it sits just 48 miles due east of Miami), Bimini has managed to keep its soul intact. The island carries a slightly remote, comfortably relaxed and solidly rustic out island feel. It is a place in which quiet moments spent strolling the beach come as easily as rollicking good times and raucous evenings filled with island music.
Bimini sits near the northwest corner of the Great Bahama Bank, with the Bimini chain running south along the bank's edge. What we think of as Bimini is actually two separate islands, North and South Bimini, separated by a shallow, narrow channel. North Bimini, the focus of population and activities, consists of a strip of land 7 miles long and no wider than 700 yards. Transportation to North Bimini is accomplished by seaplane several times daily from Miami. South Bimini, utilized primarily for agricultural purposes, has a small airstrip, one hotel and is very quiet but still offers easy access via water taxi to the main drag of North Bimini.
Alice Town, the "commercial center" of Bimini, consists of a single dusty road, the King's Highway, lined with a few small necessity shops, a half dozen local restaurants and an equal number of funky, down home bars. During fishing tournaments and other high times, the street can get a little bit wild but it's usually just you strolling the road, enjoying the aroma of baking bread and the company of the pooches and pelicans.
Alice Town has several hotels, with accommodations that range from a simple room with a light bulb to read by and a pillow for your head to historic inns to more modern hotels that feature slightly more elaborate but still islandstyle, rooms. Nightlife is usually laid-back, with bar hopping between the Compleat Angler (live music several nights a week) and the End of the World.
As far as Bimini diving goes, look for lots and lots of fish. The reef structures, primarily patch reefs, are not as elaborate as many destinations but are still quite good. The strength of Bimini is the sheer numbers of fish and other types of marine life that are consistently found here. Expect clouds of schooling grunts, chub, snapper and Goatfish. Spotted Eagle Rays are seen daily in groups of a half dozen or more as they feed in the channel between North and South Bimini. To the south, along Victory Reef and Tuna Alley, the reefs exhibit an ancient sloping drop into the depths of the Florida Straits, with prolific live corals, ornate and colorful sponge formations and consistently excellent fish populations.
Top dive sites in the Biminis include shallow, medium depth and deep reefs as well as several fine wrecks. A top draw is the Bimini Barge, an oceangoing barge now sitting on a sandy bottom in 100 feet of water with its uppermost parts near the 65 foot level.
To the south, the Victories and Tuna Alley present miles of sloping drop-offs with swim throughs and caverns in 40 to 90 feet of water, with corals and a generous population of reef creatures and pelagics.
In the Bimini area, the sites take the form of patch reefs. Little Caverns presents scattered popcorn shaped coral heads on a sandy bottom with small tunnels and swim throughs. Sponge formations are very good and schooling Bermuda Chub are common. In shallow depths, it's hard to beat Rainbow Reef. In just 25 to 35 feet of water, divers will find shallow ledges concealing schooling fish, Nurse Sharks, turtles and much more.
SCUBA BIMINI DIVE CENTER
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