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Best Coral Reefs for Snorkeling in The Bahamas

Want to add a little underwater adventure to your trip to Nassau Paradise Island? How about snorkeling the beautiful coral reefs of The Bahamas!

Coral reefs are truly magical and exciting to explore. Even though they’ve been around for millions of years, coral reefs still only comprise about 0.1% of the world’s ocean floor—and the reefs we see when snorkeling or diving today have been growing for 5,000 to 10,0000 years. Known as the “Rainforests of the Sea”, coral reefs are home to millions of fish, sea slugs, clams, starfish, sea urchins, and turtles, plus many more varieties of underwater life.

Given the rarity of coral reefs, and since they’re home to approximately 25% of all marine life, The Bahamas has a number of conservation initiatives to help keep coral reefs healthy and alive in our pristine turquoise waters. Some of our leading initiatives include The Bahamas National Trust’s Discovery Club, The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt a Coral Reef Program, and The Blue Project, creating and promoting solutions for a wide range of marine conservation. See all of this firsthand by joining a Blue Adventure tour, both fun and educational, and can be booked through the Blue Adventures Planners at Atlantis, Paradise Island.

One of the best features of snorkeling in Nassau Paradise Island is that we have some of the clearest and most beautiful waters in the world making those tropical fish and stunning reefs easy to see. Let’s take a look at why it’s better to snorkel in The Bahamas!

Snorkeling Nassau Paradise Island

1. Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park
favorite of snorkelers and divers alike, Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park is a 176-square-mile land and sea park, and home to a rare pillar of coral life, limestone reefs and tropical fish. The Park stretches over 22 miles, is located between Compass Cay and Norman’s Cay, and can only be accessed by seaplane or boat. It also includes a variety of blue holes of freshwater springs, caves, drop-offs, and the Thunderball Grotto marine cave where two James Bond movies, Thunderball and Never Say Never Again, were filmed. This reef is a must-see for your snorkeling bucket list! Stuart Cove’s, Nassau’s leading full-service diving provider and attraction for water-based activities, offers day adventures to snorkel at Exumas. Plus, they even have free hotel pick-ups at all Nassau resorts and hotels.

2. Rose Island Reef
Lying just three miles east of Paradise Island is the beautiful Rose Island Reef. Said to be one of the best places to snorkel in the Nassau area, Rose Island Reef is shallower than others, so you can swim over the reef line easily. And since it’s also home to numerous schools of tropical fish and even two shipwrecks—The Mahoney and The Alcora, a 130-foot freighter—Rose Island Reef is a great coral reef for the entire family to explore. Barefoot Sailing Cruises offers day excursions to Rose Island where you can snorkel and play castaway for the day.

Nassau Snorkeling reef locations

3. Gambier Deep Reef
The Gambier Deep Reef is located just northwest of the New Providence Island coast, roughly nine miles from downtown Nassau. This stunning Bahamian reef sinks down to about 80 feet; however, the upper coral formations of the reef and the fish who live there can be found at the surface, which makes it an ideal place for snorkeling.

4. The Andros Barrier Reef
The Andros Barrier Reef is the second largest reef complex in the western North Atlantic. Stretching across 124 miles, it is divided into five major zones, including a shallow lagoon, back reef and inner fore reef. Being one of the most remote reefs in the world, the Andros Barrier Reef is home to over 164 different species of fish and coral, including water sponges and large schools of Red Snappers. Andros slopes down to a vertical cliff that begins at 60 feet and drops off to over 6,000 feet into what is known as “the Tongue of the Ocean”. It is the only place in the world you can see the Nassau Grouper Aggregation. It’s a fantastic place to snorkel if you’re looking for a little wild, wild west in the ocean!

5. Goulding Cay Reef
Goulding Cay is a shallow coral reef located only 30 minutes from downtown Nassau. Recommended by the travel guidebook Frommer’s, this Bahamian coral reef consists mostly of elkhorn coral, and of course, thousands of rainbow-colored tropical fish of different shapes and sizes. And with the shallowness of the reef making it easier to see these wonders of the underwater world without having to go too deep, Goulding Cay is a perfect reef for the entire family to explore together.

Goulding Cay reef Nassau Paradise Island

So, which reef would you like to snorkel first? Or do you have a great snorkeling story you’d like to share? Tell us on Twitter or Facebook! We love hearing from you!

Are you excited to go snorkeling? We hope so! It’s just one of the many exciting things you can do during your great escape to Nassau Paradise Island. Be sure to visit our What To Do page for more vacation ideas in The Bahamas. For those of you who have very young children or would like to have “a water adventure on land”, check out Aquaventure at Atlantis, Paradise Island, and check out this educational and fun Coral Reef activity for kids.

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