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 an incredible diversity of underwater life—millions of fish, sea slugs, clams, starfish, sea urchins, and turtles, plus many more.
Coral reefs are not only home to 25% of all marine life, but they're also vital for land creatures too, protecting coasts and coastal communities from erosion, storms, and flooding. Given the rarity of coral reefs, and how unique they are in their diversity, 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 Nature Conservancy’s Adopt a Coral Reef Program, and The Atlantis 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! Ask about Blue Adventures at any Blue Adventures Center operated by Stuart Cove.
The coral reefs off Nassau Paradise Island are some of the longest on the planet. Not only that, we have some of the clearest and most beautiful waters in the world making those tropical fish and stunning reefs easy to see. No wonder snorkeling in Nassau Paradise Island is such an incredible experience! Let’s take a look five of the best places to snorkel in The Bahamas.
1. Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park
A 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!
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.
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, and the third largest in the world. Stretching across 124 miles, parallel to Andros island, 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. It’s also home to “the Tongue of the Ocean”, a vertical cliff that begins at 65 feet below the surface and drops off into an ocean trench that's over 6,000 feet.
5. Goulding Cay Reef
Goulding Cay is a shallow coral reef located only 30 minutes from downtown Nassau. Named one of the top shallow water snorkeling locations by USA Today, 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.
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. Stuart Cove’s, Nassau’s leading full-service diving provider and attraction for water-based activities, offers a number of snorkeling and underwater adventures. Plus, they even have free hotel pick-ups at all Nassau resorts and hotels. For an inside look at what work goes into conserving, protecting, and restoring the beautiful reefs of The Bahamas, plan a visit to the Education Center at Dolphin Cay at Atlantis, Paradise Island.