See Coral Reefs in a Mini-Sub
You don’t have to be a scuba diver to experience the thrill of exploring the delicate coral reefs in the Bahamas. Using a bubble-headed mini-sub you can motor quietly among colorful parrotfish, red-and-white zebra striped lionfish, and other marine life swimming around coral reefs 4.5 m (15 ft.) underwater. There is a powerful, magical mystery to the world floating by around you.
The personal SUBs (Scenic Underwater Bubbles) look like a futuristic underwater motor-scooter. (If you’ve ever seen the TV series Sea Quest, the mini-subs are similar to the escape pods used by the crew to abandon the ships in an emergency.) You sit on the compact craft with your head inside a bubble, allowing for a clear view of the underwater world surrounding you. You breathe normally. The air you are breathing in the bubble comes from a SCUBA cylinder that uses a ScubaPro regulator to keep air flowing continually.
The 3-hour mini-sub adventure with Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas starts with a brief orientation about using the SUB, then a short boat ride to one of the coral reefs near Nassau. Once in the water, you put your head in the bubble, slide your body onto the seat, and put your feet on floorboards.
You’re escorted underwater to about a 4.5 m (15-ft.) depth, where you wait for the rest of your group. When the guide gives the go-ahead, simply turn on the SUB and steer it as you would a car. You motor along at a speedy 2 knots per hour among schools of fish and alongside the reef. (Be sure to bring along an underwater camera.) Everyone follows the guide, and there are also professional divers with the group, in case anyone needs assistance. The underwater adventure lasts about 30 minutes. The rest of the time you can swim or snorkel off the boat, or just laze in the sun.
Snorkel Bahamas, another Stuart Cove program, takes guests to three locations. With some fish food to spread around at the first stop on a shallow reef, you’re sure to be surrounded by swarms of fish. At the second stop, you’ll visit a shipwreck, perhaps one of the wrecks used to make the 007 film Never Say Never Again. It’s your choice to get in the water or watch from the boat on the third stop, when a bait box is lowered in the water to attract sharks.
Stuart Cove’s offers a full spectrum of diving experiences, too. The company has a 3-hour Learn to Dive program. Experienced divers can explore many of the reefs surrounding the island, and sign on for night dives. Scuba divers looking for thrills can choose the Shark Adventure, a two-tank dive that includes a “free swim” with Caribbean reef sharks. Take the Wall Flying Adventure and you’ll hop on an underwater scooter to explore some of the walls formed by the 193 km-long (120-mile) Tongue-of-the-Ocean trench.
Stuart Cove’s ( 800/879-9832; www.stuartcove.com).
When to Go: Year-round.
Nassau International Airport.
$$$ British Colonial Hilton, 1 Bay St. ( 800/HILTONS [445-8667] or 242/322-3301; www.hilton.com); $$ Nassau Palm Resort, W. Bay St. ( 242/356-0000; www.nassau-hotels.com).