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Getting to Andros Island, The Bahamas is very easy!
We may be slightly off the beaten path, but that's a big
part of our appeal. Even though we're not in the center of a big tourist hub (thankfully!) we're really quite accessible.
(more info on getting to Andros)
Snorkeling is one of our favorite activities at Small Hope Bay, whether it's off the boat - on our daily trips to shallow sites on the sensational Andros Barrier Reef, or right off the beach at Small Hope Bay. If you've never snorkeled before, don't worry, we can show you how. If you can float and you like to have fun, you'll love snorkeling.
At Small Hope Bay Lodge, we offer daily boat trips to the reef, visiting different sites each day at depths ranging from 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 metres). For descriptions of some of the fabulous shallow reefs we visit regularly on our snorkeling trips, click here.
We also offer special excursions, like our Snorkel Safari on Fresh Creek and a chance to join divers on the Shark Observation Experience. To learn more about the shark observation experience, click here. Small Hope has all-inclusive snorkel package rates that include a daily snorkel boat trip to the reef. See our rates page for more information.
But you don't have to venture far to discover fabulous snorkeling from shore - in the hiding places around the dock, on the patch reefs off the beach and in the nearby creeks through the mangroves. We provide maps to help you find the best spots. If you're interested in learning more about the underwater environment, there's a reference library in the lodge to help you identify the myriad marine life, virtually in our backyard.
Click here for more information about "Snorkeling From Shore."
Click here for more information from our resident marine biologist, Dr. Tim Turnbull, about The Andros Reef System.
Every morning or afternoon, we take snorkelers on a boat trip to one of the fabulous nearby shallow reefs where you can immerse yourself in the wonders of the underwater world. (Boat trips require a minimum number of snorkelers.) For pricing information on snorkel boat trips to the reef, click here.
If you like snorkeling, try our free Discover Scuba resort course. You'll be surprised how easy it is. And it is a lot of fun! Our expert dive instructors will safely teach you to scuba dive right off our dock - in water you can stand up in. To learn more about our Discover Scuba program, click here.
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned snorkeler, there's plenty of great snorkeling nearby. If you've never snorkeled before, our dive masters can teach you right off the beach at Small Hope Bay. You don't even have to know how to swim. (In fact, it is so easy, you can come out on the boat and learn to snorkel for the first time right on the reef.) All you have to do is float. If you like, you can wear a safety vest for added confidence.
The best time for snorkeling from shore is within two hours before or after high tide. Early morning and late afternoon are also great times, and night time snorkeling is a lot of fun - we'll supply the lights for a small fee. Visit the same places at different times of day and you will notice the changing habits of the marine life.
There are many delightful little snorkeling sites right off the shore at Small Hope Bay. Here are some of our favorites as well as a modest list of the kinds of things you can expect to see.
The dock at Small Hope Bay is a place of marine abundance and a good starting point for exploration. Here, the ruins of a previous dock as well as everything that ever fell into the water since the 1960s, has been claimed as home by an enormous variety of marine life.
Schools of grunts, yellowtail snapper and pilchers can be seen in the area, particularly in early spring. Jackknife and high hats dart out from under pipes and you may also spot octopus, crawfish, conch, barracuda, damsel fish, sand rays and parrot fish. Eagle rays often cruise by and we sometimes see dolphin playing. Look for upside-down jelly fish and boxfish in the summer and crawfish in the winter. Peer inside pipes and among the fallen pilings for spider crabs and red-banded shrimp. Look for scorpion fish, camouflaged on the bottom
Study the sea grass patches at the east and south ends of the dock for nudibranch - tiny sea slugs without a shell. They're about an inch long, of various colors and patterns. You may see pen shells - pink iridescent shells sticking up out of the sand. Head north across the sand patch, and look for cushion sea stars. You can pick them up gently and you will notice they stiffen into a tight outer shell. You may see flounder (peacock or left-eyed) camouflaged, lying flat in the sand.
The dock and its surroundings are also delightful for a night snorkel. Ask the dive master to set you up with an underwater light and set out to watch the nocturnal activities. At night, the sea is transformed - with crawfish on the move, octopus, sleeping parrot fish, snake eels and coral feeding.
If the tide is high and the sea is calm, journey south from the dock across the sand patch. Look into the crevices at the edge along John Rock and the solarium. You may see crawfish as well as curtains of silversides and glassy sweepers. Early morning and late afternoon is a good time to see great southern stingray and eagle ray.
Southeast of the Dock is a buoy marker, which is the site where an old compressor was dumped years ago. We considered removing it, but the sea has turned it into a beautiful piece of architecture, and made it a home for a variety of life, This spot is deeper, (6 to 8 feet/2 to 2.5 metres).
This wonderful snorkeling spot is southeast of the dock, running up the beach in front of the hot tub. While you won't necessarily find the bright colored corals and sponges that you see out on the reef, you will find small shoals and patch areas that have thriving mini habitats for a variety of marine creatures along this wonderful snorkeling area parallel to the beach, heading north towards the Davis Creek.
If you snorkel over a little hole that seems to have a lot of empty shells about, peer inside. Look for octopus, Pencil Urchin, Common Comet Starfish (not so common) and Cushion Sea Stars. But don’t limit yourself to these areas. The whole beach hides many pleasant surprises. The more you explore, the more you’ll see.
Continue heading north from the beach, past the point and the rocks until you come to Davis Creek, a delightful sandy tidal flat that journeys up into the Mangrove. This is a hatchery for baby barracuda, as well as box fish and needle fish, and the young of a hundred other species. Look for seahorses during early Spring. Peer into the roots of the Mangrove to see a unique view of an ecosystem. We call the Mangroves the nursery of the reef, because it's here that a lot of tiny new life begins, finding protection within the roots.
Davis Creek has tidal currents - but it's not that deep and the current isn't too strong for adults. You can get out of the current by moving closer to the shore or you can drift and snorkel with the current, stopping just by digging your fins and hands into the sand. The best time to snorkel is at high tide or just after high tide, when the tidal movement is slack, before the outward flow begins. At low tide, Davis Creek is more of a sandbar. You can also access Davis Creek by snorkeling around the jetty at the end of the North Beach, or by walking to the end of the beach and across the rocks - wear dive booties or foot covering on the rocks.
Goat Cay is the largest island you can see when looking east from the patio. The nearside of the cay has a sand beach and turtle grass patch - a good area to find sea biscuits and sand dollars. The far side of the cay brings you to the shallows of the reef, and it is abundant in coral and sea life. The dive boat can drop you off at Goat Cay on its way to the morning or afternoon dive site. You can also sail or kayak to Goat Cay if you know how. Make sure you bring water, a hat and sunscreen.
This excursion offers a fabulous opportunity to view the inland wilderness of Andros, called by some the largest unexplored tract of land in the western hemisphere. It is a true outback - home to a wealth of bird life, the famed bonefish and mysterious blue holes. This is a chance to see another part of the island's complex ecology. It's an unique and informative outing that the whole family can enjoy.
The boat travels from our dock, along the sheltered lagoon into the mouth of Fresh Creek and part way up this 20-mile waterway. Accessible only by shallow draught boat, Fresh Creek is a pristine tidal river and an important building block of the Andros Barrier Reef. We pass the Fresh Creek Lighthouse and Marina and the Government dock and head west under the Fresh Creek Bridge, entering the shallow water home of the world famous bonefish. You may spot schools of these gray ghosts, as well as needle fish, southern stingrays and eagle rays. The boat cruises past the Monadnock, a sunken New York ferry. The half submerged barge now provides nesting grounds for owls and other bird life above the water, and mangrove snapper below the surface.
We select a perfect spot to anchor for a snorkel. We also keep a lookout for the occasional wild dolphin. If we are lucky enough to see them, they seem happy to see humans and we'll snorkel with them if we have the opportunity.
Small Hope offers this afternoon excursion depending on demand and weather. Cost is $45 for adults, $25 for children under 8 (minimum 8 snorkelers for this excursion). Please mention your desire for this trip to the dive staff once you arrive at Small Hope.
Some things to look for while snorkeling:
|Cushion Sea Star||Spanish Grunt||Sharpnosed puffer|
|Common Comet Star||Bluestriped Grunt||Porcupine Pufferfish|
|Brittlestar||Smallmouth Grunt||Balloon Pufferfish|
|Tiger Grouper||Drums:||Spotted Eagle Ray|
|Nassau grouper||Spotted Drum||Great Southern|
|Red Hind||Highhat||Devil Ray|
|Graysby||Butterfly Fish:||Sand sting ray|
|Jacks:||Four-eye butterfly||Green moray|
|Bar jack||Spotfin Butterfly||Spotted moray|
|Horse-eyed||Blenny and Sweepers:||Purple Mouth Moray|
|Palometa||Redlipped Blenny||Sharptail Eel|
|Snappers:||Glassy Sweepers||Goldspotted Eel|
|Mutton snapper||Boxfish||Slim-bodied fishes:|
|Gray Snapper||Honeycomb Cowfish||Trumpet fish|
|Yellowtail snapper||Scawled Cowfish||Redfin Needlefish|
|Saucereye Porgy||Great Barracuda||Longspined|
|Indigo Hamlet||Yellow goatfish||Caribbean Spiny Lobster|
|Barred Hamlet||Spotted goatfish||Yellowline Arrow Crab|
|Basslets and Seabasses:||Flounder||Blue Crab|
|Fairy Basslet||Peacock||Giant Hermit Crab|
|Blackhead basslet||Eyed||Spotted Scorpionfish|
|Harlequin bass||Flying Gurnard||Caribbean Reef Squid|
|Bandtail SeaRobin||Spotted Scorpionfish||Common Octopus|
You don't have to get wet to learn about the local marine life and ecology. Study the tide pools on the way out to the solarium. Take one of our walks in the bush or around the Mangrove Swash. Where you walk used to be part of the reef, and where you snorkel and dive used to be part of a beach. Andros and the rest of the Bahamas archipelago are built of coral limestone - the abandoned homes of simple sea life, created millennia ago. The local bird life, insect and plant life are part of the same system that creates our underwater life.
Wherever you go, whether it be in the water or on land, move gently and slowly. And take nothing but time. The more you look, the more you see.
We have built a reference library in the lounge--feel free to make use of it to learn more about our ecology. We ask only that you return the books when you are through. And ask questions. We have lots of experts walking around--some of them even have credentials!
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