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An Undiscovered Natural Paradise in the Out Islands


Head to Andros for an easy, anything-but-intimidating entry into an underwater eco-playground.

 A haven for eco-tourism, Andros Island is one of the least populated—and also the largest—Bahamian island, spanning 104 miles long by 40 miles wide. Within those boundaries and the surrounding waters, this island outpost offers sweeping diversity, including a shallow protected lagoon, mangrove forests, tidal estuaries, shallows reefs, oceanic blue holes and underwater walls.

 It offers a big menu to divers, but is still largely undiscovered. “It’s an island that not many people have heard about,” says Jesse Leopold, owner of Andros Beach Club and Resort, a secluded eco-resort on four miles of private white-sand beaches.

For new divers, one of the best offerings is the calm, clear water. Plus, there are almost no noticeable ocean currents, making for a first-time experience that’s anything but intimidating. 

“On Andros, we have no problem giving guests swimming-pool-like conditions right from shore,” says Jeffrey Birch, referring to the lagoon-protected areas. Birch is the manager of the family-owned Small Hope Bay Lodge, a PADI 5-Star Dive Resort, and boutique property with 18 beachfront cabanas. Included in every resort stay is a free discover scuba experience, giving guests a taste of underwater Andros.

Those who complete the discover scuba dive, including completing a handful of skills, can swim among Andros’ legendary coral reefs, thick with hawksbill turtles, branching antler corals, purple sea fans, angelfish, trumpetfish and a wealth of colorful reef life. “My father had a philosophy that anyone can dive,” says Birch. His resort makes it a point to be inclusive, giving anyone who has completed their DSD a chance to join certified divers on the daily boat trips to enjoy the second—and shallower—dive of every outing. “We have incredible reefs at just 10 to 15 feet deep,” says Birch.

 It’s the chance to swim face-to-face with so much colour, from the turquoise and yellow queen angelfish to the blue and green bluehead wrasse. Common on the reefs, too, are Nassau grouper, a fish known to hunt with behaviour and intelligence to match a labrador retriever. Big schools of grunts and snappers flow over the coral heads, drawing in bigger fish such as tarpon, barracuda and even the ocean’s top predator.

 The eco-lodge also offers a shark dive that largely doesn’t interfere with nature. A chumsicle, aka a frozen fish popsicle, is lowered at the surface to attract sharks, but no hand feeding occurs. “We ensure that there is no contact,” says Birch. That’s the ethos of Andros: Experience marine life in as natural a setting as possible. Even the island itself has little development, and appears much as it did 62 years ago when Birch’s father arrived on island and created Small Hope Bay Lodge. “How my father found it when there were no roads and no electricity, I don’t know,” says Birch. Flying into Andros is the chance to see so much of what this island is famous for: bands of turquoise and cobalt offshore and shades of mint green in the lagoons and shallows. All of it is in play for divers and snorkellers alike to explore.

For those ready to dive in, the adventure starts the second you touch down and suit up in your gear.

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