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Island of Natural Wonder

Long Island

Long Island is home to it all, from shallow reefs to the world’s second deepest blue hole. For travelers who prefer nature to nightlife, Long Island delivers. This 80-mile long island in The Bahamas, just a 45-minute flight from Nassau or a 3-hour charter flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is home to the world’s second deepest blue hole—Dean’s Blue Hole—and some of the world’s softest, whitest sand beaches. It’s also where shark diving was started, at the legendary Stella Maris Resort Club.

Here, you’ll find a stretch of ocean with swimming-pool conditions that makes learning to dive easy.

“Of course, I don’t take people to the swimming pool to start diving because there are no fish in the swimming pool,” says Captain Omar Daley, a local dive guide and organiser of eco day trips.

For Discovery Scuba Dives or Open Water Diver certifications, Daley prefers reefs that are reachable by walking in from shore. Sites such as Sea Gardens are no deeper than 20 feet and offer a big taste of the island’s underwater scenery, with schooling yellowtail snapper, schoolmasters and Nassau grouper.

“You get all the bright colours—the yellow, the blues, the pops of pink,” says Daley, referring to the reef fish, including purple and yellow fairy basslets and turquoise and pink parrotfish, that make each dive full of wow moments.

With such a big menu of shallow sites, Long Island helps new divers get confident quickly. Shallow sites, too, allow for more sunlight, which is filtered out in deeper depths. With light-filled reefs, it’s easier to snag underwater videos and photos to share on socials.

Perhaps one of the best ready-for-the-’Gram experiences is a beach day trip that Daley offers. During the pandemic, he started taking local goats and sheep to swim. Now, the site rivals the famous Pig Beach of the Exuma Cays—but with something nobody has seen before.

Another must-see is Dean’s Blue Hole, most famous as a place where free divers train and break depth records. Taxis can take you right to the bit of beach that partially encircles the natural wonder, which drops to 663 feet. Snap some photos, or pop in and snorkel.

To explore beyond the shore, Daley and a handful of other boating captains, including Delbert Smith, offer a variety of day trips, including bonefishing, beach picnics and games, kayaking and more.

In between adventures, travelers have their choice of resorts to call home. Cape Santa Maria Resort and Villas offers beachfront one- and two-bedroom bungalows. There’s Stella Maris Resort Club, Gems at Paradise Beach Hotel and many villas and privately-owned homes for rent. Most are located right on the beach, making for easy-access relaxation.

Many visitors, however, find that if they’ve just tried scuba for the first time, that they want more.

Once they have 10 or so dives under their weight belt, Smith takes them to the site, Barracuda Head.

“It has everything people look for,” he says.

This reef has tunnels and openings between coral heads that divers can swim through while exploring. Big schools of Bermuda jack, horse-eye jacks and tiger grouper gather there as well.

“About 80 percent of the time, we see at least two or three reef sharks,” says Smith of the encounters that dial up the adrenaline.

Split Coral Heads and Angelfish Reef are two more standout shallow dives that receive high accolades.

“They’re perfect for beginner divers,” says Daley.

And he would know. He grew up on Long Island, spending a lot of time in the water.

Says Daley, “When you’re a kid, you spend a lot of time trying to entertain yourself, and the ocean always did it for me—still does.”

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