The Sapona, launched in 1911, is a ferro-cement vessel known as a Liberty ship. Grounded on the banks behind a reef called Turtle Rocks by a 1926 hurricane, she sits half exposed in only 18 feet of water. During the following years she served as a staging ground for rum smuggling, late night parties and was a target for U.S. bombing and strafing runs. Later hurricanes have taken their toll on the ship but she still stands strong. Underwater, she is encrusted with invertebrate life and is a haven for schools of Grunts, Blackbar Soldierfish and numerous other fish. Check under the hull at the stern for resting Nurse Sharks. It is an ideal site for snorkelers, divers and U/W photographers.
Favorite Dive Sites
The Bimini Barge
The Bimini Barge, one of the premier wreck dives off the island of Bimini, sits upright in less than 100 feet of water on the extreme northwestern edge of the Great Bahama Bank, only a couple of football fields from the edge of the wall and the rush of the Gulf Stream. Due to the mixed environment, expect varying degrees of currents and an unusual mix of both reef fish and swiftly passing pelagic fish as well as local bottom dwellers such as Southern Stingrays and Nurse Sharks. At over 200 feet in length with a relief of about 40 feet at the bow, she is a beauty of a shipwreck, absolutely worth the effort!
The Road to Atlantis, referred to by various names, is an enigma. Is it a remnant of the Lost Continent of Atlantis or is it a geological structure, simply eroded beachrock? The jury is out. In 1936, noted psychic Edgar Cayce predicted the discovery of Atlantis in 1968 off the island of Bimini. That year, 52 years after the prediction, a pilot sighted an unusual formation of two nearly parallel lines formed of large, square blocks looking very much like a manmade seawall or harbor. Whatever may be, this shallow site is a hugely popular diving and snorkeling location. The truth about Atlantis? Take a close look, feel the vibration and make your own decision after your visit.
Tuna Alley, Victory Reef & The Nodules
Tuna Alley, Victory Reef and the Nodules comprise multiple dive sites stretching from Cat Cay south down a series of small cays generically referred to as the Bimini Cays.. This strip of wall stretches well over seven south of Bimini on the western edge of the Great Bahama Bank. Multiple moorings allow a broad variety of both dive profiles and experiences. Tuna Alley was originally named for the annual northerly migration of giant Bluefin Tuna in the spring.
While the underwater terrain varies considerably, it generally begins with a sloping wall slanting from 50 feet to an average of 120 feet, rising up to a second ridge at around 70 feet and descends from there, bouncing down over a series of reef lines and then dropping steeply away into the depths of the Straits of Florida. All ridges are remnants of ancient shorelines, each defining the rise and fall of the sea levels through time. Most dives are done at depths of 60 to 100 feet and feature highly variegated walls with overhangs, caverns and swim-throughs, all featuring lush coral and sponge growth. Keep an eye open to the blue water of the Gulf Stream. This is the land of big thrills; you never know what may flash up out of the deep.
The Strip is a classic Bimini site. A long, thin reef line surrounded by an expanse of sand, it stretches nearly 100 yards. It is barely 5 yards wide rising to a maximum relief of 10 feet and rests in depths of no more than 35 to 40 feet. The compact nature of this isolated reef line concentrates the marine life. It is a beehive of activity. Perfect for either day or night dives, you can expect Reef Octopus, Spotted Moray Eels, large Reef Crabs, Spiny Lobster, an abundance of smaller invertebrates, reef fish and the occasional Nurse Shark, Southern Stingray or Peacock Flounder lazing in the sand off the reef.
Turtle Rocks, a line of tiny rock outcroppings off the western side of Bimini, presents multiple faces – North, Middle and South Turtle Rock. While all are very close in proximity, each rocky islet is distinctly different. Shallower to the north and deeper to the south, depths begin at the surface. While there is much to explore near the surface, the actual reef begins around 10 feet and you will not exceed 30 to 35 feet. No, the tiny islets are not named for resident turtles, though you may see a few occasionally. The name comes the large Brain and Star Corals and their resemblance to the backs of turtles when exposed at low tide. You may expect hordes of grunts, strolling Angelfish and Parrotfish, Filefish and other schooling reef inhabitants along with Spotted Eagle Rays and Nurse Sharks. All three rocky islets are fine sites for both divers and snorkelers alike.
Little Caverns is an expansive reef zone pebbled with popcorn kernel-shaped coral heads, each inviting exploration. The reef is named for the multiple tiny openings in the coral heads. Each and every one is populated by a vast variety of marine inhabitants. Depths range from 50 to 80 feet so bottom time is a bit limited. While they are certainly inviting, don’t be distracted by the large schools of fish, the joy may be found in the smaller inhabitants. Take your time, move slowly and look closely. In this spot, your patience will be rewarded.
Rainbow Reef is aptly named, a kaleidoscopic vision of the underwater world. Shallow and rich, Rainbow Reef is populated with isolated Sergeant Majors protecting their egg clusters, schools of Smallmouth and French Grunts, Nurse Sharks and innumerable reef fish. This is a protected marine sanctuary, thus the abundance of marine life. Depths of 15 to 25 feet and a rich environment make it perfect for both the inexperienced and experienced alike. It has been a long time favorite of pro photographers as it allows for an abundance of willing volunteer marine models and plenty of time to spare.
Appropriately named, Moray Alley has historically had an abundance of Green Morays interacting with divers. Beyond this, there are resident populations of Yellowtail Snapper, Nassau Grouper, Trumpetfish and schooling grunts (both French and Striped) along with schools of Black Durgeon in the mid-water and Blue Tangs swarming the reef. The visiting diver will not be disappointed. Depths range from 50 to 75 feet, moderate and acceptable for nearly any level of diver.
The Continental Shelf drift dive is the signature deep dive off the western side of Bimini and the Great Bahama Bank, a chance to take a peek into the very core of the pulsating heart of the Gulf Stream. Depths begin at 140 feet along the edge of the wall, dropping from there down well past a couple thousand feet into the deep blue. The strong currents sweeping north along the vertical cut of the underwater cliff, the depth and the unpredictable pelagic marine life combine to make it an experience suitable only for the advanced diver. The rewards? They lie in the opportunity to experience the unexpected and the sheer thrill of the ride. What will you see? In this territory, you never know. This is the wild, wild west. You toss the dice and see what comes up. But, be prepared, this is the great unknown.