Is it Safe to Snorkel in the Bahamas?

Snorkeling anywhere there is clear water makes for a fun experience. And the Islands of the Bahamas have the clearest water and best visibility I’ve seen anywhere. However, people often ask me about dangers of scuba and snorkeling, usually focused on drowning or shark attacks. There were two shark attacks in the Exumas a few years ago. However, in both cases, people were feeding the sharks. That is a big no-no.

It is perfectly safe to snorkel everywhere in the Bahamas. The risk of wildlife attacks is less than being struck by lightning at home on your porch. And you can snorkel with a life vest if you aren’t comfortable in the water. The Bahamas Islands are a great place to snorkel for beginners and experienced snorkelers.

We’ve snorkeled and dived in the Bahamas extensively. Our first trip ever was to Freeport in 1988. We’ve snorkeled and dived around Freeport, Nassau, and the Exumas extensively, even with our kids as young as 9 years old. I won’t hesitate to go back.

Snorkeling Safety

Safety is always key when you’re partaking in an activity that takes place underwater. Aside from the potential drownings, a snorkeler can also get lost if you end up exploring an unfamiliar environment that could contain structures such as caves. Leave the marine life alone. Don’t feed fish, don’t antagonize or chase turtles.

Stay aware of all the marine life around you at all times. And if you see a shark, great! You’ve just had an experience most people never get to do. The shark will leave you completely alone. As a matter of fact, it will most likely try to avoid you and swim away. So take in the wonder while you have a chance. Don’t panic, just calmly watch and you’ll be fine.

Using the buddy system is always recommended when snorkeling. Having someone else to explore with you is not only more fun but is also keeps things safer by keeping an eye on each other. Also, stay aware of nearby shorelines or shallow coral reefs. Snorkeling too shallow is dangerous. Washing over rocks can cause injury, and surface currents can be stronger around shores compared to deeper waters.

When shore diving, be sure to pay attention to currents. Heading too far out from shore can also be potentially dangerous if current shifts against your return. The further out you are from the shore, the higher for potential of ocean currents that can sweep you away. Sudden weather changes could leave you stranded. The strongest swimmers out there will even have a hard time with the currents, so don’t stray too far.

I have some tips on dealing with fatigue that you may want to read before heading out for the day.

Equipment info

Rather than repeat what I’ve posted about in other articles on the site, if you need your own equipment before you head to the Bahamas, check out my full-face mask discussion and final recommendations, the 10 best long fins for snorkeling, the fin buyer’s guide and how to properly size a mask with buyer’s guide.

If you choose to buy one of my recommended traditional masks rather than a full-face version, take a quick look at snorkels in my snorkel types explained post with buyer’s guide. First time snorkelers May want to read my introduction to snorkeling info, as well.

Finding the Best Snorkeling Spots in the Bahamas

Although safety is key when going for a snorkel trip in the Bahamas, it does happen to be one of the best locations to do some snorkeling. My certification dives were done on a weeklong live-aboard trip off the coast of Freeport in spring 1988. We made the crossing from Miami overnight, and awoke to the beautiful scenery of the Bahamas. We want you to be able to find the absolute best spots that are out there, so let us tell you about some of the locations to check out when you do head out on your journey:

Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

This could be the best snorkeling spot in the Bahamas, but opinions are subjective and having a few great choices is always best when going into a trip, just in case some adventures don’t end up working out. The Exuma Cays Park is expansive, spanning over 176 square miles. There is so much to explore and enjoy at this location. There’s never a shortage of aquatic life and coral at this spot. Plus, it’s large sea area gives you tons to explore and make a day out of it!

Most of the reefs here are remote and lightly visited, meaning they remain in great condition. The Exumas are reachable by boat from Nassau or by small planes from other islands in the Bahamas as well as Miami. A few of the islands in the Exumas have hotels or resorts. Some have small dwellings for rent if you want a quiet, remote vacation. And the snorkeling is great.

This video sums up exactly why we love the Exumas

Some of the islands in the Exumas chain are known for their swimming pigs or large Iguana populations. These are always popular with the kids. I generally don’t like feeding wildlife, as it makes animals dependent on humans for food. But I did enjoy watching my kids, niece and nephew feeding grapes to Iguanas using a long stick.

We’ve done 3 all day trips from Nassau and had some of our best snorkeling ever. 2 of those trips were this tour from powerboat adventures, for the third we rented a private boat. First timers should take the group tour. It also includes a few snorkeling stops, unlimited snorkeling on a private beach at the end and shark feedings every trip.

My entire family of 10 people absolutely loved it. For those interested in celebs, a then 17 year old Miley Cyrus took the same trip while at Atlantis for a concert. We had a chance to compare notes with her a year after her trip when we donated money to her charity and got a chance to talk to her. Her entire family and crew loved it to. I kept her talking about it for 15 minutes, thoroughly entertaining a few families and their kids. So there’s my celebrity endorsement.

The Andros Barrier Reef

The Andros Barrier Reef is one of the largest reef complexes in the entire world. There is so much to explore and beauty to take in as you venture across a reef that extends over 124 miles. Like Exuma Cays, there is so much area to cover that you can spend all day taking in all the sights and enjoying the experience. The Andros Reef is another favorite for visitors to the Bahamas, so it’s a great choice for getting out there for some snorkeling.

Rose Island Reef

This one is unique because the only way to get to the location is by boat. And another unique aspect of this reef is how shallow it is. You won’t have to venture too deep into the water to behold the sites, and many snorkelers have it at the top of their list. Not just for snorkeling spots in the Caribbean either, a lot of visitors consider this one of the best spots in the world. One of the reasons being that you can explore two notable shipwrecks at the Rose Island Reef! The Mahoney and The Alcora are beneath the surface for you to explore, which gives this spot a unique touch that you’re sure to love.

Goudling Cay Reef

The Goulding Cay Reef is another favorite for tourists because it’s a shallow snorkeling location. So, you can have less to worry about if you decide to take the kids along for the trip. Having a shallow reef such as Goulding Cay gives you an opportunity to easily interact with the marine life abound throughout the location. There are tons of different types of fish and animals, along with beautiful coral for you to explore.

Gambier Deep Reef

The Gambier Deep Reef is another location that you can only arrive at by boat. But that is not necessarily a bad thing if you’re looking for a deeper snorkeling location. The Gambier Reef is a favorite for scuba divers as well, because it reaches deeper into the depths of the water at around 80 feet. It’s also a great snorkeling location because you can still see and enjoy all the sights even when staying near the surface. The water is crystal clear!

Final thoughts

I’ve given you some excellent tips to help keep everyone safe on your next snorkel adventure. Being in the ocean water is always an amazing time, just make sure you have your bases covered and take the proper precautions before heading out. I also wanted to give you some of the best spots to check out when you do take your trip to the Bahamas because it can be difficult to navigate locations if you’re flying blind.

And if you want to take a tour endorsed by AquaSportsPlanet, this author and my family of 10, and Miley Cyrus with her crew and family (unofficially), book Powerboat Adventures all-day trip to the Exumas.

The last thing we want to do is have you end up at an unknown location that doesn’t give you the amazing snorkeling experience the locations above will give you. So, stay safe out there and find some excellent snorkel spots so you can have the time of your life and see some beautiful sights for the first time!


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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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