DEEP WATER CAY, Bahamas -- Though best known for abundant bonefishing, Deep Water Cay — a small, private island off the east end of Grand Bahama — now is becoming a dive.
The resort, which opened in 1958, recently began offering scuba diving instruction, snorkeling and dive excursions aboard a 33-foot power catamaran and a 22-foot rigid inflatable.
“A lot of marine life, tons of brain corals, lots of friendly fish,” dive instructor Phillip Russell said.
Russell, a native of Grand Key in the Abaco Islands who has been an instructor since 1997, took over the resort’s dive shop this year. He’s currently in the R & D phase — exploring the many coral reefs and blue holes (marine caves) located within a short boat ride of the island in search of the best dive sites. It’s an enjoyable job with an abundance of riches: with the closest dive operation more than 80 miles away in Freeport, the area shows few signs of human visitation.
Among the main draws: Drift Harbor, a narrow channel that runs north-south for about a half-mile between mangrove islands where snorkelers can glide along with the current to see a blue hole up close, along with all sorts of marine life.
“Spotted eagle rays, barracudas, turtles, schools of jacks, snapper, lobster,” Russell said. “It freaked me out. I’ve been diving for years and fell in love with it. You can see just about anything you want to see.”
A popular new dive site is “Big Rock,” located on the south side of Deep Water Cay — named by Russell for a huge stand of mountainous boulder coral that he calls “diving’s version of an oak tree.” Large schools of colorful tropical fish — along with toothy, fierce-looking Cubera snapper and barracuda — circulate around 35-foot-deep coral heads that rise nearly to the surface.
Nearby is 40-foot-deep “Jane’s Reef,” named for an avid 15-year-old scuba diver from Northern Virginia who first helped Russell explore the site. Here, a dense curtain of tiny silver minnows darts and flashes in a sand canyon between coral boulders, chased by black grouper and jacks. On a recent dive, a large hogfish patrolling the perimeter was so unafraid of humans that it swam well within spearing range to check them out. Fortunately for the hog, neither diver carried a speargun; Bahamian law prohibits spearfishing with scuba gear.
For those not scuba-certified, Russell offers the Professional Association of Dive Instructors’ “Discover Scuba” program where novices practice skills in the resort’s infinity pool, then take a shallow plunge to about 20 feet in the ocean with full scuba gear furnished by the shop. Russell also teaches PADI’s full open-water scuba certification course, which takes about a week.
And for guests who want to get out on the water but not under it, there is a full complement of water sports equipment.
“The resort wants to expand. They want to make it a family-oriented getaway,” Russell said. “You can fish, dive, snorkel, kayak, paddleboard and sail.”
For Deep Water Cay lodging, fishing and water sports information, visit www.deepwatercay.com