Marine Life Of The Bahamas
From seagrass meadows and mangrove swamps in the north, pristine coral reefs to the 1,820m deep oceanic trench near Andros and the deep blue waters on the Atlantic side - the waters surrounding the Bahamian islands offer a huge variety of marine habitats. Shark and dolphin encounters are pretty much guaranteed and the shallows are buzzing with reef fish, such as parrotfish, grunts and snappers. If you're lucky, you may spot whales along coast: sperm whales, minke whales, humpbacks, pilot whales are all frequent visitors.
Wild Atlantic spotted dolphins and common bottlenose dolphins frequently join divers off the Bimini coast. The area is a fantastic site to encounter these curious animals in their natural habitat and naturally wins over those attractions luring tourists with captive dolphins.
Although all sea turtle species are endangered and there are currently no nesting grounds in the Bahamas on record, divers are likely to encounter green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles.
BAHAMA SEA STAR
Large colonies of the Bahama sea star (Oreaster Reticulatus), also known as the cushion sea star, embellish vast sandy patches and sea grass mashes in the Bahamas. The mollusc comes in an array of yellow and orange to red and brown shades and measure up to 50cm across.
Like most members of the sea bass family, the Nassau grouper (Epinephelus Striatus) is a predatory fish. Although the grouper can grow up to 1.2m long and weigh 18kg, most individuals are only half the size. During dusk and dawn, the grouper often sits well-camouflaged near crack openings, preying on crustaceans and octopus that leave their shelter. While populations in other areas of the Caribbean are low, stocks in the Bahamas are relatively stable and diver frequently encounter this mostly solitary fish. During the spawning season in late January and early February, the groupers come together in masses of thousands off Andros, Long Island, Cat Cay and in the Berry Islands.
The queen conch (Strombus gigas) is one of the Bahamas' most iconic marine species. The sea snail is a bottom-grazing herbivore, feeding mainly on algae. Watch our for the shiny orange shell when you're diving over seagrass beds. The conch also plays an important part in the local cuisine and the popularity of the meat have caused populations to deplete in a lot of areas of the Caribbean, including the Bahamas.
The spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) inhabits all of the Caribbean Sea and and the tropical and subtropical parts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. They live up to 40 years and fully grown specimen grow up to an impressive 60cm in length. The spiny lobster is nocturnal and like its Australasian and European counterpart lacks the pinching claws. During the day you will find them hiding in crevices and under overhangs, underneath the bottom of a wreck is a good place to look for them as well. Between late October and early November the 'March of the spiny lobster' takes place when, troubled by the seasonal storms, hundreds of these lobsters march across the shallow banks to seek shelter in deeper waters.
A recent REEF survey found that the blue tang (Paracanthurus hepatus) is the most common reef fish of the Bahamas which is not all that surprising. Groups of the 30cm long fish are seen on most dives, creating excellent photo opportunities for your obligatory reef shot.
The reefscapes of the Bahamas is no doubt one of the most impressive in the world. The underwater walls, canyons and pinnacles are overgrown with lush coral of all shapes and sizes from fragile red gorgonians to the solid brownish branched of elkhorn coral and boulder-like brain coral.