Diving and Snorkeling Dangers in the Seas of the Bahamas

Sharks, predators of the deep, have gained an undeserved reputation. But sharks kill only when hungry. Shark attacks are extremely rare, especially in the Bahamas. They say you have more of a chance of being twice-struck by lightning than of being attacked by a shark.

Moray eels, on the whole, are nocturnal creatures and like to be left alone inside their chosen lair. There are a few that might have become accustomed to humans – and the handouts they have come to expect from them – but those that haven’t can, if disturbed or threatened, give you a very nasty bite. Stay at a respectful distance.

Barracuda are not really dangerous, just scary-looking, especially with their rather frightening and ever-present grin. The sleek, silver tiger of the ocean is a curious creature, however, and will often follow you around, which can be a little unnerving. If you happen to be feeding the local reef fish, which you shouldn’t do, you should always be on the lookout for something bigger. A barracuda after his share of the pie will attack like lightning and, although he’s only after your hand-out, it might be your hand he takes.

Reef fish tend to be curious. They’re not dangerous, but you might find them nipping at your fingers, toes and hair.

Rays, on the whole, are not dangerous. Tread on a stingray buried in the sand, however, and you’re probably in for a trip to the local hospital. The ray’s first reaction is self-preservation, and its natural instinct is to lash out with its murderous tail. Unless threatened or trodden on, however, it’s pretty much harmless and fascinating to watch as it flaps over the sandy bottom. Just be careful where you’re putting your feet.

Scorpionfish lie in wait for the unwary on coral heads or close to the ocean floor. They have a set of thick spines on their backs that can inflict a nasty sting. Keep your hands clear.

The stonefish, often hard to see due to its camouflage, can also give you a nasty sting. Look carefully before you touch anything.

ellyfish, transparent and often difficult to see, are almost all harmless. There are, however, some that are not. It’s best to avoid them all.

Coral is often sharp, and tiny pieces can become dislodged in cuts and abrasions. If this should happen, you’ll be in for a painful couple of days. Fire coral should not be handled at all. Your best bet is not to touch any coral – not only because it can hurt you, but also because it’s a delicate, living organism.

Sea urchins are spiky little black or red balls that lie on the sandy ocean floor or in nooks and crannies among coral heads in the shallow waters of the reef. Step on a sea urchin with bare feet at your peril. The spines are brittle, often barbed, and will give you a very nasty experience. Fortunately, urchins are easily seen and thus easily avoided. Keep a sharp lookout and don’t touch.
b If you do happen to get stung by coral, jellyfish, or an urchin, you can treat the sting first with vinegar. This will neutralize the poison. Then you should get some help from the local drugstore to ease the pain.

Wreck Diving It is said that there are more than 500 shipwrecks in the Bahamas, and it’s probably true. Some of these wrecks, especially those that allow access to their interiors, can be dangerous and even experienced divers should not go into them alone. There are plenty of guides and dive operators who do know their way around. Many wrecks are infested with fire coral. Many more are home to moray eels that are not dangerous if you give them space.

Take reasonable precautions and stay alert. You’ll get into trouble only if you do something you shouldn’t, are neglectful, or fail to take note of expert advice. Never dive alone.

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Getting There:

For visitors arriving by air, the Bahamas are served through Nassau by most US airlines and by international airlines from Canada and Europe, and to a slightly more limited degree through Freeport.

The Out Islands are served mainly by Bahamas Air via connections in Nassau and Freeport.

The Bahamas is also a major destination for the cruise ship industry

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