An island paradise blanketed by lush forests of pine, lignum vitae, and mahogany, with natural blue holes nestled deep in the woods — as well as the many plunging azure abysses just off the powder-white shores. A labyrinth of freshwater streams and saltwater mangroves section the hundred-mile-long island into a colorful canvas of nature’s artwork — splashes of greens and browns, natural palettes that contrast beautifully with the sugar-white shoreline bathed by an indigo ocean that’s as transparent as glass.
Nesting sea and shore birds chatter, marine crustaceans scuttle in the mangroves, and kaleidoscopic corals beneath the azure waters boom with busy ocean life, which surrounds the island and its pristine beaches. From afar, the only visible evidence of human interruption is the small fishing settlements peppering the East Coast. This picturesque paradise, seemingly free from the mitts of humankind, is Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas and arguably the most untouched of them all.
Andros Island Stands Apart
Even with all this natural beauty commanding awe and paradisaical recreation, one aspect of Andros stands out — especially for lovers of marine life.
Home to the third-largest barrier reef in the world and an abundance of vibrant tropical fish, healthy coral formations, and a diverse array of marine life (as well as several sunken wrecks), Andros Island (particularly South Andros) is one of the best places in the Caribbean for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Couple these sizable stunning reefs and the colorful critters calling them home with the surreal marine blue holes of South Andros, and Caribbean snorkeling doesn’t get much more magnificent (or unique) than on this breathtaking Bahamian gem that teems with life.
What Is Andros Island Known For?
Mostly undeveloped and thus beautifully untouched, one of the main reasons to visit Andros is its pristine natural beauty and gorgeous beaches.
However, it’s best known among snorkelers and scuba divers, thanks to the presence of the gigantic Andros Barrier Reef and the sea trench of the Tongue of the Ocean — where pristine diving awaits.
Sheltering the island from harsh ocean conditions — located just off the shores of Andros — this mighty barrier reef is a living organism, home to countless exotic marine species, from tiny macro animals and schools of fish to the sea’s bigger boys, like turtles, large rays, and sharks.
This magnificent barrier reef’s dive and snorkel sites also boast tunnels, caves, breathtaking coral gardens, and a handful of explorable shipwrecks.
At the same time, the colossal sea trench, Tongue of the Ocean, contains dramatic underwater topography and thus spectacular plunging wall dives on the other side of the reef, creating a truly unique aquatic environment that incites adventure.
Furthermore, the Andros Barrier Reef’s glistening blue sea also offers some of the clearest waters in the Caribbean — perfect for snorkelers and divers to enjoy wide-open views of the sub-sea scenery with transparent visibility.
The crystal-clear waters and the sheltered sites thus make the island one of the best places to learn to scuba dive, thanks to not only excellent visibility but also calmer currents, thanks to the protection of the expansive barrier reef.
What’s more, Andros is also home to the world’s largest concentration of blue holes. These extraterrestrial geological formations formed over thousands upon thousands of years, resulting in surreal extraterrestrial sites — some of which are filled with fresh or seawater and even can be snorkeled with local guides.
Some of these abyssal holes also lead to complex underwater cave systems, where giant stalactites and stalagmites have been left to take shape over many millennia.
Where Is Andros Island?
The pristine and barely inhabited Andros Island in the Bahamas is a quick two-hour ferry ride from Nassau — the capital of the Bahamas.
Snorkeling On Andros Island
The brilliant blue waters of the Tongue of the Ocean touch Andros’s eastern edge. Only one thing separates this enormous sea trench from the island: the third-largest barrier reef and third-largest living organism in the world — the Andros Barrier Reef.
The Andros Barrier Reef surrounds Andros Island and runs parallel to its east coast.
Spanning 190 miles (305 kilometers) in length, it ranges in depth from 8 feet all the way down to the mighty marine trench, the Tongue of the Ocean, on the other side — descending to 6,600 feet at its deepest points.
An impressive abundance of healthy corals thrive between Andros Island and these profound waters, and, fortunately, most of this technicolor life inhabits the shallows — conveniently close up and in the field of vision of snorkelers and scuba divers.
Additionally, the island’s expansive mangrove wetlands provide a sizable nursery for small fish and invertebrates; as such, Andros’s marine populations are just as large — unbeatable by Caribbean standards, many would argue.
Of course, the top snorkeling sites at Andros Island (and many of its scuba diving spots) are dotted around the Andros Barrier Reef.
Along with the island’s impressive barrier reef with intense reefs full of life, though, the island’s extraordinary marine environments really make its snorkeling and diving scene pop.
These unique environments are the Andros blue holes — and adventurous visitors can explore them.
Explore The Blue Holes Of South Andros Island
Pristine reefs abound in and around Andros snorkeling sites — but the island also offers something incredible (and very near exclusive) for underwater enthusiasts.
Indeed, this unspoiled Caribbean haven boasts the largest concentration of blue holes on the planet (impressively, over 150 of them) — rivaling the likes of other islands’ subaquatic holes, such as Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island — which snorkelers and divers can explore, as well as Belize’s Great Blue Hole (which travelers can also tour).
Filled with fresh or seawater, these naturally formed spectacles of Mother Nature contain openings in the sea floor (or inland, for those on land). Streams of fresh water blow into these openings from the earth twice daily when the tides flow out, creating refreshing underwater rivers that attract various marine animals.
Some of the blue holes of Andros Island can be explored by snorkelers on excursions with local guides. Among South Andros Island’s best blue holes (and popular among divers in particular) are:
- Benjamin’s Blue Hole — a world-famous blue hole with prolific marine life. It’s named after its discoverer, George Benjamin
- El Dorado, Stargate, and Twin Holes — excellent inland blue holes on Andros Island
- Chimney and High Point Cay Blue Holes — accessible ocean blue holes located amid shallow reefs
- Uncle Charlie’s Blue Hole — one of the most famous blue holes in the Caribbean, made even more well-known by iconic underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau
What Can You See When Snorkeling In Andros Island?
Naturally, many of the best places to snorkel on Andros Island are along the ginormous fringing Andros Barrier Reef, which protects the island’s coastline from storms and sustains a large marine habitat for tropical aquatic animals.
The species-rich waters host a wealth of biodiversity; they’re home to over 160 species of fish, including turtles, dolphins, sting rays, lobsters, sea iguanas, parrotfish (whose poop is responsible for many of the world’s white-sand beaches!), grunts, snappers, marlins, tuna, tarpons, fish, myriads of invertebrates, and other marine life.
Many sharks also thrive in the waters of Andros Island; it’s home to at least ten species, making this destination worthy of a place among the world’s best shark diving destinations. In addition, Andros is the only place in the world where more than one Nassau grouper congregation takes place.
Snorkeling is one of the best things to do in the Bahamas, thanks to its clear waters, accessible reefs, and rich marine life bustling below the surface. However, many underwater fanatics venture further through scuba diving instead, which is an even more incredible experience and one of the best ways of exploring the Caribbean’s reefs. Check out this full rundown of each scuba course to learn how dive training and certifications work and how to get scuba certified.
What Are The Best Snorkeling Spots On Andros Island?
Andros Island’s most popular snorkeling spots on the Andros Barrier Reef are only reachable by boat. While there are hundreds of other smaller and lesser-known spots to explore (as well as the blue holes of Andros), the most famous and best snorkeling sites on Andros Island are:
- Liben’s Point — a large snorkeling area with rising elkhorn and star coral formations
- Central Park — In less than 15 feet of water, acres of corals thrive in the shallows, along with three major stands of elkhorn coral
- Red Shoal — a patch reef full of giant elkhorn corals and schooling grunts
- Solarium — a bright area in the shallow flats, where bottom-crawling critters like lobster and stingrays await
- China Point — a beautiful site for fish-watching, including blue tangs, sergeant majors, and triggerfish
- Trumpet Reef — a reef home to lots of small invertebrates, such as spiny urchins and brittle stars
- Goat Cay — an excellent spot with patches of turtle grass perfect for searching for sand dollars, sea biscuits, and, of course, sea turtles
- Davis Creek — an interesting tidal flat that heads into the mangroves and thus overflowing with fascinating creatures
- North Beach — patchy reef areas with small shoals of fish, plenty of lobster, and various reef fish
- The Compressor — an artificial reef formed from an old compressor, now housing a plethora of life
The Andros Beach Club‘s on-site dive center, Andros Diving, offers snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing. According to TripAdvisor, the company is one of the top-rated snorkel and dive operators on the island. Another resort on the island with glowing reviews and a superb snorkel and dive center is Tiamo Resort, which also offers scuba and snorkel excursions.