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The Bahamas encompass more than 700 islands, many of them uninhabited, and span more than 1,000 square miles of ocean. With a maximum elevation of 206 feet, the islands nonetheless vary widely in history, atmosphere, and diving. When Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the hemisphere on either San Salvador or Cat Island (depending on who you talk to), the 500-year residency of the peaceful Lucayan Indians quickly came to an end; since then, the Islands' proximity to Florida has caught the fancy of explorers, settlers, pirates, and traders alike.
In April 2005, the Caribbean Explorer I began offering weekly liveaboard diving excursions from George Town, Bahamas to the big-animal action and pristine walls and reefs of the Southern Bahamas, including (depending on the week and weather) San Salvador, Rum Cay, Conception Island, Cat Island, and Long Island. Scheduling 5 dives daily, including night dives, the vessel will offer five and a half days of diving each week.
Completely renovated in 2003 and carrying 18 passengers and 7 crew, the vessel features 4 upper-deck staterooms, each with queen-size bed and private bathroom and shower. A comfortable seating and entertainment area with VCR/DVD, CD stereo and wet bar is also located on the upper deck, just forward of the lounge-equipped sundeck and barbeque area. The main deck features an indoor dining salon, as well as the expansive dive deck with individual gear bins, multi-level camera table, recharging station, rinse bins, freshwater shower and wide ramp-style stairs to the dive platform itself. Below decks are located 5 double cabins with private sink and vanity and two shared bathrooms and showers. Since the inception in 1995 of Rodale's Scuba Diving's Reader Survey Awards, the Caribbean Explorer I (in her previous base of operations in the Northeast Caribbean) has rated in the top ten liveaboard dive boats worldwide in terms of customer service, and was ranked the best dive operation in the world in 1996. In 2003, Caribbean Explorer I and her sister ship, Australia's Nimrod Explorer, ranked #7 and #4, respectively, in Rodale's readers' ranking of worldwide liveaboards.
Days aboard Caribbean Explorer I generally involve breakfast beginning at 7 am, with a cold breakfast available for late risers, followed by two morning dives, lunch, two afternoon dives, dinner, and a night dive. An island shore excursions on San Salvador can be arranged for those interested.
Great Exuma is a beautiful, untouched Out Island. The tiny capital, George Town, is located next to picturesque Elizabeth Harbour and features many restaurant and bar choices, from French cuisine to local dishes, within walking distance of the dock. The local straw market, where one can view Bahamian women and their traditional straw craftwork, is located just minutes from the dock, as is the "fish fry" where one can sample local cuisine at budget prices. If it is relaxation that one is seeking, this island is well worth staying on for a few days. The beachfront hotels are tranquil and lovely. Nightlife is limited and outside George Town one can find total relaxation.
Photographs courtesy of Explorer Ventures