“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
My parents, cousin Holly, and I just returned from a fabulous week in Small Hope Bay in Andros Island, Bahamas. It was the second visit for both Holly and me, and the first for my parents. It was just as wonderful as I remembered, with fantastic diving, relaxation, weather, and above all, people. This is one of my favorite places to visit, with an incredible atmosphere where everyone truly makes you feel like family. Holly and I had a wonderful time reconnecting with the friends on staff we made on our last visit, and all of us made new friendships with staff and guests alike.
My parents and I arrived on a Friday, and immediately were welcomed with the same reception I had remembered from my first visit. And, despite a hurricane in October, the scenery was just as beautiful as always.
We just missed the humpback whale they’d seen on the dives that morning (so unusual in this area!), but of course, I hoped into the water to dive as soon as possible the next morning. Humpback or not, the diving was just as enjoyable as ever. That afternoon, my parents tested the waters with a discover scuba course around the dock. I decided to join them, and nearly as soon as we submerged in the water, we were welcomed by a curious dolphin who swam around and checked us out during the entire dive.
Holly joined us that evening, and the next day the two of us began our week of diving just as much as we possibly could. And what a week it was. Some highlights were a huge spotted eagle ray, a hawksbill turtle, more fish than you could possibly count, and healthy, beautiful reefs. And as a first for both me and Holly, we dove “over the wall”–a dive that involves descending over a vertical wall to a small “beach” about 180 feet below the surface. While on previous trips, I never would have imagined going below the PADI-recommended 140 feet on a dive, Small Hope has run this dive for many years (since before PADI existed I believe) without incident. I knew Jeff, Fede, and the rest of the team would never allow us to do it if it wasn’t safe, and sure enough, I was able to complete the dive well within my computer’s limits by staying only about 3 minutes at 180 (which is consistent with the Navy’s tables). I definitely enjoyed getting “narced” for the first time, but the experience of floating down into the depths is even better and is something that is unparalleled and unusual. Other highlights of the diving were the Blue Hole, the Marion, Bommies, and Brad’s Mountain, all of which made for great photo ops (along with many others). Overall, the diving was fantastic. Here are a few of my favorite underwater shots (or click here for the full gallery). I don’t have any from the “over the wall” dive as I decided the safest course of action was to dive without the distraction of my camera.
The dive crew was great as ever. As Holly had a good time “slaying Os” with Dennis and Tony and striking a pose with Terran. We had so much fun diving all week with these three, Fede, Brie, Jay, Marco, and Catharina, as well as the guests who were there during our visit. It seemed to be the week of women, with a majority of women making up the dive boat almost every day! A great time was had by all, and along with great diving, there were lots of laughs had–both underwater and on the dive boat.
Another cool thing to see was how much Small Hope’s coral nursery has grown since our last visit. On PVC pipes, Small Hope has hung pieces of Staghorn coral. When Holly and I visited in August, they were only small pieces, but they’ve now grown and will soon be transplanted to the reef as part of Small Hope’s coral conservation efforts. On two of our dives, guests helped clean the coral trees. Sadly I couldn’t manage cleaning while handling my camera, but I did manage to document their efforts! On my next visit I will have to leave the camera behind and help out.
And of course, it wasn’t just the diving that made our trip enjoyable. At a great Bahamian night, Jay and his band rocked the house while another guest known as “margarita John” treated us all to his special concoctions. All week there was fun, dancing, and games, including Bahamian domino lessons. We also took an afternoon off to visit the Androsia batik factory and Fresh Creek.
Overall, this visit to Small Hope (aside from being fun and relaxing) reminded me of why I love the dive community. Wherever I go, I find the most relaxed, laid-back, friendly people on earth. Everyone has a story to tell, whether it be of some faraway place, some hilarious person, or just a fabulous dive. I have found that divers are eager to get to know strangers and make new friends with anyone–whether they be from a similar or very different background than their own. This tends to be true of the best dive destinations–not only the staff but also those who frequently them–whether it be divers, fishermen, nature lovers, or people who just love to be around the sea. At a time when so many people seem to be afraid or skeptical of those who are different, it is refreshing to be among people who will welcome everyone with a smile, a handshake, and even a hug. Nowhere is this more true than Small Hope Bay.
As I watched the final sunset and sunrise of this trip, I knew we’d all be back.
Location: Small Hope Bay, Andros Island, Bahamas
Dates: March 10-20, 2017
Max. Depth: 179 feet
Total Bottom Time: 1,051 minutes
Dive Sites: Fisherman’s Wall, Aquarium, Dana’s Delight, The Plaza, Brad’s Mountain, Cara’s Cavern, Peter’s Mystery Shallows/Klein’s, Blue Hole, Jeff’s Ladder, The Marion, Sea Turtle Ridge, The Barge, Top of the Wall, Helen’s Hideout, Over the Wall, Bommies