Swim with Dolphins, Get Tickled by a Stingray
The islands of the Bahamas are surrounded by coral reefs and shallow sandbars that swarm with tropical fish. But bigger things swim there as well, and many are not shy about meeting humans. The promise of a small snack is often enough to entice southern stingrays to come close and brush up against a wader's leg, while sea turtles may approach out of simple curiosity. Even more exciting are the visits paid by the wild dolphins that will join divers and snorkelers for a swim, or sometimes initiate a game of underwater tag. At select sites across the islands, such interactions are all but guaranteed.
- Best for: Solos, couples and families, beach lovers and adventurers
- Best season to visit: Year-round, with some areas exposed to cold fronts in winter months
- Weather: Sub-tropical climate similar to Florida, with warm water temperatures in summer, becoming cooler in winter when cold fronts pass
Animal Interactions in the Bahamas Overview
Stingray encounters typically take place in shallow water over sand bottoms. This allows participants to stand comfortably without having to kick or swim. Turtle and dolphin encounters may take place in shallow depths or in deeper water with participants wearing snorkel or scuba gear while swimming with the animals.
Animal Interactions in the Bahamas Tips
Many marine animals will become accustomed to contact with humans, but they are not tame or trained and should be treated with respect and reserve. Avoid aggressive and harassing behavior, as this often results in the animal moving away. A soft stroke of a passing stingray's wing or a pat of a dolphin’s flank is considered appropriate.
Best Places for Animal Interactions in the Bahamas
After a beach picnic on deserted Manjack Cay, everyone wades in and sticks fishy morsels between toes, then resident stingrays slurp up the treats as their silky-sleek bodies brush and tickle exposed feet. A boat ride from aptly-named Green Turtle Cay puts swimmers in the water with wild sea turtles. On Grand Bahama Island, you can hug a dolphin or don snorkel gear to join the pod on a tour of the reef.
What to Pack for Animal Interactions in the Bahamas
You won't need fins or even reef shoes to enjoy a stingray pedicure, but you should bring or rent snorkel gear and a towel because trips often include additional stops for snorkeling and swimming.
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Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Entry/Exit Requirements: All U.S. Citizens are required to present a valid passport. No visa is required for American citizens. All persons, six years and over leaving the Bahamas, pay a Government Departure Tax of 29.00 which should be included in your international airline ticket taxes.
Vaccinations are not required for entry into the Bahamas. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at Traveler's Health CDC The Bahamas.
Culture and Customs
Though still a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Bahama's English heritage is obvious only in the historic architecture of Nassau, a love for the Queen, and the nation's parliamentary system of government. The cosmopolitan resorts of Paradise Island and Grand Bahama may be more spiritually aligned with Miami or Las Vegas, but move into the Out Islands and you transition to island time, where the phrase “soon come” is the mantra for a relaxed, welcoming way of life. The big event on the calendar is Junkanoo, which is celebrated from December's Boxing Day to New Years Day. Every island stages a celebration, but the big show happens in Nassau when thousands of lavishly costumed revelers march through the streets to the accompaniment of horns, goombay drums and cowbells. Come March, the island sailboats are packed with passengers headed for the National Family Island Regatta in Georgetown. Here, crews from across the archipelago race traditional island sloops by day, then party the night away at Regatta Village Cricket season lasts from March to November, and ongoing commentary of the matches fills the local airwaves.
Celebrated since the 17th century, Junkanoo has grown into a large, organized event with groups that compete for cash prizes for best music, best costume, best dancing, etc. Traditionally held on New Year’s Day, Boxing Day and Independence Day, parades are also held during the annual “Junkanoo Summer Festival” and the “Just Rush” competition. Many hotels also offer Junkanoo shows for their guests throughout the year.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity in the Bahamas is 120 volts/60 cycles, which is the same as the U.S. and all U.S. appliances are compatible. the country code/area code for the Bahamas is 242. The local phone company BTC (Bahamas Telephone Company) should be available on your cell phone, so check with your carrier for costs for calls and data while in the Bahamas on roaming. There are many public hotspots, and you will find most hotels offer WiFi, as well as many bars, restaurants and shops.
Tap water is safe to drink on the main islands of the Bahamas. Bottled water is available for purchase.
Language & Currency
English is the official language, however you may hear locals speaking "Bahamian English" which has a mixture of African influence, island dialect and the Queen's diction. The H is often dropped so thanks sounds like tanks. The local currency is the Bahamian dollar (BSD) but U.S. Dollars are accepted everywhere. The Bahamian and the U.S. dollar are equivalent so as a visitor you don’t need to exchange any money. Credit cards are accepted at most locations on Nassau, Paradise Island and Grand Bahama Island. Cirrus and +PLUS ATMs can be found on Nassau, Paradise Island, Grand Bahama and most of the major Out Islands.
The Bahamas are in the Eastern Time Zone. The Bahamian Islands do observe Daylight Savings Time. They are 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-5 during Eastern Standard Time) and 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time during Daylight Savings Time (-4 Eastern Daylight Time).
Location, Size and Population
The Bahamas are located in the North Atlantic Ocean on the eastern edge of the Caribbean. They are approximately 45 miles Southeast of Florida. The Bahamian Islands are made up of approximately 700 islands and 2,000 cayes of which about only 30 are inhabited. The islands are north of Cuba, northwest of the Turks and Caicos, and Southeast of the Florida Keys. The size of the Bahamas is approximately 5,382 square miles with a coastline of 1,368 square miles. The capital city of the Bahamas is Nassau, located on New Providence and is approximately 80 square miles. The population of the Bahamas is 392,575 (2016).