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Lost Ocean Hole. The elusive (and thus exclusive) Lost Ocean Hole (east of Nassau, 40–195 feet) is aptly named because it's difficult to find. The rim of the 80-foot opening in 40 feet of water is studded with coral heads and teeming with small fish—grunts, margate, and jacks—as well as larger pompano, amberjack, and sometimes nurse sharks. Divers will find a thermocline at 80 feet, a large cave at 100 feet, and a sand ledge at 185 feet that slopes down to 195 feet.
Rose Island Reefs. The series of shallow reefs along the 14 miles of Rose Island is known as Rose Island Reefs (Nassau, 5–35 feet). The coral is varied, although the reefs are showing the effects of the heavy traffic. Still, plenty of tropical fish live here, and the wreck of the steel-hulled ship Mahoney is just outside the harbor.
Gambier Deep Reef. Off Gambier Village about 15 minutes west of Cable Beach, Gambier Deep Reef goes to a depth of 80 feet.
Sea Gardens. This site is off Love Beach on the northwestern shore beyond Gambier.
Lyford Cay Drop-Off. Lyford Cay Drop-Off (west of Nassau, 40–200-plus feet) is a cliff that plummets from a 40-foot plateau almost straight into the inky blue mile-deep Tongue of the Ocean. The wall has endless varieties of sponges, black coral, and wire coral. Along the wall, grunts, grouper, hogfish, snapper, and rockfish abound. Off the wall are pelagic game fish such as tuna, bonito, wahoo, and kingfish.
All dive shops listed below are Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) facilities. Expect to pay about $65–$99 for a two-tank dive or beginner's course. Shark dives run $100–$125, and certification costs $450 and up.
Bahama Divers Ltd.. The largest and most experienced dive operation in the country offers twice-a-day dive safaris as well as half-day snorkeling trips. PADI certification courses are available for $550 a person, and there's a full line of scuba equipment. Destinations are drop-off sites, wrecks, coral reefs and gardens, and an ocean blue hole. For Paradise Island guests, Bahama Divers has opened a small dive operation (which also carries snorkel equipment for rent) in the Paradise Island Harbour Resort. 242/393–1466, 800/398–3483, or 954/607–7731. www.bahamadivers.com.
Stuart Cove's Dive South Ocean. This shop, on the island's south shore, is considered by aficionados to be the island's leading dive shop. Although they're pros at teaching beginners (scuba instruction and guided snorkel tours are available), experienced thrill-seekers flock to Stuart Cove's for the famous shark dives. Also popular are his Out Island "Wilderness Safaris," and "Wall Flying Adventures," in which you ride an underwater scooter across the ocean wall. Check out the collection of celebrity photos. The shop runs dive trips to the south-shore reefs twice a day, weather permitting. The mini-sub adventure, which requires no experience, is $124; snorkeling expeditions cost $70 for adults and $45 for kids 12 and under. The shark dives are $155 for a three-hour dive. 242/362–4171 or 800/879–9832. www.stuartcove.com.