Visit Andros Islands, Bahamas
Andros is the largest island mass in the whole of Bahamas - 110 mile long and not wider than 40 miles on its entire stretch of length. It's about 30 miles west of Nassau on Providence Island and separated by the well known 'Tongue of the Ocean' - a trench on Atlantic as deep as nearly 2 miles. The northern tip of Andros is about 138 miles south-east of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The eastern coast of Andros faces the deep blue waters of the Atlantic where the Tongue of the Ocean lies while the west coast looks at the relatively calm Great Bahamas Bank.
Andros is known to be the largest island of Bhamas yet least developed and explored. You can get miles of virgin forestation, wetlands & flats, creeks & channels along with numerous secluded sandy beaches. Andros is actually a cluster of large number of islands, islets and cays. These water channels, flats, large number of underwater caves and nearby large barrier reef makes Andros the most ecologically diversified island in the whole of Bahamas full of wide range of exotic flora & fauna.
The countless cuts and channels passing through it from east to west have actually divided Andros into three major islands - North Andros, South Andros and Mangrove Cay.
Map of Andros
So who are attracted to visit Andros? Actually many ...
Andros should be the first stop for the divers. Only a mile away from the east coast lies the third largest barrier reef in the world ... 'Andros Barrier Reef' which is teeming with marine life. It runs for about 142 miles almost parallel to the east coast. It's a shallow reef with about 10 - 20ft depth but gradually deepens as you go out and then falls to huge depths of about 6,000ft.
Humpback and Pilot whales can be spotted at the deep Tongue off the east coast along with myriad of marine life. The first dive resort in the world was set up in Andros - 'Small Hope Bay Lodge' near Fresh Creek was set up by Dick Birch in 1960, and it is still run by his descendents.
Andros is also well known for another reason... it has world's highest concentration of blue holes. Blue Holes are deep under water caves with an opening on the surface. There are many such caves both in inland water areas as well as the outer ocean.
These underwater caves extend both laterally (to more than a mile) through cave channels and vertically down to few hundred meters showcasing the intricate underwater cavern systems and formations, rare cave fish and other invertebrates that are hardly seen anywhere else.
Snorkelers too find a paradise here exploring the shallow Barrier Reef, the deep tongue, the many channels throughout the island and of course the surface of so many blue holes.
If fishing is what you are looking for, then Andros hardly has any competitor in Bahamas. In fact Andros is also known as the Bonefishing Capital of the world. Take a fishing boat along with a guide, and you will be guided through the maze of cuts & creeks to reach the right shallows that are ideal for bone fishing. There are lodges meant exclusively for those looking out for a bonefishing vacation.
You can often find locals going down to the barrier reefs to make a catch of snappers and groupers. Fishing is a big industry in Andros. However the deep waters of the Tongue away from the barrier reef are ideal for deep sea sport fishing where you get plenty of marlins, tuna, sailfish and jacks.
And if you love to kayak, there are miles of mangrove stretches with shallow calm waters. This is the ideal way for bird watching. Many different species of birds migrate to the Andros. In fact there are some 225 species of birds that can be seen here. The rare & endangered Bahama oriole is unique and Great Lizard Cuckoo can only be seen here at Andros.
However, Andros goes much beyond satisfying only the watersport lovers and adventurers. If you are a nature lover or just want to relax on a secluded unspoiled beach of your choice, enjoy some of the best food of Bahamas, experience the rich mix of culture, Andros can still be a great choice.
There are five national parks in Andros including the 'Blue Hole National Park' and another one that conserves crabs... all these parks are full of rich flora and fauna. There are about 50 species of orchids which can be seen in the swamp and forested lands, many of which are endemic and some native.
Culture of Andros has been a natural mix from West Indies, West Africa and even Seminoles and Black Americans. British Loyalist during and after the American Revolutionary War settled in several parts of Bahamas including Andros along with large number of slaves they brought in. In 1821 after United States took control over Florida, many Black Seminoles and Black Americans from south Florida fled and settled at the western coast of Andros, a settlement now known as Red Bays.
In 1834 after slavery was abolished by the British, many west African slaves were released from passing ships many of who came to Andros and settled. Today the residents comprise of the descendents of all of them and the culture here is a rich harmonious mix of all which are reflected in their daily life. Life here is laid back and easy going, people are friendly and fun loving.
The locals of Red Bays are experts in creating straw bags, baskets and woodcraft. In fact they can make straw baskets that are waterproof. 'Androsia Factory' established by Rosie Birch in 1972 produces such exclusive & colorful handmade batik prints that they are now seen all over Bahamas.
Andros has four airports - one each at San Andros, Andros Town, Mangrove Cay and Congo Town, and there are three main ports of entry. There are regular flights from Nassau (15 minute flight) as well as Fort Lauderdale, Florida (1 hour flight).
Bahamas Ferries (fast ferry) operate between Nassau and Fresh Creek of Andros (takes about 2.5 hours one way), and Mailboat services are available between Nassau to Andros and North Andros (takes about 5 - 7.5 hours one way depending on destination).
Once in Andros, you can get a taxi at all major settlements or hire a car to easily get around.
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