Andros - Andros is the largest of the Bahamian islands, at least in terms of sheer area, yet is sparsely developed relative to size. About 104 miles long by 40 miles wide, located just 30 miles west of Nassau and 170 miles southeast of Miami, the island is a patchwork of forest serrated by channels and inlets. Vast areas of pine and wetland separate vignettes of civilization, with the principal settlements at Nicholl's Town, Andros Town, Fresh Creek, and Driggs Hill.
Oddly, not a great deal is known about the history of this island prior to its discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The Columbus logs referred to the island as "La Isla del Espiritu Santo" the island of the Holy Spirit. The modern name of the island is likely derived from the British commander, Sir Edmund Andros.
The earliest documented immigrants were a group of Seminole Indians, actually runaway slaves who fled the Florida Everglades in the seventeenth century. They settled at the northern tip of the island in an area named Red Bay and continued to live as a tribal society, essentially hidden from the outside world until perhaps 3 decades ago. While modern civilization has now intruded to an extent, they still embrace a tribal structure and make their primary living by weaving straw goods and fishing.
The western shore of Andros is primarily mangrove and shallow sand flat, but for watersports enthusiasts, the eastern shore is the prime attraction. Both world-class bonefishing and extraordinary dive opportunities are found here, including shallow reef, blue holes, and the dramatic undersea canyon known as the Tongue of the Ocean.
Located just a mile offshore is one of the world's largest coral reef complexes. Depending on which reference you read, the Andros' Barrier Reef justifies bragging rights as follows:
"Offering a variety of sporting activities, Andros has always been top on the list of scuba divers for its 140-mile long Great Barrier Reef. The second longest coral reef in the world (only Australia's Great Barrier Reef is longer) attracts hundreds of visitors throughout the year." Insight Guide's Bahamas
"The Andros Barrier Reef runs for 140 miles. The third-largest reef in the world, with an enchanting variety of marine life, it is within a mile of the shore and easily accessible to divers. Sheltered waters within the reef average 6 to 15 feet, but on the other side of the reef ('over the wall') lies depths of the Tongue of the Ocean, which is used for testing submarines and underwater weapons by the US and British navies, which operate under the acronym of AUTEC (Atlantic Underwater Test and Evaluation Center)." Fodor's The Bahamas
"Along the east coast is the Tongue of the Ocean. The Tongue is over 5,000 feet deep and separates Andros from Nassau. A reef runs almost continuously along the Tongue off Andros. It is not, as some proclaim, a barrier reef. This of course doesn't matter much unless you are planning to do a single 100-mile long dive and will pout if there are any breaks in the reef. The structure off Andros is mainly a fringing reef and there is great diving for much of its length." Underwater Bahamas by Bob Friel
The distinction between barrier reef and fringing reef, or for that matter between second or third largest in the world, is probably irrelevant. What matters is the quality of the Andros dive experience, and the manner in which accommodations and dive services are delivered. To that end, Small Hope Bay has set the standard for the ultimate in Andros dive/lodging
services since 1960.