The largest island in the Bahamas, Andros actually comprises three contiguous islands. North Andros and Central Andros occupy the largest, northernmost island. Mangrove Cay and South Andros, plus hundreds of other smaller islets, comprise the rest of the island group, which lies southwest of New Providence Island and is some 105 mi/170 km long by 40 mi/65 km wide.
Andros is one of the least populated and most rugged in the Bahamas chain. Only the eastern seaboard is populated, as the interior comprises flooded ironshore (rugged limestone) smothered with scrub, mangrove swamp and lakes.
Originally named la Isla del Espiritu Santo—The Island of the Holy Spirit—Andros has the largest supply of fresh water in the Bahamas.
A diver's dream, Andros boasts a very long barrier reef—120 mi/195 km in length—which draws divers from around the world. It is the second largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. From the reef, the ocean drops off to a depth of more than 6,000 ft/1,830 m.
There are also many blue holes, which were formed when subterranean limestone caverns collapsed to leave large and clear deep-water basins in the shallow flats. They are magnets for all sorts of fish and marine life, as well as divers of every skill level. In one of the blue holes, a Lucayan canoe made more than 500 years ago was found submerged in a cave. Researchers are studying it to learn more about the little-known Lucayans, who died out soon after Columbus arrived.
Of special interest to divers is the old legend that pirate Capt. Henry Morgan's treasure lies buried in one of the underwater caves off Morgan's Bluff at the north end of the island. The legend and several very real shipwrecks provide possibilities for interesting, if not enriching, excursions. Most diving takes place out of Small Hope Bay Lodge near Andros Town. Phone 242-368-2014. Toll-free 800-223-6961. http://www.smallhope.com.
Andros is known as one of the world's finest bonefishing areas. Small Hope Bay Lodge offers bonefishing, but the chief centers are around Cargill Creek, which has several dedicated bonefishing lodges, including the Andros Island Bonefishing Club. Phone 242-368-5167 or 242-368-5200. http://www.androsbonefishing.com.
The forest and the mangrove swamp in the south support many species of native wildlife, including nonvenomous Bahamian boa constrictors (locally called "fowl snakes"), Bahama parrots, herons and large iguanas.
There are three main towns on Andros: Nicholl's Town to the north, Fresh Creek in the center of the island and Kemp's Bay to the south. All three are accessible by boat and by plane from Miami and Nassau. Be sure to visit the Androsia Batik Factory, next to the Lighthouse Club in Fresh Creek, for hand-painted fabrics and clothing. Phone 242-368-2020. http://www.androsia.com.
The inhabitants of Red Bays in North Andros are purported to be descendants of Seminoles and black slaves who escaped to the island. Today, they live much as their ancestors did in the 19th century, in thatch huts and with few amenities. Some weave unusual straw handicrafts brightened with bits of Androsia batik for a living.
Lodging on the island is mostly in simple little guesthouses, but there are also plenty of fishing lodges and a couple of deluxe boutique hotels. Grand all-inclusive resorts are lacking. Divers and anglers will want to stay at least four nights, but non-watersportsmen will be hard-pressed to fill a comparative amount of time.
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