Dive Hollywood in The Bahamas you say? That sounds weird, no? Well, over 35 movies have been filmed, at least partly, in the Bahamas. So diving in The Bahamas gives us all the opportunity to dive backstage!
When we say Bahamas , what are the first words that come to your mind? We bet you will say “turquoise and crystal clear waters”, “beautiful beaches” and “tropical”. And you are not wrong! The Bahamas are literally 50 miles east from Florida and just offer a perfect scenery. So it is no wonder that it was always a preferred filming location for Hollywood!
Nobody does it better – 007
Thunderball Grotto, in the Exuma Cays, is a great diving and snorkeling spot. Its name comes from the fact that it was a standout feature in the 1965 James Bond’ movie Thunderball. Specifically, the famous underwater fight scene.
Divers love exploring this underwater cave. Some describe as intimidating at first, but super exciting once you get into it. Interestingly, the grotto featured again in James Bond’s Never Say Never Again in 1983.
In Nassau, you can also find the remains of these two Bond movies. We get the chance to visit, during our itinerary, what are commonly called the ‘James Bond Wrecks’. These sunken vessels are actual props from the two James Bond movies filmed in The Bahamas. We explore “The Tears of Allah” tugboat (‘Never Say Never Again’) and a Vulcan bomber mock-up (‘Thunderball’). They have become a haven for a wonderful array of marine life including colonies of beautiful, but invasive, lionfish and shoals of technicolor reef fish.
The Bahamas and its pirate legacy
Another famous franchise that was filmed in The Bahamas – which makes perfect sense – is the Pirates of the Carribean ( Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest released in 2006 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End released in 2007). The Bahamas were a safe haven for pirates and even saw the first Pirate Republic so POTC could not not film here!
Some scenes of Dead Man’s Chest were filmed on a beach near Little Exuma, on a fictional island called Isla Cruces. The beach was the perfect background for the infamous three-way duel between Norrington, Sparrow, and Turner.
In another chapter, At World’s End, White Cay came into play for a scene. Sandy Cay, its alias, provided the perfect backdrop for a special meeting… where the pirates and the East India company convene for a ‘parlay’.
Johnny Depp fell in love with the collection of islands while on location. He purchased his own private island there shortly after the movie was complete. Sadly there are no underwater props for us divers, but these movies definitely put The Bahamas on the map as a premier filming location.
Sharks? Is there a bigger one?
The Bahamas are considered one of the shark diving capitals of the world. So it’s no surprise that Spielberg used the country as a background for Jaws: The Revenge (1987).
In Nassau, you can still dive the wreck of a Cessna 310 plane used as a prop in the movie. According to legend, the aircraft was purposely crashed into the sea by a stunt pilot. She was then raised and re-sunk in her present location. It is now an easy afternoon dive with plenty of grey reef sharks and marine life.
The first underwater movie
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was released in 1954 and is one of the first movies filmed underwater. The movie is of course retelling of the amazing tale by Jules Verne.
The underwater scenes in this flick were filmed near New Providence Island, near Nassau. Starring Kirk Douglas as Ned Land and James Mason as Captain Nemo, this is a family friendly movie and a classic Disney film. At the time, the movie was one of the most expensive ever made with a budget of around $9 million.
Following the success of the movie, Disney launched an underwater submarine ride at its theme parks in the SU. The attractions closed in 1994 and Disney shipped two of its ‘Nautilus’ submarines to Castaway Cay, their own private island, and sank them. The two submarines were placed in various areas of the snorkeling lagoon and covered with cargo netting to help sea life and microbial corrosion cling to them.
As of 2008, only one of those two Nautilus submarines still exists, but both its wheelhouse and dorsal fin have been destroyed by hurricane weather. Castaway Cay is the private property of Disney and is exclusively reserved for Disney Cruise Line guests (until 2096 anyway). This means that we cannot visit it, but it is still amazing to know that some of the first Hollywood scuba diving scenes were filmed in the Bahamas!
Back when Ron Howard was still better known as Richie Cunningham from The Fonz, he made a little science fiction movie. The movie, about three old-timers rejuvenated by strange pods on the floor of a swimming pool, became a smash. The short version is that the pods were retrieved from Atlantis and contained aliens. All the the underwater scenes of Cocoon were filmed at South Ocean, which is located to the East of Nassau.
Some islands in the Bahamas, like Bimini, have histories tied to the mystical city of Atlantis. The film Cocoon highlights some of these urban legends including the one that the explorer, Ponce de León, was allegedly led to Bimini in the early 1500’s in search of the ‘Fountain of Youth’. The Bahamas have always been a strong contender for the location of the lost city of Atlantis. We even dive on “Mount Olympus Reef” at Tiger Beach.
Supporters of this theory point to the discovery of what look like man-made walls and streets off the coast of Bimini. Scientists, however, have evaluated these structures and conclude them to be natural beach-rock formations. We seldom dive the “Bimini Road” but if you do, think about the myth that these waters may hide.
Into the Blue
Another Hollywood blockbuster filmed mainly in the Bahamas is Into The Blue. The movie was released in 2005 and stars Paul Walker and Jessica Alba. Much of the film was filmed in the sea off Nassau…without the runner sharks they used in Jaws. As Alba recalled: ,”The director (John Stockwell) was pretty adamant there was going to be no digital sharks. Basically any shark in the area came around and they plopped us in the middle. Giant, wild sharks around us all the time throughout the entire movie.”
The film crew was wearing chain mail as protection, while the cast members performed in the water unprotected. The filming was made possible by the development of shark tourism in The Bahamas which we are grateful for. As a funny anecdote, in an early scene, Paul Walker had to grab two fins and a dive mask flung to him by Jessica Alba. During filming, he missed the mask. It was never seen again after hitting the water and it is suggested that it was taken by a shark.
There is often a chance to dive a plane wreck dive during our wrecks, blue holes, and sharks itinerary. You will maybe recognise the large DC3 airplane that they intentionally sank specifically for the film. The crew also used the famous Thunderball grotto for some scenes.
A mermaid’s tale
Right before Cocoon, Ron Howard had his first true Hollywood smash….or splash. Splash (1984), featuring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah, describes the love story of a young man who falls in love with a mysterious woman who is secretly a mermaid. Many scenes are filmed in the Bahamas, including the most famous one.
The beach where Tom Hanks first encounters the nude Daryl Hannah is on the former Gorda Cay in the Bahamas, which now is known as Castaway Cay, the private island of Disney Cruise Line (see above). It is located near Great Abaco Island.
As with seemingly all films made in The Bahamas, they also used the Thunderball grotto for some of their scenes! We doubt you’ll encounter any mermaids, but if you do, we’d be happy to hear about it!