Snorkeling In The Famous Thunderball Grotto

The Bahamas Short Travel Video

Arriving At Thunderball Grotto

It was our second attempt at entering Thunderball Grotto. It got famous from that James Bond movie, you know, the one that’s literally called Thunderball. We had stopped by earlier, before swimming with the pigs, but the guides had informed us that the current in the Exuma’s was too strong. Now, as we approached the monumental boulder resting in the middle of the Caribbean, I looked up at our guide. His face was saying that I was out of luck. We wouldn’t be able to see the beautiful Thunderball Grotto today.

As the boat neared the giant rock, our guide shouted over the crashing waves, “Okay! The current still isn’t great, but if you want to go in today, I will guide you. So, whoever wants to come, follow me,” he said sternly, heading toward the end of the boat.

I stretched the goggles and snorkel over my head and picked up my flippers, following him to the back of the boat. As I struggled to slip the grippy rubber soles over my wet toes, our guide gave us a quick speech on what to expect.

“Okay, as soon as you jump in, follow me over to the wall, right there,” he explained, pointing to his left, “We’re gonna follow that rock wall in and then once you get in, go to the far right and stay there. If you go to the other side, the current is going to suck you out. Don’t go there. Go to the RIGHT. Okay?”

Snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto

We all nodded, now fearing how serious his tone was for the first time all day. Maybe we really were in danger. Is it worth it to risk your life, if you are promised something spectacular in return? I wasn’t quite sure of that philosophical question, but I decided to trust him. I mean, he was the chaperone on our field trip today. He wouldn’t let us chance it if the tide wasn’t right.

“Leggo!” he shouted, jumping backward into the ripples of turquoise.

Realizing I was first up due to the spot I chose to slip my flippers on, I dove in shortly after, splashing under the waves and bobbing back up. I began to kick my way over to the guide, who was holding onto the outer edge of the rock.

“This way! Yup! Keep coming!” he assured us, motioning toward him and then to the right as if Thunderball Grotto was a parking lot and he was getting his hourly wage.

Resting my hand on the same rock, I began to follow the ridged wall through the small crevice and toward the entrance of the cave. After a few moments, I realized my hand on the wall was useless. The current was truly doing all of the work for me. As I spotted the dome full of fish, I began to feel that the current wasn’t ready to let me go just yet. I was headed straight toward the left corner- the NO-NO Zone. With a small flick of my flippers, I was able to surge to the right and out the way of the strong path.

Thunderball Grotto At First Glance

I looked down under the choppy waves. There must have been thousands of fish circling me, all different colors. The snappers reminded me of my adventures in Fiji, where I went scuba-diving with a swarm of hungry bull sharks. However, this time, there were no sharks and there were no red snappers. There were yellowtail snappers–hundreds of them–but they were no match for the school of sergeant major fish.

See 0:33 seconds in the The Bahamas video above for a visual.

exotic fish swimming in sea water snorkeling thunderball grotto
Photo by Julia Volk on

The yellow striped bodies engulfed me, darting this way and that through the streaks of sun until I no longer felt like I was in The Bahamas. I was in the butterfly garden, back in Australia, watching the Giant Swallowtail Butterflies cruise from this flower to that. It was near impossible to ignore the similarities between these two species. The way they boldly fluttered through their habitats, flashing bright glimpses of honey yellow and midnight black. They were in perfect harmony.

colorful butterfly perched on flowering plant
Photo by Kat Wood on

“This way!” our guide shouted, luring us deeper into the sea caves.

Ouch, What Was That?

I swam behind the other tourists, leaving the streams of sunlight shining through the ceiling and making my way toward the darker portion of Thunderball Grotto. Here, there was only one source of sunlight and it came from the depths. Okay, fine, it’s not that serious. The cave was about five feet or so underwater. However, this cave was our best chance of being able to escape the currents in Thunderball Grotto. This underwater cave was our Exit Sign.

Just then, I felt a sharp pain shoot through my back side, and I pushed myself away from the cave walls. Looking underwater, I didn’t see any creatures ready to take revenge. There were no jelly fish or eels or whatever might come to one’s mind when a mysterious aquatic force electrocutes them. All I knew was, the stinging was not letting up. I hoped it was more of an annoying-mosquito-bite feeling than a life-threatening-symptom, but there was no way to tell for sure until I made it back to the safety of the boat.

Swimming Through The Underwater Cave In The Bahamas

“Ready? Who’s first?!” the guide shouted, motioning to the ocean exit.

See 0:31 seconds in the The Bahamas video above for a visual.

I watched as a brave soul dove under, holding his breath and bobbing up into the sunlight on the other side of the rock wall. He made it look easy, way too easy. Our group formed a line, continuing this quick motion until, finally, there was only one person ahead of me. As she dove under water, I watched the stage fright set in. She began to panic, backing away from the exit sign and bobbing back up next to me. She wasn’t ready. As the guide began to talk her through it, I took my opportunity.

Taking a big breath in, I dove under water and toward the hole in the wall. Grabbing the rock jutting out on the ocean floor as if it was a rock wall from gym class, I squeezed tight, catapulting myself toward the other side. As I broke through the surface, I glanced back at Thunderball Grotto, smiling. Whoever discovered this place must have been the happiest woman in the world.

On To The Next Adventure In The Exumas

Swimming back to the safety of our boat, I now had the issue to take care of. Climbing up the ladder, I tossed my flippers and goggles over to the white cushioned seats. Twisting my body around, I glanced at my back. Well, I definitely wasn’t imagining the pain. My skin had turned the color of a watermelon, with small blotches swelling up here and there.

“Let me see that,” the captain said, taking a look, “Yeahhhh, definitely Fire Coral. Hold on a minute; I’ve got something to help with the pain.”

fire coral snorkeling thunderball grotto
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on

I watched as the captain dug through the drawers beneath his seat, pulling out a bottle of vinegar. Walking back over to me, he unscrewed the lid, saying to the crowd of concerned tourists on our boat, “Lemme just season her up a bit before lunch.”

And that he did. I would be lying if I said the stench of vinegar wasn’t taking over our small boat. Though it wasn’t ideal, it sure beat the latter of having a permanent jelly fish glued to my backside. Besides, he was right, I was totally ready for our lunch at Staniel Cay Yacht Club now.

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