This article was originally published in SD OCEAN PLANET (Issue 2/2015), by Daniel Norwood.
Generations of people have grown up watching 007’s adventures on the big screen, through seven different actors and a bevy of beautiful Bond girls. In pursuit of his enemies, Bond has travelled to exotic locations around the world, places that arguably bring as much glamour to this stellar franchise as the leading ladies and the secret agent himself. Some of the most popular Bond films have featured ground-breaking and iconic underwater scenes, most of which were filmed in the Bahamas.
I decided to take a Christmas vacation to the Island of New Providence. This island was 007’s base for many of his missions and seemed like the perfect place for a scuba diving James Bond fan to visit. As well as sites to visit on land, here you can even dive on the wrecks and reefs that have featured in the movies we’ve all grown up with.
With great weather, excellent visibility and shallow depths, the ocean surrounding these islands provides the perfect environment for filming. As an underwater photographer, I had always wanted to dive here and follow in the footsteps of my hero. Let’s face it, there’s not a man in the world who doesn’t want to be at least a little bit like the charming special agent from England.
So here, for your eyes only, are some of the classic Bond dives in the Bahamas.
The Tears of Allah
In Never Say Never Again, Sean Connery as Bond dives the wreck of the “Tears of Allah” with beautiful, deadly, Spectre agent, Fatima Blush. Here, an unexpected encounter with a tiger shark while filming was woven seamlessly into the final cut.
This sunken vessel was always involved in drama and intrigue, starting out life as a smuggling boat before being confiscated, and eventually sold to the movie’s producers. The 30-metre wreck is now home to sponges, corals and inhabited by the usual suspects – groupers, lionfish, stingrays in the sand and the occasional turtle.
The Vulcan Bomber
Thunderball features Bond’s real underwater extravaganza. The film had a complex production with nearly a quarter of the entire movie consisting of underwater scenes, including a battle between an army of divers, the like of which had never been seen before.
A short swim from the “Tears of Allah“, and we were on the almost unrecognisable remains of the wreck of the Vulcan bomber from this most “scuba” of Bond movies. All that’s left is its metal framework (now known to some as the “Monkey Bars”), the producers having blown up the set after filming. The frame is encrusted with corals and sponges and haloed by reef fish. As I drifted around this little piece of cinema history, I started to wonder where I might find myself an orange wetsuit and some of those little white shorts… After all, you only live once. Maybe.
No Bond-style adventure would be complete with out a little adrenaline. For an extra hit of adventure, I went in search of some of the Bahamas’ most charismatic residents, species worthy of a diving homage to the rakish secret agent. I wanted to find the fish that used to scare the living daylights out of people.
Close to the wrecks is the shark arena, where the Stuart Cove shark dive lets you get up close and personal with 30 or more Caribbean reef sharks (and the odd grouper trying its luck) as they come in to feed from the chain-mail-clad guides. It is a highly controlled, well managed experience with guests watching from outside a circle in the sand. My frame was filled with these boisterous fish, jostling for their dinner. But this world was not enough – there was another character I needed to find.
It was a goal of mine to shoot the formidable predator that Bond had to hide from in the belly of the “Tears of Allah“. And they are hard to miss at Tiger Beach. Tigers are by far my favourite shark to photograph; they approach calmly and slowly and pose for the camera. I chuckled to myself at the sensational portrayal of these predators in the Bond movie; these days we know that when you spend time underwater with these massive sharks, you will indeed live to dive another day.
But the Bahamian Bond bonanza isn’t limited to the ocean. You can visit the One and Only Ocean Club, featured in Casino Royale, and even rent the villa used in the movie. Or the British Colonial Hilton used in Thunderball and Never Say Never Again, with its 007 suite, and Paradise Island, backdrop for a game of poker and the setting of Thunderball’s underwater battle. Licensed to thrill, topside and underwater, the Bahamas is double-O diving at its best.
Daniel Norwood is a freelance photojournalist from the UK specialising in nature, travel and underwater photography. His passion for photography and diving has seen him travel all over the globe in search of new adventures and magical marine life encounters. His images have seen him score several awards including the prestigious British Society of Underwater Photographers beginner portfolio back in 2009, becoming the first person ever to win using a compact camera system. He is a regular contributor to DivePhotoGuide.com, and has had images published in many international magazines.