The Bermuda Institute for Ocean Science is our headquarters while we visit Bermuda. Lodging and meals are provided, along with lab and boat facilities. We generally arrive at about 1:00,
have an orientation session, have rental scooters delivered, learn how to drive them, and take our first trip, a 1-mile venture to Whalebone Bay, for an introduction to coral reefs and snorkeling.
Whalebone Bay is the closest swimmable reef to BIOS, about a mile to the west. Coral heads and reef fish can be seen after a fairly lengthy swim over shallow turtlegrass beds. We often see very dense schools of herring and silversides on the way out, sometimes being chased by larger fish such as tarpon. We come back here often during the week, and it's a good place for night snorkeling. Photo Gallery
Tobacco Bay is near St. George's, a heavily used tourist beach due to the cruise ships docked in St. George's. It's an easy swim to see lots of organisms, and there are complex, secluded rock formations behind the touristy area that make good project locations. Photo Gallery
Walsingham Pond was once a cave, but the roof fell in leaving a sink hole about 40 feet deep. It is surrounded by mangroves and steep cliffs. Walsingham pond is isolated from the ocean, but its seawater salinity, tidal flux and marine organisms show that there are cracks leading to Castle Harbour. Walsingham features a luxuriant sessile invertebrate and algal community on the rocks and mangrove roots. Sponges, anemones, fan worms and tunicates capitalize on a rich planktonic community, fed by nutrients from mangrove leaves. Shallow bottom areas are covered by Cassiopeia, the upside down jellyfish, which can cause a bit of a rash if snorkelers disturb them.
There is a stranded loggerhead turtle in Walsingham Pond.
The pond is surrounded by a wooded nature reserve, with trails leading to several caves and at least three smaller sinkholes.
Nonsuch Island is a project in habitat restoration.
After 40 years of work, much of it by one person (David Wingate), the native flora is returning, including Bermuda cedar, which was nearly extinct in the 1950s. Small islands around Nonsuch are nesting sites for the nearly extinct cahow, and a return of birds transplanted for fledging was observed on Nonsuch recently. This island is a spectacular place to visit, with a pristine beach, excellent snorkelling, and views of Castle Harbour.
Harrington Sound looks like a large lake, but it is connected to the ocean at a narrow inlet, the Flatts, a saltwater river that reverses its flow twice a day. Harrington Sound has fewer coral and more conchs, urchins, tunicates and sponges than the outer reefs.
Spittal Pond features long, scenic walks along cliffs, marshes, tide pools, and wave-swept rocks. For us, the major attractions are good access to intertidal organisms and a large tide pool populated by thousands of Batillaria snails and hermit crabs.
This is a good place to rest, stretch legs after too long on the scooter, and have lunch under the massive fig trees. There are frequently dog shows on Sunday mornings.
South Shore Beaches
The South Shore beaches are a series of spectacular shoreline parks, and they are a major tourist attraction for the island. The first of these we see as we work our way westward from BIOS is John Smith's bay, which offers easy access to reef habitats, and excellent views of deeper coral heads for those willing to do some swimming. We normally stop at Astwood Park (left), which has a steep climb down to a small cove surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs. Boilers are within easy reach and support many reef fish, both inside and around the edges. Church Bay is our furthest destination on most of our trips, with a wide beach and many boilers to see on a calm day. Calm days are not that common in October on the South Shore, so the surf can be a challenge for snorkling, but the trip out there is always scenic. Photo Gallery
We take a boat to this site, about 14 km north of Whalebone Bay. North Rock is at the northern edge of the Bermuda platform. Currents and clean water promote the most diverse and complex coral communities in Bermuda. Purple fan corals do particularly well in these conditions. Calm wind conditions are crucial for a trip to North Rock, and we don't always make it there. Photo Gallery
Named for a famous arched rock formation that was destroyed in the 2003 hurricane, we frequently visit reefs off this area by boat. This area features highly developed coral reefs dominated
by brain coral. Sometimes we visit the shore of this same area from the Mid Ocean Club beach. Photo Gallery
Cooper's Island and Turtle Bay
Cooper's Island is no longer an island, since the airport and US Naval Base were constructed. Now, it's a habitat restoration project in its early stages, and our groups have helped by weeding and planting endemic trees and recording their positions to help monitor their success. After this, we have been treated to a swim in Turtle Bay, where some of us saw a green turtle in 2008. Photo Gallery