George Town, Exuma, Bahamas N23° 30.926′ W75° 44.829′ Depth 0-4ft.
Look for two dark spots in the water on the north end of Sand Dollar Beach. This is similar to the site off Black Point that is marked with a yellow dinghy mooring ball; but this one is just past the next point of land going south. There are two groups of small coral heads, rocks and gorgonians. It’s an excellent protected site for inexperienced snorkelers and children because it is very shallow and close to the beach.
If you just like to float on the surface, this is the place for you. At low tide you will be scraping your belly if you don’t watch out. Even at high tide you can easily see just about everything from the surface. There is so much to see that it can be overwhelming, so take a minute and try to pick out some of the common inhabitants.
Bushy or tree-like gorgonians are a prominent feature of this site. Gorgonians, which also include the sea fans, are not plants, but coral animals. Some of them may look fuzzy. This is because the polyps are expanded, feeding on plankon with their feathery tentacles. When the polyps are retracted the gorgonians look smooth or bumpy. For more on gorgonians click HERE.
Next look for several species of hard or stony coral. This is the type of coral that reefs are made of, although the corals you see here are characteristically small because of the environment in which they are growing. You will be able to identify Mustard Hill Coral (which looks like someone squirted a pile of mustard on a rock), Finger coral (which looks like stubby fingers), Lobed Star Coral (that grows in separated lumps), and a couple of species of brain coral (which, of course, look like brains).
All around the rocks and interspersed among them is Turtle Grass. Unlike most marine plants, Turtle Grass is not an algae but a flowering vascular plant that grows from seeds or by way of tangled rhizomes under the sand.
It is probably best for you to learn to identify Fire Coral right away so that you can avoid its sting. The sting is not usually dangerous but it can leave a welt. Fire Coral takes many different forms but on these shallow reefs it is usually the branching species that often found often overgrowing dead Gorgonians. Fire Corals can be identified by their orange or tan color with white tips and the smooth texture that does not have individual cups for each polyp.
As you swim around the rocks things will catch your eye.
The shallowness of this site allows you to peer into holes in the rocks without diving down.
Be prepared to find that someone is peering back at you.
For me, the main attraction at Sand Dollar Rocks is the numerous and large Christmas Tree Worms.
All those pretty little flowers you see around are really Feather Duster or Fan Worms.
And if you are lucky you will see one of these before you bump into it.
It is amazing to me how life on the Sand Dollar Rocks stays intact. It is so shallow and subject to sand shifting and abrasion. I was afraid that the recent hurricanes might have spoiled it but—here it is. Still one of the best places I know of to introduce people of all snorkeling experience levels to marine life.