Destination Primer

AVERAGE WATER TEMP: 76-84°F WHAT TO WEAR: Dive skin or shorty in summer; 3-5 mm fullsuit in winter. AVERAGE VIZ: 80-100 feet WHEN TO GO:

Year-round; September to May is slightly cooler. WHAT TO EXPECT: Calm seas in spring, summer and fall; an underwater movie set or two; reefs of all sorts; and this is the home of reef-shark encounters. LANGUAGE: English, of course. TAXES: 6 percent room tax and 6 percent Promotion Board resort levy; 15 percent restaurant service charge. ELECTRICITY: 120 V, 60 cycle; U.S. appliances work here. TIME ZONE: Eastern Standard Time, Daylight Savings Time observed April-October.

Venture a bit further seaward, and you'll be in the Out Islands of the Bahamas — less-inhabited places that offer miles of empty sand beaches, palm-fringed vistas and friendly locals who have long since adjusted to island time. In places such as Long Island, Andros, or Great Exuma, it is usually possible to do a cavern dive, a wall dive and a reef dive all on the same day.

These are the islands that first welcomed Christopher Columbus to the New World and, in many cases, the "Admiral of the Ocean Seas" would still recognize them. The Bahamas are a trip back to nature — but not a long trip at all for most Americans.

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