Thunderball Grotto – James Bond in the Exuma Cays

Written By: The Planet D

Thunderball Grotto in the Bahamas just may be one of the most exciting snorkelling trips you’ll ever take. The James Bond movie Thunderball was filmed here as well as Never Say Never Again, Splash starring Tom Hanks and Into the Blue with Jessica Alba and Paul Walker.

Thunderball Grotto In The Exuma Cays

Once you visit the Exumas and make your way to Thunderball Grotto, you’ll understand why Hollywood has taken such an interest in this gorgeous location.

snorkelling the bahamas
Dave and Deb in Thunderball Grotto – Thanks Green Global Travel for Taking this photo for us

I don’t think we have ever seen water quite so beautiful as they are in the Bahamas. We never took the Bahamas seriously before our trip to the Exumas. It is a destination that most people that we know, stop off at for a day trip during a Caribbean Cruise.

But as it turns out, The Bahamas are outstanding and the Exumas are undeniably the crown jewel of the island chain. For more James Bond travel, see our visit to the Green Grotto Caves in Jamaica. The setting for Live and Let Die.

You can book a day tour to Thunderball Grotto from Nassau. This highly-rated tour lets you explore Thunderball Grotto, Pig Island, Swim with Sharks, see the indigenous iguana on Guana Cay, and includes flights from Nassau to Staniel Cay, lunch and snacks.

Staniel Cay, Bahamas

james bond thunderball
cast of Thunderball

Our trip took us to a new resort on the block, Embrace Resort on Staniel Cay. The Grand opening is March 2014, but we had a sneak peek thanks to our pal Angie Away. We had the chance to enjoy this quiet cay in the heart of the Exumas where we spent a lot of time in the water.

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The Beautiful Waters of the Bahamas wraps around the Exumas

Johnny Depp, Oprah, and Faith Hill all have islands nearby, and Staniel Cay is just a few minutes by boat to Thunderball Grotto itself. Sean Connery and the gang hung out at the Yacht Club of Staniel Cay during filming and photos can be seen all around the bar. It’s an island we could have easily hung out at ourselves for a few more weeks. But alas, we only had a few days. Read more about the Bahamas at 18 Best Things to Do In The Bahamas

Thunderball Grotto

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Grotto Exterior

Thunderball Grotto doesn’t look like much from the outside. When you first see it you wonder what made the Thunderball producers decide to shoot here way back in the ’60s? Read more: Best Travel movies.

It looks small and unimpressive, but as our guide, Jake started explaining what we were about to do, I realized that this was going to be a very special experience.

Jake is a passionate young guy from the States who planned on sailing through the Caribbean and Central American fresh out of college. He got as far as the Bahamas and loved it so much, he never made it past Staniel Cay.

exuma cays dive shop
Dive Shop

He opened up a dive shop with his dad and eventually bought it outright. Years later, he’s still going strong with his girlfriend and is the Only Dive shop on Staniel Cay. See everything you can do in the Exuma Cays at Things to do in the Exuma Cays – Dream Trip to the Bahamas

While waiting for the tide to go out, Jake explained to us that Thunderball Grotto is like Swiss cheese. It’s a hollow island with a bunch of holes going through it. There are several entrances where people can swim through the holes to get into the cavern inside.

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Diving in the Bahamas

Some of the tunnels are underwater and you have to swim through a short overhang and hold your breath for a few seconds until you come out the other end. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we dutifully followed Jake into the grotto.

A Beautiful Surprise

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underwater aquarium

We weren’t prepared for what we were about to see. As we swam through the dark cave into the unknown, we were treated to a burst of light in a beautiful cavern.

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Light Dancing through the waters of Thunderball Grotto

The giant chamber in the middle of the island was impressive, but when we looked back towards the cave opening, we were treated to sunbeams lighting up hundreds of colourful fish. Everywhere we turned, rays of light danced in the crystal clear waters within the cave. We felt as if we were in our own life size aquarium.

What it’s like to snorkel in Thunderball Grotto

snorkelling the reef of the exumas

Thunderball Grotto isn’t one of those scary, dark caves that a person normally thinks of, this cave has light coming in from every direction. There are holes in the ceiling, holes in the sides and holes below the surface of the water.

swimming into the grotto
Swimming into the grotto

The fish and coral are all lit by the sun for everyone to see. I was expecting to see nothing but dark rock and black water, but like everything in the Bahamas, the water was bright and clear making all the coral and fish easily visible.

I can’t imagine what it was like to film in these caves though. It would make for one difficult film shoot. But it’s a place that feels like it needs to be shown off to the world. We’ve done a lot of snorkelling in our lives, but this was by far the most impressive spot we’ve been to.

Is it Scary to Snorkel Thunderball Grotto

thunderball underwater
narrow swim through of thunderball

Once you are inside the grotto, the tiny holes don’t look near as scary as they are from the outside. There’s something about dipping under the water and not knowing where you will come out that makes people (including me) nervous.

But once you see that it’s just a short dip under the water, leading to a place of beauty it’s not bad at all. Soon everyone is diving under the rocks and through the swim through tunnels. The water is so warm and inviting that we never want to leave.

We are told however, that there are only specific times of the day when people can snorkel and dive in Thunderball Grotto.

At high tide it can be very dangerous for snorkelers as the current can rip you out to sea. Divers can dive at high tide as they’ll be able to swim underwater through all of the openings making for a more exciting experience.

So we swam around exploring the cave a bit before heading out for some more snorkelling time in the open water.

We’ve heard that the Bahamas are a great diving destination and now we believe it. The water is crystal clear, warm and inviting and there is plenty of marine life to enjoy.

Will we go back to the Bahamas?

You betcha!

thunderball grotto bahamas
Thunderball Grotto of the Bahamas

Thanks to Embrace Resort on Staniel Cay for inviting us to enjoy their island and for information on booking your own Bahamas Getaway send Nicky a note at Staniel Cay Vacations

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

40 thoughts on “Thunderball Grotto – James Bond in the Exuma Cays”

  1. I’ve been going to Staniel Cay since the 80’s. Next time you’re at the grotto, try cheese wiz. The fish come out of nowhere and surround you. Incredible

  2. Well that looks pretty cool. I wish I knew about this place when I lived in south florida. Now I am on the other side of the planet. Always been a big sean connery fan, rip. Oh well I can’t really complain too much. The sea here is a five minute walk for me. It’s not as clear or warm as the bahamas but I still enjoy swimming in it several times per week.


  4. So excited to see this on Twitter. I love snorkeling and appreciate you sharing a new possible vacation destination! Great photos!

    • We’re back home in the cold too and feel your pain. We were just saying how we’d love to escape for the winter, but we’ve gone ahead and planned a bunch of cold weather adventures this year. Oh well, Bahamas will have to wait a bit longer. Can’t wait to go back.

  5. The Bahamas, I just want to go once in my life that may be with my partner. I am just geared up again after watching this post and I am going there for sure.

    • I hope you make it there with your partner, It’s wonderful to travel with the one you love. Dave and I certainly loved every minute of it.

  6. Hello All!

    Thank you everyone for your comments! We’re happy to see that you find our humble home to be a good place to visit. Dave & Deb’s pictures probably made that choice very simple! These pictures are gorgeous! We’re thrilled to know that you place our snorkeling spots on the upper end of your list! Surely you’ve snorkeled all over the world in the most literal sense so that is very encouraging. 🙂

    Thank you very much for taking the time to come and see us and we look forward to seeing you again!!


    • Thanks for having us Nikki! We had an amazing time and you definitely introduced us to a different Bahamas than we could ever imagine. We’ll be back for sure. And we can’t wait to see the finished product of your beautiful resort.

  7. Gorgeous photos! I really had no idea Bahamas looked anything like this. Worth a trip to try! I look forward to hearing more about it later.

  8. Oh I have to go here one day in my life. Always looking to tick off 007 locations {it’s good to have a little travel project ;)} and this one looks AMAZING!

  9. Awesome!

    Yeah the holes always look scarier from above than they do from down below once you are in the thick of it. Still heart-racing, though! Awesome shots as always. Great stuff!

  10. The Bahamas have long been on my bucketlist. We were actually supposed to honeymoon there back in 2002, but life had other plans. This looks gorgeous and you’ve just re-ignited the fire to go!

  11. Thunderball was one of my favourite films when it came out – so remember Sean Connery zooming about on that underwater bike thing. Must admit to not enjoying scuba diving but sure many others would love this!

  12. This is amazing. I’m obsessed with snorkeling and am always adding to my list of places to snorkel and now this is on there! Love love the picture of you in the light.

  13. My mom and I treated ourselves to a week in the Bahamas and loved every second of it. This brought back some very happy and relaxing memories 🙂

    • You hit the nail on the head. Relaxing is exactly what we felt the entire time we were there. Love the Bahamas and can’t wait to go back.

  14. BEAUTIFULLLL shots. That’s awesome to be able to free dive and swim from one cave point to another. What housing or camera are you using for the underwater shots?

    • We used a Lumix TS5 waterproof point and shoot camera. We just bought it and love it. It takes great shots and it’s easy to carry.

  15. Looks absolutely amazing! I unfortunately am one of those people who have only ever been to the Bahamas as part of a cruise, but I would love to go back!

    • We’re right there with you. Just a cruise for us too. It’s a pleasant surprise and so close! I don’t know why we didn’t go to really explore it sooner!

    • Thanks! Yes indeed it is a beautiful place. We couldn’t believe how gorgeous it was when we looked back once we entered the cave. It took our breath away.

  16. It looks wonderful down there on Thunderball Grotto! I also want to go there. I’ll add the place on my bucket list of must go places.

    • So glad that you did! I loved that day snorkelling and Staniel Cay is amazing. Who knew that there was such a quiet spot in the Bahamas. I always just thought of Nassau and Grand Bahama.

  17. That is no doubt the most gorgeous snorkeling area could see, I wonder when am I going to see that beauty in person? hopefully soon! Awesome shots by the way. 🙂

    • You are so right. We’ve done a lot of snorkelling and this is up there as one of the tops! I hope you make it soon too. And thank you for the compliment.

  18. LOVE these shots – especially the one with the light shining on you in the grotto. What a great moment in a weekend of fun & relaxing moments! Can’t wait to travel with y’all again =)

    • Thanks Angie, That was cool how the picture turned out eh? Thanks to Bret for that one. We can’t wait to travel with you too!