A unique and exclusive destination
The English colonists that arrived at this latitude named these islands after prince William of Orange-Nassau, successor to the throne of England. This group of about 2000 cays and 700 isles –out of which a little more than 20 are inhabited—was the land of legendary pirates, corsairs and looters for many years, some of them very famous, such as Blackbeard. Currently, it is a destination of choice for the well-informed traveler who seeks exclusivity surrounded by an ample range of activities.
Nowadays, far from such an unruly past and from the din of the great cities, The Bahamas seems peaceful without losing its cosmopolitan touch; a dreamy place in which its most visited isles offer gorgeous beaches with crystalline waters, with white and fine sand, some of them with unique pink sand; kind and warm people; delicious gastronomy and first rate services; luxury hotels, sports and outdoor experiences; thrilling casinos, and exciting night life.
An hour flight time from Miami, USA, to The Bahamas and its capital city, Nassau Paradise Island, has made it the darling destination for those who seek exclusiveness and calmness, in a milieu combining culture, history and entertainment.
Nice weather transforms its islands into a heavenly and unequalled place, where it is possible to enjoy a wide variety of aquatic sports; besides being a paradise for lovers of extreme sports. Having in its waters the third largest coral reef barrier in the world, along with translucent seas, distinguishes it as one of the favorite places for lovers of diving and snorkeling; it is also a rendezvous for thousands of posh yachts, arriving from the various marinas and yacht clubs over this destination, coming from Florida and South America.
In Nassau Paradise Island, for example, one may have close encounters with dolphins in their natural environment by swimming and interacting with them. Another case is the ferry route that goes from Paradise Island to the Blue Lagoon Island, where it is usual to see the familiarity with which dolphins, the same as sea lions, expect the visitors.
However, this destination has also functioned as a shelter for these incredible mammals because, in August 2005, as wake of the hurricane Katrina, the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Mississippi was wrecked leaving 16 dolphins aground and homeless. Once they were rescued and assisted until they healed, they were given new housing when, in the Atlantis Resort, the Dolphin Cay was built. Currently, Dolphin Cay is an avant-garde facility for lodging the bottlenose dolphins, which gives the visitors the chance to interact with the so-called Katrina dolphins.
In Grand Bahama Island, north of Nassau Paradise Island, the kayak tours through the mangroves are usual, the same as bonefishing and jet-skiing rides in open sea; moreover, in Sanctuary Bay one can swim with sharks; Bimini is the place where XVI century explorers stated that the mythical Fountain of Youth lied. In the crystalline waters that lap the Exuma cays soft and white sand shores, visitors may enjoy close encounters with outstanding manta rays and sharks.
Together with its inhabitants’ hospitality, its beaches –classified among the nicest in the world, thanks to its white sand landscapes contrasting with its sea tinted in hues that go from turquoise to indigo—make this place to be an ideal leisure paradise. In addition, its 27° C temperature makes it into the quintessential scenario for sports such as fishing, where the sword, marline, tuna and tarpon fishes are the best trophies; for golfers, it is the Mecca of Golf, owing to the combination of worldwide ranked golf courses and a weather that allows one to play all year round.
The Bahamian accent
Albeit the history of these isles goes way back to tales and stories of pirates and Spanish invaders, many of them true, others full of fantasy; the reality is that in Nassau Paradise Island, life goes by with neither haste nor scare.
It keeps a wonderful mix of cultural influences from England, Spain and West Africa cultures; the latter lingers and remains alive in its population, who still conserves such way of speaking, a blend of Victorian English with African dialects and local jargon, heard everywhere. That is why natters here are simple and informal inasmuch as the life style of the island; so, the true experience in The Bahamas is to enjoy life in a cozy and relaxing ambience. Promenading around Nassau means to reencounter colonial influences, thus adding color and charm to The Bahamas’ way of life. The old fortresses contrast with the Victorian manors and the numerous cathedrals and historic churches.
One example of the roots of this region is present in one word: Junkanoo; cultural expression from The Bahamas that started as a celebration of the temporary freedom received by some slaves; specially, those who were given a 3 free-day pass in order for them to enjoy the Christmas holydays. Traditionally, Junkanoo takes place during the wee hours of St. Stephen’s day (December 26th), and again at New Year’s Day. Nevertheless, nowadays, this celebration is present in the Junkanoo festival: a colorful parade in which the natives of the region join in groups marching and dancing to the traditional drum music, while wearing peculiar disguises. At the end of the festivity, a series of judges give monetary prizes to the ones that had the best music, disguises and general group presentation. The most spectacular parade is Nassau’s, but also the one organized in Grand Bahama, Eleuthera/Harbour Island, Bimini and Abacos islands. Even if for some people, this party reminds them of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and others relate it to the Rio de Janeiro Carnival, this is a Bahamian tradition altogether and it does not exist anywhere else in the world.
The visits on foot around Nassau have the saunter travel back in time, since he sees places such as historic fortresses raised as princely watchtowers over the waters of the Caribbean looking out the city to protect it from schemes coming from the looters of yore; as a sample, the museum dedicated to pirates. The architectural gems along the city are a sheer reminder of the glorious colonial past that the Caribbean region lived as experience.
Part of such past is appreciated in stories like the one of Captain Woodes Rogers, appointed Royal Governor of The Bahamas two times: the first one in 1717 and the second in 1728. Nevertheless, before taking over His Excellency’s position for the first time, Roger had served the English Crown in charge of a commission under a Letter of Marque and Reprisal, what was later known as a “corsair”; under it he was sent into incursions to the Spanish colonies along the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea shorelines, specifically.
Moreover, John Watling’s Distillery where the only rum in The Bahamas is made under traditional English methods is a clear example of the way history and modernity live together. Since 2013, in this distillery, at the historic Buena Vista Estate –dating 1789, a former seat of earlier celebrities such as: Robert Mitchum, Bobby Kennedy, Ed Sullivan and Joan Crawford—, sterling rum is produced under an artisanal process altogether. The Estate was also a scenario of several scenes of a James Bond movie; it keeps memories from the time when rum was traded for slaves; one of those memories being a stone hand-carved by one of the African slaves. In the tasting room, there are military recruitment posters from the First World War.
On the other hand, a spectacular zoo shows that the land fauna and flora of the island could be as colorful and fascinating as its marine life: the Ardastra Gardens & Zoo, where a paramount datum is referred to: during the 1950s, flamingos were about to be extinguished from The Bahamas. Fortunately, the government approved a law to ban the hunting of these magnificent pink birds; and currently, their population is growing, one can ascertain it by seeing flocks of birds of this species fly.
This experience is fulfilled at one of the best and finest beaches of this destination, that is, the Lucaya Beach, perfect to enjoy the sunshine or to plunge in its warm waters. Here, shopping in the Port Lucaya Market is also famous, one can find crafts, terrific rums, and the most prestigious brands, in a duty free zone altogether.
In New Providence Island, Albany is located; a luxury community sited over 240 hectares in front of the sea, where its founders’ collective vision, Joe Lewis and Tavistock Group’s, the same as the golf giants Tiger Woods and Ernie Els’, resulted in the development of a unique blend in its environment, where architecture, sports amenities and service conjugate.
Here, it is possible to enjoy various activities such as golfing and the best of shopping, the same as aquatic sports such as diving, sailing and fishing, among other tourist attractions, all complemented by luxury private villages, short term rental agreements and mooring services for larger length overall yachts in the marina. Additionally, its round-the-clock concierge services make sure a unique experience. Some of its amenities include a championship golf course, a modern marina, family pools; and for grownups, a broad variety of restaurants, spa and gym; aquatic sports and equestrian activities.
Also, the ferry service to other close-by islands allows one to enjoy the casinos, the same as swimming and interacting with dolphins, and yacht cruising around the Caribbean Sea. Moreover, the Island House was designed not just for visitors, but mainly for the local community, as a symbolic extension of its natural environment. The estate has 6 apartments for lease, two restaurants, a coffee shop, a cine-art house, a pool, several squash and padel courts and a Bamford Spa; a space for rendezvous, and a hotel-boutique with 30 rooms, located at scarce minutes away from The Bahamas capital city.
One of the sites to conserve the legacy of The Bahamas is the Graycliff Hotel: it has a whole history back to 1740, year in which Captain John Howard Graysmith, the famous pirate of the Caribbean, a the looter of Spanish boats, got this property; where the first inn of Nassau was founded in 1844. As time passed by, the Graycliff Hotel acquired fame and popularity, attracting the attention of the rich and famous people, personalities such as the European royalty, Winston Churchill, and the Beatles. Albeit in 1972, Enrico Garzaroli, a wine and cigar lover, bought the Graycliff estate transforming it into a bon vivant manor: a luxurious hotel-boutique with 20 rooms and one of the best restaurant in The Bahamas.
Moreover, in the estate there are tobacco plantations that produce its own cigars. Regarding the wine cellar, it has 250 thousand bottles from 15 countries, in 400 different caves, located in the basement of the property; being one of the greatest wine collections in the world. In this collection, one of the oldest bottles in the world is noteworthy, Rüdesheimer Apostelwein 1727, with an estimated value of 200 thousand dollars.
Navigating around the isles
The Bahamas is distinguished as an extremely demanded destination worldwide; that is why it has 3 international airports; flights from almost all the states of the North American Union and, specially, Panama, arrive in them; in addition, most of the isles have local airports, it is possible to arrive at them easily on a private jet; many of them being official entrance airports to The Bahamas. In spite of the ease to arrive by air, it is important to remark the nautical vocation that this region has had ever since the XVI century; thus being usual the arrival of all kinds of vessels of every length overall; and this is why, this destination has numerous well-rigged marinas and nautical clubs. So, those who arrive lured by the desire to navigate around the isles and cays in this Caribbean haven of peace, and have no yacht, catamaran or sailboat of their own, there exist many lease or charter suppliers with or without crewmen included.
Andros is an island to which one may arrive on a chartered flight in 7 or 9 passenger aircraft from the Miami International Airport; after an hour flight one lands on the Lauderdale Executive Airport, located in Andros Town. Once in Andros, a 20 minute trip to the pier where private ferries sail will take one to Kamalame Cay, a 39 hectare private shelter, separated from the Andros Island by a little turquoise sea entryway. This is a hospitality oasis with exuberant vegetation and white sand beaches; where there are quiet cabins surrounded by bougainvillea, peculiar bungalows and Balinese style beach houses. In this place it is common to practice diving, fishing, eco-tourism and sailing.
To speak about the The Cove, Eleuthera, is an obligatory reference, because there are some people who say that it is a tradition; but more than that, it is a resignified legend in style, luxury and distinction; a unique destination, located on the most famous beach in the world owing to its pink sands –the most gorgeous in the Caribbean. Here, Sidney D. Torres IV designed and oversaw the transformation of The Cove into a dazzling island design. Located over 16 hectares of tropical turquoise waters, it has been ranked as the best private island in the world in virtue of its unique style and services; it offers a true Bahamian experience, with all the posh of an unparalleled place. One can arrive from either regional airport in just 20 minutes.
The Exumas form an archipelago of over 360 cays, where the largest of all of them, called Great Exuma, is George Town; with a population colonized in 1783 by British outcast from the US, who named this series of isles in 1793 in honor and for loyalty to George III of England. Lord John Rolle, owner of one of the main settlements at the time in the Exumas, is a great figure in the islands; considered as heritage. At the time of his death, in 1835, he left his foremost lands in Exuma to his slaves, and as an aftermath, a series of cities in Great Exuma have been named in his honor (such as Rollville and Rolletown).
Hidden among the Exumas cays, there are about 280 hectares of tropical beauty, the Islands of Copperfield Bay (Musha Cay), a private haven where distinguished travelers, celebrities and world business leaders are used to taking shelter, detached from the din of cameras and big corporations. A unique place for memorable occasions such as anniversaries, weddings, family reunions, special celebrations or professional awards; its exclusive resort has capacity for only 24 guests at the same time. It has an exclusive airstrip and can be reached by yacht or sailboat, in a 1 hour navigation trip from Georgetown port to Copperfield Bay.
It is pertinent to point out that the Exumas are an ideal place for the practice of sailing, diving over the coral reefs and exploring caverns as the Thunderball Grotto where one of the iconic James Bond movies was filmed, the same as some scenes of The Pirates of the Caribbean.
Fowl Cay, on the other side, is a destination set deep in this chain of isles, desert beaches and sandbars forming the Exumas; an island worth of mention, where the traveller finds all of the classy amenities in a top rated resort in the world. Here one can enjoy a formidable gastronomy; it is a special place, where the meaning of “isolating yourself” gets a real meaning; ever since one’s arrival on board of a yacht from Georgetown, the experience is unique when exploring the chain of peaceful isles that offers the possibility of staying in them for an entire relaxation day.
Albeit The Bahamas features itself as a Sun and beach destination, at nightfall it does not lose its charm: the stars guide one to enjoyable bars and the best night clubs; while for those who love the adrenaline of gambling there are the casinos; there is no doubt that night-times also offer a never-ending offer and activities in lively milieus.
The Atlantis Casino in Paradise Island, keeps the style of the most prestigious world casinos: it has traditional table games, hundreds of slot machines, and international sports betting books.
Bay Street features itself as a nice, very colorful street, with houses characteristic of the colonial era; with two stories and roof gallery; having a very peculiar touch, though, signs fetching in just one line the attention of its visitors: duty free. With markdowns up to 50%, boutiques with articles of clothing from Gucci, Dior, Fendi and Versace; jewelries exhibiting in their store windows pieces of Chopard, Brietling, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin; all these make up an authentic must to open a time slot in one’s itinerary schedule and go shopping; so this city’s main artery routes the saunter through historical buildings up to this renowned commercial district.
In the same manner, among all these reputed firms, pieces and crafts are mixed, and that is the way markets appear, among all the beaches; thus converting this destination into a unique experience; it becomes as thrilling as discovering old pirate treasures. At Straw Market it is usual to see how people test their negotiation skills; this is an outdoor market where the visitor is used to bargaining over the price of souvenirs and artisan presents from over 400 local traders. In Marina Village, another market, one finds renowned designers’ brands in more than 20 stores in front of the sea, in the Atlantis Resort and Marina port.
The fetching and splendid historical views of The Bahamas are present in every one of its islands, the same as its astonishing touristic and hotel complexes; no matter the island chosen to spend leisure time, one is always at a short distance from the center of the city, shops and restaurants.
Seeing how marvelous this destination results, it is enough to remark that even some astronauts have commented upon how impressive it is to stare at the crystal clear blue waters of The Bahamas from the space.
Text: Andrés Torres ± Photo: © Bahamas Ministry Of Tourism © 2015 Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board SAM SALAZAR / SAILING JOURNEY / SARLES / TRAVGLOBE / NANCY RODRIGEZ / LUGGAGE FACTORY / TBR / CLODWAR / XTREMS / TRAVELING MS / KSM / SHANE PINDE / NSK / RASHAD PENN / THE WORLD ROAD PETERPATEMAN/ THE DUCKIN / PARADISSEISLAND / THE BAHAMIAN PHOTOGRAPHER / PAM SALAZAR / VALERIE LECESQUE / ANDREW SEARS / KEN HAYDEN / CAREY SHEFFIELD / ONLY BIMINI / TECNOES / YTIMG / MY BAHAMAS / JULIETA ZARZOZA / EDSA TRAVELT/