Bahamian Rhapsody – Bahamas Travel Article

Bahamian rhapsody in blue… is it real? Is it just fantasy?

Bahamanian rhapsody article written by Managing Editor Linda Jackson

Vizualise a tropical paradise… a rhapsody in blue – a Bahamian rhapsody. Dream of the bluest waters, the whitest sands and the clearest waters… imagine the glitz and glamour of the larger islands with their bright lights, exciting nightlife, chic boutiques and sophisticated hotels. And then picture the escapism opportunities of the smaller isles. Sounds good so far, doesn’t it?

Now add some fascinating history and culture, first-rate golf courses, unspoilt nature reserves, and shimmering azure seas offering world class diving, fishing and sailing. Sound even better? Then let me introduce you to some of the beautiful and diverse islands of the Bahamas – just perfect for a romantic honeymoon too.

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It’s usually Nassau or Grand Bahama Island that spring to mind when the Bahamas are brought up in conversation, but did you realise that there are 700 coral islands extending over 500 miles between southwest Florida and northern Hispaniola which make up this tropical archipelago? Only around 30 of these islands are inhabited, although there are more than 1,000 small islands and reefs (called ‘cays’ and pronounced ‘keys’).

Getting to Nassau from the UK is straightforward with daily flights (nine hours) and then onward connections from Nassau to other islands by numerous services. Flights from the USA are nowhere near as tiresome and there is a large choice of flights to the smaller islands from airports in Florida (if you’re flying from Miami or Orlando).

The tropical storm/hurricane season in the Bahamas is between July and November and although there is some rain year-round, the wettest months are from May to October. The summers are a little hotter and more humid. December to May enjoys the most pleasant climate, and the islands benefit from cooling trade winds throughout the year.

The ‘hot’ capital of the Bahamas – Nassau – has glitzy hotels, lavish casinos, swish restaurants, lively bars and charming pink and white colonial-style buildings left over from 300 years of British rule. Nassau is a thriving city and a shopaholic’s dream (head for Bay Street), and is located on the island of New Providence, just 21 miles long by seven miles wide. For a touch of romance in the city, take a tour in a horse-drawn carriage around the narrow streets.

Three miles from the capital is Cable Beach which, because of its impressive beachfront, luxury hotels, casino, restaurants, dynamic nightclubs and busy pubs, is known as the Bahamian Riviera. Then there’s Paradise Island that is actually linked to New Providence Island by bridges. Only two miles long it is renowned for its idyllic white sand beaches, its enormous aquarium and impressive casino – all helping to make Nassau and Paradise Island (jointly) to be considered as the hub of the Bahamas.

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Bahamian Rhapsody

Dance the night away on Grand Bahama Island, the fourth largest and most northerly of the islands (96 by 17 miles). Play golf on one of the championship courses, swim with dolphins, kayak in the mangrove swamps, or ride horses through the forests. Although Grand Bahama has its fair share of shops and large hotels, it also caters for the eco-tourist and ‘soft’ adventurers. There are nature trails to trek, exotic plants and flowers to identify, prehistoric caverns and underwater caves to explore, prime reefs for snorkelling, and crystal-clear waters to dive in.

The Out Islands, considered by locals to be the ‘real’ Bahamas, offer a complete contrast to the big resort islands and provide some wonderful hideaways (great for honeymooners). Just picture the powdery white sands, empty beaches and remote islets, grassy sand dunes, sleepy fishing villages, and picturesque pastel-coloured clapboard houses. There is varied accommodation – elegant hotels, inns, cottages on the main Out Islands (namely Andros, the Abacos, Eleuthera, the Exumas, and Harbour Island) but very limited lodging on the smaller islands such as the Berry Islands, Crooked Island and Long Island.

Having the choice of so many Bahamian islands makes it difficult to decide which one, or ones, will suit your requirements. The Abacos Islands, probably the most developed of the Out Islands, stretch out for 130 miles at the top of the archipelago. The islands are renowned for sailing, deep-sea fishing, and their pretty painted houses (Abaco). There is game fishing and shark diving on Spanish Cay and Walker’s Cay, whereas Great Guana Cay boasts empty beaches, grassy sand dunes, excellent snorkelling opportunities – and no cars and only around 100 inhabitants. A short water taxi ride from Great Abaco to Green Turtle Cay (a two by four-mile island) will take you to the sleepy fishing village of New Plymouth.

Andros, the largest island (104 by 40 miles) has a spectacular barrier reef offering excellent snorkelling and diving – 140 miles of coral plus a sea floor that drops 6,000ft. The island itself, however, has large forested swamps and is purportedly home to a number of mythical creates and pirates’ buried treasure.

Bimini, just a 20-minute flight from Miami, has attracted many fishing fanatics over the years, including Ernest Hemingway and Richard Nixon, and year-round fishing tournaments reel in anglers from miles around to compete for the biggest catch of marlin, swordfish, and giant tuna.

Located 200 miles from Nassau, the Berry Islands consist of around 100 tiny cays and 30 islands, some privately owned and many with the most beautiful pristine beaches. Likewise, the small island of San Salvador, the most easterly of the Out Islands, is dotted with inland lakes and old plantations.

Eleuthera is popular with celebrities and is noted for its soft sand beaches, pretty colonial villages, and small intimate hotels. Secluded coves, a rich wildlife, and charming guesthouses will be found in The Exumas, a necklace of 365 cays. Long Island has two very different coastlines with varied terrain. Lovely Harbour Island, at just three miles by half a mile, is a tiny dream of an island, renowned for its exotic flowers and powdery pink beach. Then there’s charming Staniel Cay, quaint Great Exuma, the luxury private island of Fowl Cay with just six villas – a real hideaway, and intimate Compass Cay with its friendly nurse sharks.

It’s no wonder that Christopher Columbus was mesmerised by the Bahamas when he first discovered them in 1492 – just as many visitors are to this very day. Bahamian rhapsody… yes, it is real, it’s not fantasy – it’s simply fantastic, and very blue!

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