On July 10, 1973 The Bahamas officially became a sovereign nation, independent of Great Britain. In July 2013 Bahamians will celebrate this 40th birthday, but savvy travelers who know their way around the islands, know that independence is celebrated everyday throughout the archipelago with the hundreds of local personalities and independent resorts that drive their tourism economy.
Explore beyond the capital
Nassau on New Providence, also known as Nassau and Paradise Island, is the capital of the country, home to much of the nation’s population of over 350,000 and destination most frequented by tourists. It has everything you need for a satisfying getaway – easy air access from major gateways like New York City and Miami, resorts, spas, shopping and nightlife, along with some of the world’s best fishing, diving and beaches. You can easily jump from Nassau to another island via Bahamasair or another scheduled inter-island service. Your reward for this little step beyond Nassau will be the sense that you are much farther from your home base – you may feel you’ve landed on the other side of the world even if you have only a weekend to spare.
The remaining 105,000 Bahamian citizens are scattered across 15 other islands (with 51,000 on Grand Bahama Island alone) so no place in The Islands Of The Bahamas will ever be over-crowded. Everything on these islands – The Abacos, Andros, Bimini, The Exumas, Cat Island, Long Island and more – is intimate in scale. Resorts and lodges often have only 20 or 30 rooms and are run by owners who live right there. You might share a Kalik (the local beer) with them at sunset. Each island has its own vibe and similarly, these hotels have their own personalities – often defined by their owners, bartenders, and others. These independent businesses, with their close-knit staffs and cast of regulars are a great way to meet new people, make new friends, jump into the adventure of a personal experience rather than a travel package. It’s worth the trip. Not sure where you will fit in? If you are curious about one of these independent hotels, call them up: do they have an honor bar; do guests gather communally for cocktail hour; is there a bonfire after dinner? Trip planning can involve some creative questions.
How to plan a Bahamas trip
Once you have decided on an island and a resort, you will probably want to plan some activities. All the islands offer options for bonefishing (salt water fly fishing), deep sea and reef fishing, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, boating and sailing. Fishing guides are among the most independent of Bahamian businesspeople – you won’t find many with web sites. Fear not. Locating the outfitter for your adventure can be as easy as talking to your hotelier. These islands are familiar places and the lodges are the great crossroads for all kinds of services. The way of life, and business, is more laid back in the islands so hoteliers can be a great resource in trip planning.
Getting to know Bahamian culture
Bahamian people are proud of their history and culture and happy to share their insights with visitors. They can also be reserved and respectful of privacy, so they may not approach you for conversation. Two great ways to get to know Bahamians and their home country are
· People to People – a program of local volunteers throughout the country that matches visitors with locals who share similar interests
· The Fish Fry – every island has one, many have more than one, the Fish Fry is a Bahamian institution and collection of authentic, fresh, local food served up from colorful “shacks”. In addition to great food, usually live music and dancing, the Fish Fry brings everyone together and it is easy to meet and chat with Bahamians and other visitors. Everyone is welcome at the Fish Fry. Just ask at your hotel for the location and which evenings it is open.
How to get to The Bahamas
Nassau and Paradise Island and Grand Bahama Island have daily jet service from major gateways including a choice of non-stops from New York City to Nassau. The new Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau is a hub for connecting to any other island you may wish to visit. Some of the larger islands like The Abacos and The Exumas also have direct flights from Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
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