“Better yet, what if I showed you ten “must haves” to jump-start your blank slate including words such as travel, fun and paradise all in one sentence?”
Are you ready? Here’s that simple sentence:
Enjoy your family travel and have loads of fun but only when you escape to the beautiful Islands of The Bahamas. Sounds good eh?
That’s right…you must include the Islands of The Bahamas, featuring many stretches of sugary-white sandy shorelines and turquoise waters as No. 1 on the list above. Let’s now explore these 700 islands without leaving your seat.
Beach holidays in the Caribbean are all well and good but, for the more energetic, everything from watersports, rainforest treks and world-class tennis are on offer too. Here we round up some of the best activity breaks, you should never miss putting on your bucket list when you are in The Bahamas (in no particular order).
1). The Dolphin Experience
The Bahamas offers two totally different and world-unique experiences for dolphins:
• Wild spotted dolphin encounters
• Training open-water scuba-diving encounters
Open ocean, wild spotted dolphin swims and snorkeling, where you can swim with dozens of dolphins. Off Bimini, West End, Grand Bahama, or at several other locations in The Islands Of The Bahamas, Bahamas Diving Association operators offer wild dolphin encounters, giving divers and non-divers a chance to swim with and interact with these amazing animals. Nowhere else in the world can you find more opportunities to swim with these beautiful marine mammals.
In addition to these areas, wild dolphin encounters take place regularly in a number of other locations throughout The Bahamas. Blackbeard’s Cruises has been successful in putting snorkelers with dolphins in the waters around Orange Cay. Small Hope Bay Lodge has been meeting dolphins in the clear, freshwater river that splits Andros Island in two, in addition to open water encounters. Your chances of a dolphin encounter are also good with any of The Abacos dive operators. For example, Brendal’s Dive Center offers wild dolphin dives as a regular specialty trip.
However, a different kind of dolphin encounter takes place at Lucaya on Grand Bahama, where The Dolphin Experience hosts four programs, including an open water dolphin dive in conjunction with UNEXSO. The uncertainty of a wild encounter is eliminated here, as divers, snorkelers, and even waders are introduced to dolphins in controlled circumstances. Sixteen Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins are involved in the program, eight of them born under human care in Sanctuary Bay at Grand Bahama.
On UNEXSO’s Dolphin Dive, two of the dolphins join a maximum of ten scuba divers for an open ocean release. This unique experience provides every diver with a series of one-on-one encounters as the dolphins circulate among them. The Dolphin Close Encounter is a chance for anyone, even non-swimmers, to interact with dolphins while sitting on a partially submerged platform. The Dolphin Swim gives six snorkelers the opportunity to swim with dolphins in the protected waters of Sanctuary Bay. The fourth program, which has a minimum age requirement of 16 and is limited to four participants, is an all-day, in-depth Dolphin Assistant Trainer Course that provides a fun and educational introduction to dolphins and their care. The UNEXSO Dolphin Dive and all three Dolphin Experience programs are by reservation only and they are extremely popular, so book your space well in advance.
Reminder:- If the whole family is vacationing in Grand Bahama, then you should take your kids there. Your animal-loving children would surely love the Grand Bahama Island’s gently, friendly, and well-trained bottle-nose dolphins.
2). Cable Beach
If you want to capture the most picturesque view in Bahamas, there is no better place than Cable Beach. Cable Beach has that famous white and soft sand, as well as crystal clear water that has been a trademark of Caribbean beaches.
This beach is world famous for its fabulous sand and crystal waters and for the myriad upscale resorts that line it. A few miles west of Nassau is Cable Beach, covering two and one-half miles of fabulous beach with five first-class or luxury resorts, a golf course, nightlife, and the largest casino in The Islands Of The Bahamas. Today, it’s the ultimate playground for fun in the sun. There are all the usual water sports and activities and plenty of space for sunbathing. Opens 24 hours.
3). Marine Habitat at Atlantis
BREATHTAKING COLLECTION OF MARINE EXHIBITS
Before getting their first look at Paradise Island, vacationers may not realize the unique opportunity they’ll have to explore a truly extraordinary collection of marine habitats and aquarium exhibits—lagoons, caves, coral formations and breathtaking underwater ruins are designed to showcase exotic marine life ranging from dolphins and sharks to rays, barracuda, piranha, eels and even endangered alligator gar. Atlantis Resort hosts the largest such exhibit in the Caribbean and one of the largest in the world … encompassing 14 lagoons, eight million gallons of salt water and more than 50,000 aquatic animals representing over 250 marine species.
So, if you want to say hello to marine creatures, Marine Habitat at Atlantis has plenty to offer. Your kids would surely enjoy watching and interacting with the sea turtles, dolphins, stingrays, and sea lions.
4). Christ Church Cathedral
If you want to stay out of the water for a while and enjoy the dry land, visiting the historic Christ Church Cathedral would be an excellent and worthy place to go to. The church was built in 1670 and was restored as late as the 1990s. The architecture, as well as the historical decors would sure fascinate you a lot.
Christ Church Cathedral is the “Mother Church” of all of the Anglican churches in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. In 1670, King Charles II granted the colony (of the Bahamas) to the Lord Proprietors of Carolina. The Proprietors were instructed to “build churches and chapels in furtherance of the Christian Religion.”
The first church building for the Parish of Christ Church was built between 1670 and 1684. It stood to the west of the present building, on what is now known as West Hill Street. It was later destroyed by the Spaniards in 1684. The second building, believed to have stood to the east of the present building in the area of what is now Frederick Street, was completed in 1695. It was destroyed by the Spaniards in 1703. The third building was completed in 1724 at the present site and was made of wood, like all of those before it. The fourth building, made of locally quarried cut stone replaced the wooden church in 1754. A steeple was added in 1774. In 1827, the steeple was found in a very dangerous condition and was taken down. A new square tower, the existing one, was erected in its place in 1830.
In 1834 an Act was passed by the legislature for the enlargement of Christ Church which was to be connected to the square tower and was to incorporate the other features of the fourth church. The fifth church building, still in use, was opened for services in 1841 and incorporates the tower, a striking feature of the fourth church. The building was extended to the east in 1861 to include the area occupied by the present sanctuary and a part of the present chancel or choir. In 1861 Christ Church Parish Church became a Cathedral and Nassau became a city. The Cathedral remains a historic landmark.
5). Port Lucaya Market Place
Shopaholics out there, brace your selves! Port Lucaya has over 80 stores where you can shop until you drop. Get the best bang for your buck by haggling (don’t be shy because it’s a practice here!) on prices and get the best deals on most of the items.
The Jewel of Grand Bahama Island, the Port Lucaya Marketplace is a shopper’s paradise. This is the premier shopping, dining and entertainment complex on Grand Bahama Island. This multi faceted complex has everything you came to Grand Bahama for and so much more. Features over 40 specialty stores and boutiques, 14 Restaurants, 6 Bars & 3 late night bars/lounge in addition to 3 Watersports operators. 110 Straw Vendors & Authentic Bahamian Craft Artisans designing their handicrafts that can be personalized at the customers’ request.
Duty-free perfume and jewelry are the most popular purchases at Freeport’s Port Lucaya. But you can also buy some Bahamian straw crafts in many of the 12 island-style buildings that make up this shopping complex. Don’t forget to take a lunch break from shopping at one of the restaurants along the strip or sit for a spell in Count Basie Square, where live bands play under the gazebo. If you hang around when the sun goes down, you’ll be rewarded with one of seven nightly entertainment experiences like Tuesday’s karaoke nights or Saturday’s down home fry fish. Or try your luck on the slot machines and table games at the Isle of Capri Casino. What’s more, Port Lucaya’s location close to the marina grants you access to water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving.
Although the roots of the Junkanoo parade remain subject to long and passionate debates, what is agreed is that, after centuries of practice, today’s cultural extravaganzas have become the most entertaining street carnivals of not only The Bahamas, but also the world at large.
With the costumes, dance and music inspired by a different theme each time, preparations for the Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and summer time Junkanoo literally take months and bring together men and women from all different walks of life.
The History of The Bahamas Junkanoo
Legend has it that you haven’t needed an excuse to party in The Bahamas for well over 500 years. But ask folks here at the top of the Caribbean how The Bahamas Junkanoo Tradition got started and they’ll all tell you a different story; with many believing it was established by John Canoe, a legendary West African Prince, who outwitted the English and became a local hero; and others suspecting it comes from the French ‘gens inconnus,’ which translates as ‘unknown’ or ‘masked people’.
The most popular belief, however, is that it developed from the days of slavery. The influx of Loyalists in the late 18th Century brought many enslaved people who were given three days off at Christmas, which they celebrated by singing and dancing in colourful masks, travelling from house to house, often on stilts. Junkanoo nearly vanished after slavery was abolished but the revival of the festival in The Bahamas now provides entertainment for many thousands.
What happens at Junkanoo
Long before the spectacular ‘rush-out’, the exuberant Junkanoo dance troupes – groups of up to 1,000 – will have been busy rehearsing their dazzling routines. The musicians will have perfected the hypnotic rhythms they’ll perform day and night on a cacophony of goatskin drums, cowbells, whistles and horns, and the imaginative costume designers will have worked non-stop to weave their own special magic with beautifully coloured crepe paper and cardboard.
As the Junkanoo parade moves through the streets of downtown Nassau in the early hours of the morning (generally from 2am to 10am), the energy of the dancers and the beat of the music motivates the vast crowds of supporters and spectators to start moving in their seats, or on their feet, or in the trees, or on balconies – wherever they have found a spot from which to watch this soul-stirring festival! At the end of the famous Junkanoo procession, judges award cash prizes for the best music, best costume and best overall group presentation.
Where to experience Junkanoo
The liveliest and largest of the sensational Bahamas Junkanoo party parades is in Nassau, but you can also experience the intoxicating carnival atmosphere on Grand Bahama Island,Eleuthera/Harbour Island, Bimini, The Exumas and The Abacos.
And whether it’s the children’s rush or the big parade, you will be treated to an incredible splash of colourful splendour. So time your visit to our islands to be here for Junkanoo and you’ll be more than welcome to jump in, enjoy the beat, feel the rush and have some fun!
7) Thunderball Grotto
Located just west of Staniel Cay, this fantastic underwater cave system is great for snorkeling, diving and wading. It is teeming with exotic marine life and a kaleidoscope of brilliantly colored coral reefs and fish, like yellow-tail snappers, Angel fish, Sergeant Majors and the like. The grotto’s mystique is heightened by the small, almost hidden entrance. It is advised to enter at ebb tide (low or slack tide) and snorkeling equipment is optional. At high tide, however, diving equipment is necessary.
The grotto got its name from the 1965 James Bond spy film “Thunderball,” which was shot there. It was also the site of another James Bond film, “Never Say Never Again” in 1983, also based on the Thunderball novel.
If you are an experienced scuba diver or snorkeler and want to experience the famous Grotto which appeared in the James Bond movies “Never Say Never Again” and “Thunderball”, Thunderball Grotto is an ultimate pick! However, if you are a beginner diver or snorkeler, wipe that sad expression off your face because you can still enjoy the Grotto during low tides.
8). Lucayan National Park
This 40-acre national park is Grand Bahama’s finest treasure. About 25 miles east of Ranfurly Circle, the park is known for its underwater cave system, which is one of the longest in the world. Visitors can easily check out two of the caves – Ben’s Cave and Burial Mound Cave – via a short footpath. Bones of the island’s earliest inhabitants, the Lucayans, were discovered in Burial Mound Cave in 1986. The park is also unique because it’s home to all six of the Bahamas’ vegetation zones.
Mangrove trails spill out onto the secluded and beautiful Gold Rock Beach, definitely worth a stop if you’re out this way. You’ll see more raccoons and seabirds than people, but watch your food at the picnic area near the beach – the raccoons are unabashed (but harmless) beggars
The most favorite park of the travelers among the three national parks of the Grand Bahama, Lucayan National Park is a 40-acre spread of palm and pines trees, mangrove, ad white sand beaches. It even has a cave which is among the longest limestone caves worldwide. Two caves are open to the public. Swimming in the caves is prohibited. A special permit is required for diving. Nature trails and boardwalks lead to a variety of ecosystems. Picnic tables are located on the beach.
9). World Famous Swimming Pigs
Adorable. Incredible. Original.
These three words and many more describe the famous Swimming Pigs, a growing, international sensation in Exuma, Bahamas.
In an archipelago of 365 islands, located just south of Nassau and only 40 minutes from Florida, these amazing animals reign supreme over their own island, not far from other famous residents such as Johnny Depp, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and David Copperfield.
From celebrities to supermodels, the world’s rich and famous have flocked to these idyllic shores to fulfill the most unusual bucket list item of them all, blowing up their social media accounts along the way. Today, Exuma’s Swimming Pigs attract thousands of tourists each year.
The pigs’ growing popularity is what inspired the award-winning short film ‘When Pigs Swim™’, the first documentary to chronicle the origin and rise of The Swimming Pigs. Directed by Charlie Smith and produced by GIV Bahamas Inc., the film has appeared in five international film festivals – and counting!
Welcome to the world of Exuma’s Swimming Pigs!
10). Dean’s Blue Hole
Dean’s Blue Hole is said to be the deepest blue hole in the world, and the second largest underwater chamber. Experts at Reeldivers and Vertical Blue, who have done dives at the site, report that: “It is enclosed on three sides by a natural rock amphitheatre, and on the fourth side by a turquoise lagoon and powder white beach. There is never any swell or waves inside the Hole, and visibility is usually between 50 – 100 feet (15 – 30m).”
The Blue Hole dips some 663 feet (203 meters) into the ocean floor right off shore. At the surface it is 80 x 120 feet (25 x 35m), but opens out after 60 feet (20m) into a cavern with a diameter of at least 330 feet (100m).
Long Island has many wonderful attractions, but Deans Blue Hole is the most unique. For divers, it’s an exciting shore dive; for snorkelers it’s a place of curiosity; but for scientists it’s nothing short of a phenomenon!
Besides being the world’s deepest known ocean blue hole, it happens to be absolutely gorgeous. Deans is very safe to dive and to snorkel, but children and non-swimmers should stay well away. The drop-off from the sandy beach into Deans is extremely sudden. Think of a sink drain, and you’ll know how it feels to dive Deans — spooky! At about 75 feet Deans’ circular shaft begins to widen to about 240 feet. Waterfalls of sand cascade dramatically down the sides, and barracuda and tarpon emerge eerily from the depths.
Fortunately, there normally is very little current and visibility is excellent. In 1992, Deep Breathing Systems explored and mapped Deans. One expedition member, Jim King, actually reached the bottom. His depth gauge read 663 feet! Expedition member William Wilson wrote that Deans is nearly twice as deep as any other known underwater cave in the Bahamas. The room below the entrance shaft is 240 feet wide, 350 feet long and 603 feet high, making it the largest known underwater cave room and one of the largest cave rooms (wet or dry) in the world.
Dean’s Blue Hole is located west of Clarence Town, and is also the site where the Freediving World Record was set in April 2007.
Now over to you. What do you think about the list? What have you been working on? We look forward to your comments below.