Category Archives: Bahamas

Bahamas Roundup

What I Did: A seven night liveaboard trip to the Exuma Cays and Eluethera as well as three nights in Nassau (New Providence Island)

Overall: The Bahamas might not be the most exotic or exciting destination I’ve traveled to, but the friendly people, the beautiful islands and the amazing accessibility make for one great vacation. The trip was prompted by Mark’s new job on a diving boat, so I also got my first taste of liveaboard life. While I loved the experience, it does remove you from the local experience as you are sleeping, eating, and socializing on the boat. I was happy to balance out the week at sea with a few nights on land exploring Nassau.

Eleuthera Sunset

Getting Around: Travel between islands is by private boat or by plane on Air Bahamas. I did read that it is possible to take cheap cargo ferries from Potter’s Cay to the outer island but as it is not meant for passengers there is no set schedule. Taxis in Nassau are pricey and usually charge per person, making cab sharing useless. I recommend walking when possible.

Food and Drink: It’s hard for me to rate this category as I spent the majority of the trip eating meals on the boat prepared by the liveaboard’s chef. However as expected the Bahamas excels in seafood and in Nassau I would recommend Potter’s Cay for super fresh fish and conch and cheap local beer.

Eleuthera Bahamas

People: The people of the Bahamas blew me away. I am not exaggerating when I say every person I came into contact with was friendlier than the one before, from the taxi driver who scooped me up at the airport to the grounds keeper who gave me an impromptu tour of Nassau’s oldest church. I admit that after spending a summer with the highly guarded Caymanian people I assumed all Caribbean islanders would be similarly cold. I was so glad to be proved wrong, and if I ever make it back to the Bahamas I will go out of my way to meet more local people.

I also learned that taking a liveaboard trip is an amazing way to meet fellow travelers. While the majority of our boat was taken up by a large dive group, there were two couples and a solo diver on their own and everyone mixed in fabulously. The close proximity forces mingling and friendship. I’ve never made friends so fast!

Blackbeard's Cruises Liveaboard Bahamas

Money: Many young travelers rule out the Caribbean all together, assuming it is an unattainable expense. I concede that when compared to Southeast Asia and Central America, the cost of a trip to any Caribbean isle is a huge undertaking, yet for ease of travel and proximity to the US there are great deals to be found. Passengers on the Blackbeard’s Cruises liveaboard trip I went on paid $899 for a week long trip that included accommodation, all meals, booze, and of course diving. I think that’s a pretty amazing deal! In Nassau, if you are willing to stay in town there are hotels for less than $100 a night in walking distance to beautiful beaches. I believe what you lose in convenience of not staying directly in the beach you gain in cultural experience of staying in town.

Safety: Another category I feel somewhat unqualified to rate based on the circumstances. I did find myself instinctively clutching camera a bit tighter walking around Nassau at night, but that may have been due to the many warnings I read before arrival about how unsafe it is. As I said above, I found every single person I interacted with to be so pleasant its hard to imagine who is out committing all these crimes.

Good to know: I did not fully grasp how cold the water would be in January! I admit I’m a bit of a wuss but if you like warm warm water and boiling hot sun, I suggest you go further south for a winter month’s trip.

Easy Come Easy Go: A Day at the Atlantis Resort

It was my last day and night in the Bahamas and Mark and I still had our casino winnings burning a hole in our backpacks. We talked about putting it towards a plane ticket for him to visit me, or splitting it and putting it in our saving ($360 goes a long way in South East Asia!) but none of that seemed a fittingly exciting way to spend it, considering the dramatic way we earned it.

So we went back to the place it all began: Atlantis.

Atlantis Water Park

Well, not Atlantis exactly. We checked into the adjacent Paradise Island Comfort Suites, which is about as glamorous as the name Comfort Suites conjures. At $365 a night, it was by far the most expensive hotel room I’ve ever paid for, and the room itself it was laughably not worth it. But you aren’t paying for the room itself, rather the fact that they offer Atlantis day passes for both the day you check in and the day you check out. Atlantis day passes run $110 a person, so if you are planning on spending two days there with two people, you can actually save money by getting a hotel room for the night, not to mention free breakfast. In our minds it was all “free” since we were paying with our surplus casino winning! Easy come, easy go.

Atlantis Resort The Dig

Checking into a real hotel always makes me feel like a real live grown up. I feel like I’m always expecting someone to ask for my identification, and maybe my bank statements. After we checked into our room I made sure to jump on the bed a bit to shake off the feeling. Then we ran like giddy children to the Atlantis Water Park.

Atlantis Resort Bahamas
Atlantis Resort Bahamas

I love that a place as big and corporate as Atlantis Resort has a sense of humor in their signage. And also a no smoking policy.

Atlantis Resort Bahamas

The grounds of Altantis are enormous, big enough that we often had to refer to maps to figure out where we were. One of the biggest attractions is The Dig, a 2.5 million gallon aquarium, which claims to be the largest in the world, though a quick google search pulls up several competitors. I don’t think the Georgia Aquarium can compete with the theme running through The Dig, which is styled to look like an excavation site of the lost city of Atlantis.

Atlantis Resort The Dig

Atlantis Resort The Dig

Atlantis Resort The Dig

Once we had our fill of fish it was on to Aquaventure, the 63 acre water park. I was worried that the thrill of it all would be diminished in the 8 years since I came to Atlantis with my family, but I was so wrong. Water parks are just plain fun. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it quite the same had I paid $110 for a day pass, but since it was “free” we felt like kids in a candy shop.

Atlantis Water Park
Atlantis Water Park

For hours we sailed through dark tunnels in inner tubes, jumped down near vertical water slides and swirled around the lazy river.

Atlantis Water Park

It’s funny, with everything going on at the water park, you can easily forget that there is an insanely beautiful beach just strides away. This is the view from the top of the tower you see above.

Atlantis Beach Bahamas

After the water slides closed, we were ready for relaxing. Atlantis is full of shallow pools and tucked away hot tubs, which we thoroughly enjoyed for the five minutes we were there before being surrounded by small shrieking children. And that was enough of that.

Atlantis Resort Bahamas

Atlantis Resort Bahamas

We walked towards The Cove, where there is an adult only pool, but at this point the sun was starting to set. We watched the sunset from the completely empty rows of chairs lining the beach, and marveled at what a crazy week it had been, from living in a teeny bunk for a week and sailing through uninhabited cays of the Exumas to wandering the streets of tourist haven Nassau to spending a day at the biggest resort in the country. I was sad to be leaving the next day, but if I stayed I wouldn’t know how to top what we had already done!

Atlantis Resort Bahamas

And with that, it was Bye Bye Bahamas. Hope to see you soon.

Walking Tour of Nassau, Bahamas

Nassau is compact and easy to see in a day, which is quite convenient considering many visitors (coming off cruise ships) only have that long to see it.  This would also be a great walking tour for those staying at Atlantis or other hotels on Paradise Island, as that is the starting location!

1. Potter’s Cay

Under the bridge from Atlantis you will find Potter’s Cay, one of my favorite spots in all of Nassau. (See link for previous post).

2. A Bit of History and Hospitality

Walking in towards Nassau town on Bay Street, you will pass a grand church on your left at the aptly named Church Street. It wasn’t listed in my guidebooks or any maps but I was able to identify it as St. Matthews with a bit of google sleuthing.

Church, Nassau, Bahamas

Church, Nassau, Bahamas

Church, Nassau, Bahamas

While we wandered around the grounds of this church, we encountered the caretaker who approached us kindly, asking how we were enjoying our stay in the Bahamas. His eyes lit up when we told him about our trip through the outer islands and he offered us a tour of the grounds of what he then informed us was the oldest church in the Bahamas. Speaking with him was one of the highlights of the day! It’s a beautiful building and worth nosing around to look for. Even more impressive was the hospitality of the caretaker, just another reminder of the kindness of the Bahamian people.

3. Cruise Mania

About 3/4ths of a mile past Potter’s Cay you will reach the cruise ship terminal. I actually went here looking for the Junkanoo Expo, which was very poorly marked on maps and I never did find. But there were some floats and costumes in the terminal from Junkanoo (the Bahamas biggest festival) so it wasn’t a total loss.

Junkanoo Expo, Nassau
Nassau, Bahamas Cruise Ship Terminal

4. Rawson Square

Rawson Square is a filled with benches in which to hide in the shade and get some respite from the hot Bahamas sun. Across the street is the grand pink parliament building, where lawmakers still wear full white wigs!

Rawson Square, Nassau, Bahamas

4. Junkanoo Beach

Junkanoo Beach is a beautiful and conveniently located stretch of sand. On my way into the Bahamas from the airport, my taxi driver informed me that not long ago it was only a local’s spot and he marveled that tourists now use this beach as well. I can see why they do, and its somewhere between the white sand and glassy blue water. Looking off in one direction you are treated to the sight of a charming lighthouse, and in the other direction, the giants of Bahamas tourism: Atlantis and the cruise ship. There is also some great graffiti to check out.

Junkanoo Beach, Nassau
Junkanoo Beach, Nassau
Junkanoo Beach, Nassau
Junkanoo Beach, Nassau

5. The Pirate Museum

Say arrrrg at Pirates of Nassau! (Click link to see previous post)

6. Balcony House

The 18th century Balcony House is the oldest residential structure in Nassau. There are tours available, but we were just walking by as the house is right around the corner from the Pirate Museum.

Balcony House, Nassau, Bahamas

7. Nassau Public Library and Museum

I love libraries. This one would be interesting even to non bibliophiles for its unusual octagonal shape and the fact that it used to be Nassau’s jail. The cells are now lined with books and historic prints.

The second floor was sadly closed for repairs when we stopped by, but it seemed like the views would be great.

Nassau, Bahamas
Nassau Public Library and Museum

8. Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Art

Coca Cola Downtown Art Experience

While walking around Nassau I kept noticing interesting art works shown in public. Some of them were really fun and I couldn’t wait to look up the website on the accompanying signs (you scan see the sign above in the top left corner). It turned out to be a public arts project aimed at sprucing up Nassau sponsored by Coca Cola, using all art from local artists. There is a map of all the pieces, from murals to sculptures on the website. I wish I had known about this beforehand because it would make for a really fun day walking around trying to see them all. Here are a few of my favorites. Points for art, for supporting the local arts movement, and for urban beautification!

Coca Cola Downtown Art Experience

View and print my Walking Tour of Nassau, Bahamas on Google Maps! It was my first time making a map so a bit of a learning curve but I really enjoyed it and I think its something I will try to keep doing in the future.

The Best Museum in the Caribbean

Okay, so perhaps I’ve only been to one other museum in the Caribbean. But what else could possibly top a repository of pirate memorabilia and a chance to take cheesy photos with an extra from The Black Pearl? Take that, Caribbean Museum of Boat Development!

Pirates of Nassau is located in downtown Nassau, walkable distance from the cruise ship terminal and Paradise Island. When you approach the building, prepare to be approached by costumed ticket takers who are surprisingly convincing and only break character to ask you what model SLR camera you are carrying.

Pirates of Nassau, Bahamas

Upon entering the building you are greeted by a life-size recreation of a pirate ship. Along with the accompanying soundtrack and and light show, it really does feel like you were in Nassau harbor as it was being pillaged by pirates. Well, you know, if Nassau harbour had drop ceilings and halogen lights.

 

Pirates of Nassau, Bahamas

 

Moving into the ship, we encountered life size dioramas and fact filled and educational signage.

 

 

I was surprised how big the building was, and I actually did learn about the original “true” pirates, including my liveaboard boat’s namesake, Blackbeard. In the last room there were genuine artifacts and antiques, as well as more information about Nassau’s deep connection to the pirate world. It lent an authentic air to the whole affair.

 

Pirates of Nassau Bahamas

My favorite part? I think its obvious: the photo ops. I would pay the admission price to play with these backdrops alone.

Pirates of Nassau Bahamas

Speaking of admission, at $12USD, it is not cheap. However if you’re in a silly mood with a fun group of friends, it could not be more well spent. And if you’re in Nassau for the week or even just for the day, Pirates of Nassau is a convenient stop due to its central location. And don’t forget to come armed with your camera specs for the guys holding a gun to your head.

 

 

Photo Essay: Potter’s Cay in Nassau Bahamas

Bahamas Day 7

After saying goodbye to the group, I and a few of the stranglers meandered down the road towards Atlantis, the massive resort on adjoining Paradise Island. We never quite made it over the bridge that connects the two islands, as we were too distracted by what was happening under it.

It turns out the area we were in is called Potter’s Cay, a shipping dock and hub of activity located beneath the bridges going to and from Paradise Island. The bars lining the entrance are a great place to grab a cheap Kalik local beer, try super fresh conch and rub shoulders with the locals. I was walking through super early in the morning, so the bars weren’t yet open, but there was activity further beneath the bridge.

Potter's Cay, Nassau, Bahamas

Potter's Cay, Nassau, Bahamas

Islanders began to unload their wares in the market section, selling everything from shriveled dead fish to creaking live crabs.

 

Potter's Cay, Nassau, Bahamas
Potter's Cay, Nassau, Bahamas
Potter's Cay, Nassau, Bahamas
Potter's Cay, Nassau, Bahamas
my favorite photo from the day

Pushing even further back under the bridge were the barges and the small fishing boats. There were amazing images of local fishing boats, colorful graffiti and amazing murals.

 

Potter's Cay, Nassau, Bahamas

Potter's Cay, Nassau, Bahamas

At the far end of Potter’s Cay you can see over the top of that barges straight across the bridges through to Atlantis. I marvel at the fact that such an amazing place with such strong local flavor can exist side by side with such a megalith manufactured resort (one that brought us great riches not too long ago!) I hope they continue to coexist peacefully, but just in case they don’t, get to Potter’s Cay as soon as possible! What a poignant image.

Potter's Cay, Nassau, Bahamas

 

 

Breaking It Down at Crazy Johnny’s in Nassau

Bahamas Day 6 & 7

My week on Blackbeard’s happened to have a very young group, but there were a few great exceptions of older people on the boat who were super fun and very inspiring to me… I really hope I stay young at heart as I grow older and I love meeting examples of people who live that way.

Case in point: As we pulled into port, one of the guys traveling with his college age daughter decided he wasn’t ready for the party to end. He announced via a performance of La Macarena that he would be hosting a dance contest at Crazy Johnny’s, with a prize of $2oo!

Even with that great incentive most people only put down the names of their protesting friends, with one exception, obvious to anyone who knows him. Introducing my boyfriend:

Crazy Johnny's Nassau

Crazy Johnny's Nassau

Crazy Johnny's Bahamas

Me with the winner

I don’t think I even need to recap my embarrassing choreographed duet performance with chef Jess, when Mark so obviously killed it on the dance floor. Mark has a knack for contests (he won a free flight to Toronto when we lived in Cayman!) as well as some great moves, so I was not surprised when he was announced winner.

It was a great night hanging out with the crew and passengers that I had come to call friends over the week. Since we returned mid-week, the bar opened especially for us after a call from the Captain, and it only enhanced the feeling that we were throwing ourselves the best goodbye party ever.

The next morning, it was time for a lot of goodbyes. While I had made plans to explore Nassau with some of those with later flights, most people were headed to the airport right away. This week I expected to do a lot of diving, reading and writing, but I never considered I would leave with so many new friends and great memories.

Blackbeard's Bahamas

Blackbeard's Bahamas

Blue Holes and Rope Swings

Bahamas Day 6

Waking up this morning I cannot believe we arrive in port today. At times it seemed we would be on this boat forever but today it seems to be going by too fast. We’re closer to Nassau now and the water is much, much colder but I can’t resist one last dive. The site is one of Bahamas famous “blue holes,” a circular vertical cave that sinks below the ocean floor. The water was so cold when I jumped in I was sure I wouldn’t make it more than a few minutes. As we approached the hole itself I was shocked how large it was and also how blue. It was quite dark and with the lack of light there was also a lack of life, and after circumnavigating the hole once we were ready to explore the surroundings of the edge of the hole, but not before spotting this grumpy guy. I really need to get a strobe! I hate the look of my flash.

Blue Hole Diving Bahamas

As soon as we reached the top, I spotted this yellow spotted stingray and I was so excited! Despite all my stingray experience in Grand Cayman I’ve never seen this variety. It was about the size of a dinner plate and surprisingly cute!

Blue Hole Diving Bahamas

And once he got sick of playing with me and swam away, who did I spot but my old friend, the southern stingray. These girls are much, much bigger. But you know what? You shouldn’t be scared. ‘Cause they are like big puppies.

Southern Stingray Bahamas

I really loved this dive site! There was so much life. One of the things I miss about diving in Asia is the huge schools of fish at every site. Diving on this side of the world has huge advantages, such as amazing colors and coral, but you don’t usually get these big beautiful schools.

Blue Hole Diving Bahamas

Speaking of diving in Asia, I at this point I spotted a batfish! I haven’t seen one in a year and a half, and didn’t even know they existed here. It is not an exaggeration to say that I stalked this fish. It was painful to narrow it down to just these three to post!

batfish spadefish
batfish spadefish

The water was cold but the life was plentiful, and that made this dive amazing. It was such a great feeling to end the diving portion of this trip on such a high note!

As soon as I dried off, I starting hearing splashes. Turns out, just because its the last day doesn’t mean anyone is taking it easy!

Blackbeard's Cruises

Blackbeard's Cruises

I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t get on the swing! It looked so, so fun but I was so, so warm! I just could  not manage to force myself to plunge back into that ice cold water. But it was so much fun to laugh with and cheer everyone, it really brought home what a  group we had all become in such a short period of time.

The excitement was palpable as we pulled into the dock, and with plans for a night at Crazy Johnny’s Bar, a dance contest, and a day in Nassau, this trip was far from over.