Being the water baby I am, and after spending recent years gazing over Atlantis Bahamas' website, I finally booked my vacation to the Bahamas last November. You would have also found out on an earlier post that it was also my 1st Solo Vacation.
This post is more about The Bahamas itself and gives my feedback on what it has to offer, based on what I’ve learnt or done during my holidays.
The Bahamas: It's mostly about Tourism
I you do an online search on topics such as "Best Vacation Destinations", it's very likely that The Bahamas would be highly ranked in the search result.
With 6 million visitors per year, for the past 5 years, there is no doubt that this country is among the most sought-after Holiday Destinations in the World.
Not only this country thrives with Tourism but it has also been a famous filming location for big Movie productions. Among the many movies shot (although partially) in the Bahamas, you can count 2 sequels of Pirates of the Caribbean, several James Bond movies, After The Sunset, Scooby-Doo, just to name a few…Movies started to be filmed there from the 40's, with a significant increase since the year 2000.
Oh my, which island to pick?
Please bear in mind that The Bahamas is a large archipelago, covering a total of 100,000 square miles of the Caribbean Ocean. This famous holiday destination consists of about 700 islands and over 2,000 cays and islets!! The population of this country only spreads across 16 of these islands.
You would have to pick the island(s) which you would like to visit, even if you live on a sailboat, or you’re aboard a cruise ship. All major lines stop in The Bahamas, often times on more than one island.
No matter which island(s) you decide on, white sand beaches with crystal clear waters is what you would be surrounded by. Sounds heavenly, right? It is quite a naturally country gifted indeed.
Most visitors stay on either these two islands. Last year alone, 3.5 million visitors spent their holidays there.
Nassau, which is the capital of The Bahamas, is crawling daily with tourists.
Many come from the busy Nassau Bahamas Cruise Terminal. You can observe large groups of them spreading across the streets of Nassau, in search of restaurants, tourists spots (e.g. the Pirates of Nassau Museum). Duty Free shops are also plentiful in the country for jewelry, electronics, tobacco, perfumes, etcc. I visited The Straw Market as it was what was recommended for Local Craft/Art, beside the many art galleries.
I enjoyed the noticeable Police presence, as they were patrolling the streets of Nassau on foot, in their charming uniforms. They are very willing to pose for pictures too, as you can see below.
Paradise Island is home to restaurants, hotels and resorts, including the largest of them all, Atlantis Bahamas.
The bridge linking both islands has a tool and is the largest bridge in the country. It has been renamed the Sir Sidney Poitier Bridge in late 2012. Poitier, who has spent his childhood on Cat Island, has been honored for his life story and diplomacy. He has been a Bahamian Ambassador to Japan and the UN. Taxi fares are usually around US$5 between Paradise islands and Downtown Nassau.
Other Bahamian Islands
The Exumas have been famous for being the homes to many celebrities. The Swimming Pigs have become quite a novelty these past couple years and can be found on an uninhabited cay located in The Exumas, called Big Major Cay. However, you don’t necessarily have to get accommodation in Exumas if you don't want to. Many Tour operators in Nassau/Paradise Island offer Day trips to the Pig Island and/or several cays throughout the archipelago.
I had done my research on The Exumas but quickly realized I just couldn’t tick everything on my To-Do list in a single trip. Bummer!! I can’t stay away from my Office job forever, right! Oh well, next time!!
As for the many other islands, they seem super quiet, but I can only elaborate on that when I do visit them!
Information however is readily available online on The Bahamas and each of its many islands.
Flights are regularly available between the capital’s airport and the other major Bahamian islands, for those who can afford to go Island-Hopping!
Atlantis & Blue Lagoon Island
Among the Must-sees in the Bahamas, you can check the list below:
- Atlantis Resort: This resort’s many features (waterpark, marine habitat, golf course, interaction programs with dolphins, sea lions, etc.) has become a major tourist attractions in the country. Daily passes can be purchased via your cruise ship, or directly with Atlantis. However, there is always the possibility of passes being sold out, as priority to the facilities are given to Atlantis customers who book their room there. Luckily for me, I had full/unlimited access to Atlantis’ amenities since I slept in one of its 3,400 rooms.
- Blue Lagoon Island: A boat ride from Paradise Island (20 minutes) or Nassau (30 minutes) takes you to this island, which offers a beach facility, Watersports,Segway tours, Sea lion and Dolphin interaction programs, etc. If you want to visit this island, please ensure that a cruise liner hasn’t booked the beach facility that day. The day I went to that island, I only had access to the Dolphin & Sea Lion Training facility. Access to the rest of the island was only allowed to customers of a particular cruise ship that day. You can find out whether there’s full access to the island upon making your booking. I was at the end of my stay so i couldn't reschedule and believe I'll be fine without seeing the Dolphin Interaction program.
Read more about my adventures at Atlantis and experience to Blue Lagoon here.
Power Boat, Swimming Pigs, Yoga, Food & Beaches
- Getting onboard a Power boat for a day trip to a few cays. I must recommend that if you choose to book this ride during the Hurricane Season, it be at the beginning of your stay. I made the mistake of booking it at the end of my stay! Due to strong wind that morning, the boat company deemed that it was unsafe and the excursion was cancelled (and fully refunded) early that morning. Attempts at re-scheduling this trip proved futile as the wind was forecast to be back to normal 2 days later, which coincided with the day I was actually leaving the country. Bummer!! However, my last minute Plan B (Blue Lagoon Island) turned out to be a great experience, so I won’t complain too much about missing out on that particular adventure.
- Swimming with the Pigs. Probably the most famous pigs in the world! Those friendly pigs can be found on The Exumas island. During many of the tours, you’ll also get opportunities to feed iguanas and sting rays. I’ll have to check them out at my next trip! You might be reading this and think "What? Famous pigs?!!!" Well, if you don’t believe how famous these pigs are, go to Instagram and search the following hashtag: #swimmingpigs.
Most hotels (with the exception of a few strictly business oriented smaller ones) offer Watersport activities and would also help you booking tours on the island or another island or cay. This archipelago's pristine waters are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. You can also find surf shops (retail/rental) with much ease.
Of course, for organized people like me, you can also make bookings with Tour operators way ahead of your vacation. The Bahamas is one of those countries where you can make an online booking for almost anything!
For Yoga enthusiasts like me, you will find a yoga studio if you are staying in Nassau, Paradise Island, Bimini, Great Exuma, Harbour Island. I chose to try a Yoga Retreat walking distance to my hotel, which turned out to be quite convenient. It was a windy Monday morning and after a long stroll on the beach, I enetered the yoga's back entrance. A yoga class while hearing the nearby waves crashing : P-R-I-C-E-L-E-S-S !
If you want to experience Bahamian Authentic Food, head down to the Fish Fry area in Downtown Nassau and choose one of the many local restaurants gathered there. I must warn you though that the food portions are American-size portion. Indeed, I was caught off guard and was unable to finish my lunch: Conch Salad & Conch Fritters as Appetizers, followed by Fried fish, Green salad and French Fries as the main course. Conch is the Bahamian National Dish.
If you have the time, you can do like me and take a stroll from Junkanoo Beach to the Fish Fry. It is a breezy 15 minute walk alongside the ocean.
Junkanoo Beach is mostly frequented by tourists coming from the nearby Cruise Terminal. So if you like quiet beaches, you can avoid this one altogether. The Bahamas is by no mean short of quiet beaches, no matter the island you choose to stay. Check an online map and reviews to take your pick.
Pick The Season Wisely
The Bahamas enjoys tropical weather throughout the year but be mindful of the Hurricane Season. It begins in early June and ends in late November. You can expect a few rainy days or a sunny day with a few showers in between, tropical storms, hurricanes or all of the above during these months. September and October are the 2 months with the least numbers of Tourist Arrivals. My stay in November was mostly sunny, no complaints.
My vacation started a month after the country was battered by a Category 4 Hurricane (named Matthew).
If you’re willing to book your holidays during the Hurricane Season, here are a few Precautionary Measures you should take upon booking your holidays:
- Book a Hotel room with a Refundable rate
- Ensure that your Hotel room is booked with Free cancellation
- Purchase a Refundable Flight
- If you can’t do the above, buy Travel Insurance, which provides refunds for prepaid, non-refundable expenses if you need to cancel a trip for a reason such as a hurricane damaging your resort.
- Monitor the Weather Forecast in the Bahamas, regularly, from at least 2 weeks prior to your trip.
During my stay, I have noticed that many tourists are Americans. There are also many American franchises throughout the capital and Atlantis itself. It seems obvious that there is a close relationship between the United States of America and The Bahamas. Granted, these two countries are neighbors. Indeed, a flight from Miami to Nassau is only a 20-30 minute affair.
I was unaware until then that there has been close Diplomatic ties between both countries for the past 4 decades in various areas: Trade Partnerships, Maritime and Border Security, Fight against Illegal Narcotics & Weapon, Immigration matters, etc.
Not knowing of this cooperation before my trip, it was a surprise for me to discover a “Welcome to U.S. Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection” area at the airport in Nassau, upon leaving that country. I was also rather amused about what happened in Miami, in order to avoid going through US customs (a second time). I disembarked the plane, along with the other passengers & crew. Then, we were all directed to go through a “back door” to enter the Airport. Surprise, Surprise! Until then, I thought Back doors were for Airport staff, lol!
My Trip’s Goals
I will admit that my Birthday Trip to the Bahamas was mostly about exploring Atlantis resort and not the country itself. That’s why I only dedicated one day (my last full day in the country) to try to explore Nassau a bit.
After wandering in this mega resort Atlantis for so many days, I do confess that my energy level had dropped quite a bit. I definitely will need to take another trip to this country. I do feel like I barely scratched the surface as far as exploring it.
Because I had booked a room at Atlantis, I was not worried about arriving soon after the country was visited by a hurricane. I trusted that such a large & world-known resort would be equipped to take suitable precautionary measures before the storm hit and take great care to enjoy the safety of their customers. I was right. I followed their bulletins published on their website before, during and after the hurricane. Beside several banged up coconut trees, the resort didn’t look like it went through a hurricane one month later when I arrived.
One thing’s for sure, the Caribbean Region has its fair share of Heavenly destinations, just as beautiful as The Bahamas!
Go Ahead & Pick One!