The Bahamas is a group of 700 islands and cays (smaller, lower islands) that for most are synonymous with picture-perfect beaches and ideal holidays. It certainly lived up to its standard of beaches, but for me it was a land of contrasts, from incredible natural experiences and new friends to unexpected difficulties. So here are some things I loved, and some things I wish I knew before I went.
- Prepare for paradise
The word paradise gets bandied about like a monkey with its own poop- but when you are a sitting on a private white-sand beach with a Bahama Mama in hand, you get pretty damn close. The beaches of the Bahamas are almost too perfect, they don’t seem real. Lying in the white sand, floating in the crystal clear water or duck-diving deeper to see stingrays and sharks makes for an insanely good trip. I went on a day trip to a private island with a great company called Powerboat Adventures who I would recommend, as they have their own private island where you do all those activities plus visit an iguana beach. All of this plus an open bar all day. Perfection.
- The locals
I made good friends with the awesome Airbnb person I stayed with, but also got to chatting with some other locals at places I visited such as a very chatty Pirate at the museum in downtown Nassau and on my boat trip to the Exuma Cays. It meant I got a really different perspective that I wouldn’t have gotten from just staying at a hotel, and got to try some awesome new foods, and even have a night out at some local bars (which ending with one of my new friends literally kicking off her shoes! I will not explain). Also spending time with locals means you get to be around their amazing accents and learn awesome new slang like ‘Oh I’d love an ice-cold bear’ (transl. ‘An ice-cold beer’).
- The history
Pirates! Who knew! For some daft reason I did not make the connection between the movies being based on the actual Pirates of the Caribbean and the fact that I was visiting the Caribbean and therefore- Pirates! The history can be observed in the free local museum in downtown Nassau, and you can visit historical sites such as the Queen’s Staircase (also free, it’s literally just steps) which was built by slaves, as well as visit the Pirate museum (did not go, too poor, but very friendly Pirates will greet you there who I had a nice chat to).
- The adventure
Not only is there diving and snorkelling with sharks and stingrays, the Bahamas is home to one of the coolest dive sites in the world- Dean’s Blue Hole. The site is actually the biggest and best of many blue holes around (water-filled sink holes), and while I didn’t get to visit in this trip due to a chest infection I will be going back! The myriad water sports, swimming with dolphins, etc will keep anyone well infused with adrenalin and joy for their entire trip. My biggest tip is to head to Exuma for your stay and SEE THE SWIMMING PIGS!!
- Travel difficulties
The type of travel one must undertake in the Bahamas is very different to what I am used to. One of the biggest mistakes I made before I went was assuming I could travel there the way I usually did- wrong. First of all, it is all hotels, not a backpackers hostel to be seen. Almost everyone who vists these islands does so at a vair fancy resort or via cruise ship. When I visit again I will definitely be doing it on a cruise, as transport between the islands is both very difficult and very expensive. If you’ve never done airbnb, this is the time to start. I stayed with a lovely woman who generously showed me around and even helped me book my trips. I was so grateful to make a new friend with a local and get to know everything from that perspective, especially in a place where so many tourists barely leave the resorts (except to visit Senor Frogs. Blurgh).
- Planning and safety
Most important for planning is knowing which islands to visit, what you want to see there and which part of that island that site is on. All I told people about my trip to the Caribbean before I went was that I was going to see the swimming pigs, but they reside on a part of Exuma that isn’t accessible from Nassau because it’s too far. So even though I was on the island, I couldn’t get there in the time I had. Devastating. In terms of safety, meeting and or staying with locals was the best bet for me as a solo traveller. On my first night I stayed in a hotel and was told not to leave to get food because as soon as it got dark I would get robbed. The owner was just trying to look out for me, but it wasn’t a great into to the country. I also couldn’t go anywhere, downtown, to the beach, anywhere, without being followed or bugged by some guy. It got a little exhausting for someone from Melbourne where street harassment isn’t nearly as common as in other parts of the world (not that it isn’t exhausting for those women too). We just want to have a nice swim at the beach dude, not get sleazed on by some random on a jet ski! My advice is to make friends and don’t go anywhere alone at night. Once I did this I had an AB-FAB time!
Have you ever been to the Bahamas? What was your favourite part?