There's nothing but deep blue. Our officesare a billion miles away. Our only concernsare the angelfish that dance around coralcastles. This snorkeling odyssey could betaking place at any number of Caribbean destinations,but the warm and friendly natives guiding our adventureand treating us as though we are old friends,clinch itâ€”we're on Grand Bahama Island.
Most physician-travelers considering a trip to theBahamas focus their attentions on Nassau and ParadiseIsland, a veritable tourist mecca. The savvy, adventuroustraveler, however, may yawn at the thought of goingsomewhere everyone else has been. There ismore to the Bahamas than Nassau, with each islandoffering a unique cultural and environmental experience.
The Grand Bahama Island is poised to become thenext big Caribbean hot spot with the newly openedIsle of Capri Casino (800-THE-ISLE; www.isleofcapricasino.com) and refurbished luxury resorts. Despitethese new developments, the island is dedicated topreserving its greatest attractionsâ€”its native charmand spectacular ecology.
In fact, many of the activities available on the islandenvelop visitors in raw natural beauty. One of the mostpopular attractions is offered by Kayak Nature Tour(242-373-2485) and takes kayakers through dense mangrovetunnels interconnected by wide ponds brimmingwith exotic marine life. And if marine life excites you,you may also want to get up close and personal with afriendly bottlenose dolphin at the UNEXSO DolphinClose Encounter (242-373-1250; www.unexso.com). Ifyou are seeking a snorkeling haven, Paradise Cove (242-349-2677) offers a lovely, laid-back shoreline and arange of rental equipment with which to enjoy theunderwater spectacles. We were even lucky enough tospot a young sea turtle nestled in the coral formations.
For those who revel in game fishing, Grand BahamaIsland has a native sport to tempt the adventurousâ€”bonefishing. Visitors are paired with a local to quietlystalk these elusive fish by wading through knee-deepwater. Bonefish are nearly invisible, quicksilver creaturesthat can weigh up to 15 pounds and put up quite a fightwhen hooked. As their name suggests, these fish are toobony to eat and are usually released back into the watersonce a sly fisher declares victory at their capture.
Thankfully, not all fish are tossed back into the sea;that would prevent us from enjoying one of the mostamusing culinary events to be had on the Grand BahamaIslandâ€”the fish fry. It's a local tradition that everyWednesday night natives informally gather around anoutdoor fire to fry up some marinated and very flavorfulfish. The original Fish Fry is located at Smith Pointâ€”justask one of the locals to point you in the right direction.When you get there, the smell of the food and fire coupledwith the sound of the shore welcomes you. Grab aKalik, the local beer, and kick back with a heavy plate ofsumptuous food and some authentic Bahamian culture.
For those looking to walk off their fish fry feast theday after, there is plenty of shopping to be had. TheInternational Bazaar was opened in 1967 with theintent to represent shops from around the world. Subsequentlyyou can find shops that carry a range of ethnicgoods, from Asian to African. In addition, high-endgoods are also to be had at duty-free prices, includingVersace shoes and Rolex watches. Our favorite shop,The Perfume Factory (242-352-9391; firstname.lastname@example.org), is located at the edge of the complex andfeatures a tour of their perfume-making process as wellas the opportunity for visitors to create, name, and registertheir very own perfume formula.
If your shopping needs have not been satiated, youcan always pay a visit to Port Lucaya, another collectionof shops, complete with a traditional straw market.There is also an eclectic collection of restaurantsto be found, ranging from local to Greek cuisine.Luciano's (242-373-9100) is a great choice if you arecraving delicious surf and turf.
Resort Rest Stop
After emptying your pockets and filling your belly,you need only walk across the street from Port Lucayato find respite. The Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resortcombines two major hotel chains to cater to every vacationstyle. For those planning a family trip, the Sheratonat Our Lucaya (242-373-1444; 877-OUR-LUCAYA;www.ourlucaya.com) provides plenty of amenities forthe kids and offers a range of all-inclusive vacationpackages to suit every budget. For a top-of-the-line resortexperience, be sure to book a room at the newlybuilt or remodeled Westin at Our Lucaya (242-373-1333; 877-OUR-LUCAYA; www.ourlucaya.com). Eventhe bed (the Westin exclusive â€œheavenly bedâ€; www.westin-hotelsathome.com) makes you feel pamperedand indulged. As is the mark of a great resort, you havethe choice of doing nothing or everythingâ€”frompilates on the beach to sipping a goombay smash (aBahamian favorite) at the poolside bar.
The Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort also has a full-servicespa on the premises. Senses Spa (242-350-5280)offers all of the usual spa accoutrements along with someinteresting native treatments. We recommend The BasicSenses Package; it gives you a taste of a variety of theirservices. Be sure to book your treatments early; the spa ispopular and spots tend to fill up quickly.
Just 52 miles east of the South Florida coast, theGrand Bahama Island is practically in our backyard.And to make travel there quick and hassle-free,Continental Airlines (800-523-3273; www.continental.com) recently launched a new nonstop flight fromNewark Liberty International Airport into Freeport, thecapital of Grand Bahama Island. There is really noexcuse; heed the call of this truly grand destination.