Discover the Bahamas, Closer to the U.S.

www_PicsDesktop_com_122The Bahamas is made up of more than 700 islands of which only 30 are inhabited.It is the closest unrestricted resort destination outside the U.S.mainland, less than 200 air miles from Nassau, the nation’s capital and less than 50 miles from Bimini Island, the closest island to the U.S.mainland. The Bahamas,discovered on Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas in 1492 on the island of San Salvador or “baja mar” was first governed by Spain, then Britain.In 1649 the so-called Eleuthern Adventurers, a missionary group from Bermuda settled in present day Eleuthera to flee the religious intolerance that prevailed at the time in the English colonies. This was followed, however, by an era of aggressive piracy in the 1700-1800s by such buccaneers as Calico Jack and Bluebeard. A period of political unrest lasted through the early 20th century under British rule. It became an independent nation on July 10, 1973, however. Under Prime Minister L.O.Pindling it became a nation of regional island
districts with a Commonwealth status and with a Parliamentary system, ending 325 years of political domination under the Union Jack flag.Today, the nation covers an area of 5,382 square miles with a population of 316,180 ( 2012 census ). It now has a free standing economy based largely on tourism and boasts a new international airport, named after the first prime minister and a new sporting event arena, The Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, where the recently IAAF World Relays were held, May 24-25, which attracted 37 nations according to Anthony Stuart, Dir., Europe, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism (Stuart@Bahamas.com ). Both are located in New Providence, where the capital city of Nassau is located and where the world-class Atlantis Resort stands on a land mass of 140 acres, which is by far the largest in the Caribbean and which boasts the largest casino in the Caribbean. It’s also largest employer according to Katie Longley, the resort’s PR spokesperson who acted as our guide on property. Note, the resort’s aquarium holds a stock of more than 50,000 fish of all types and has the world’s largest outdoor tank. It’s a spectacular sight under glass and above ground throughout the grounds. Built over a 50 year period including a modern marina for the mega-yachts of all sizes, the Atlantis resort is the Shangri-La of the Caribbean. It offers a choice of five lodging facilities with amenities of every strip with 37 restaurants to choose from. But the best way to learn of the culture of the island and the hospitality of its people was to experience their new “People-to-People” program through the Ministry of Tourism. Here you get a chance to sample the best of Bahamian cooking in a friendly at home atmosphere. Thanks to Debbie Pearson of the Ministry for introducing us to this unusual but surprising pleasant experience. As a result we pined on Bahamian cooking wherever we went on our tour.

The Bahamas has an expanded ecosystem. Its Stromatalites formations is said to be the oldest known macro fossil aggegation on earth. Its Moria Harburn Cay National Park is a national landmark.

Outside of New Providence we found the second oldest church in the Bahamas in Harbour Island or “Briland” the ultra swazy locale of a hipper crowd.Voted the best resort in the Caribbean by Travel & Leisure Magazine in 2005, it’s a 3 1/2 hour ride by ferry from the Potters Cay dock where you’ll find an interesting run of food shacks under the Sidney Poitier Bridge.( Book through Bahamas Ferries.com.) The island is known for its pink sand beaches and clear aquamarine ocean terrain and the over 300 colonial homes from the 18th and 19th centuries, according to Natasha Shephard of Dunmore Realty ( www.Dunmorerealty.com/ cell 242-333.3100 ). Leave your reef walkers at home as the beaches are literally pebble free. Harbour Island is also “cartville” as golf carts are the major mode of transportation on the island that measures only 3.5 x 1.5 miles in length and width.On the other side of the bay is Eleuthera, the so-called breadbasket of the Bahamas. It measures 110 miles long but only five-minute ferry ride by Captain Jack, the fleet’s leader from Three Point Dock on Harbour Island. Here we found Anthony “Coolie” and his wife, Diane, aka Lady Di, the legendary pineapple grower in the town of Gregory, hovering over their prized pineapple outcrop. We left her with one huge pineapple in hand which lasted 3 days thanks to our able guide,Glenda Johnson( gjjohnson@bahamas.com/ 1-242-332.2142 ) It was absolutely delicious. Before we left, though, we were introduced to Preacher’s Cave, a slave quarter situated inside a huge rock that once housed several hundred slaves brought there by one Captain William Sayle, a ship captain who sailed from an adjoining island. Shipwrecked, he found his way to this part of the island choosing religious freedom with 6648 slaves in tow. Another site, the Glass Window Bridge offered us a wide lookout from a promontory point overlooking the bay on two sides was especially noteworthy as was Hatch Town, a basalt rock cave that once held hundreds of bats in various seasons of the year. Another island across the bay is Spanish Wells. This is reputed to be the Red Lobster capital of the world and a haven for retired millionaires we were told. The population here is only 2300. The biggest day of the year is “Junkanoo” in the islands, celebrated on December 26. It’s their national holiday and represents the roots and heritage of the Bahamian people.

For more on what to see and do in the Bahamas go: www.bahamas.com or www.facebook.com/ bahamas

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About The Author

Michael Zufolo, Producer/Co-Host of Let's Travel! Radio

Michael has been an active player in Media Relations and Marketing for the past 30 years with stints at The New York Times, Forbes, WOR Radio, TV Channel 11, Attenzione Magazine, et.al., and with participation in the Caribbean Tourism Org.,/ CTO, the Pacific Travel Assn./ PATA, the Foreign Press Assn./ FPA, and the International Society of Travel Writers/ ISTR. Libra/ America, his latest signature, provides travel opportunities to VIP travelers and groups world-wide. Let’s Travel! Radio is an extension of his experiences.

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