More than an astounding 700 Caribbean islands, islets and cays stretching over 5000 square miles of Atlantic Ocean make up this colourful Commonwealth nation. Strategically located between Cuba and the US, the beautiful Bahamas, like the best of us, bare the marks of many a complicated relationship. A source of great contention since the arrival of Columbus, through Spanish and English colonists, countless slave ships, and hoards of marauding pirates, until independence in 1973, the islands have absorbed a mix of flavours, languages, and customs which reflect a fascinating past while retaining a fiercely proud national identity.
Low season Bahamas: Mid- April to Mid-Dec.
1. Swim with a piglet
Where: Big Major Cay, The Exumas
Among the 365 tiny Exumas Islands, lies Big Major Cay, home of celebrities and billionaires and…. dozens of adorable swimming pigs and piglets. Exactly how and why they arrived on the white-sanded beaches seems the stuff of legends, but these porkers are certainly loving life here now, splashing about among the sleepy cats and handful of humans that inhabit the Exuma chain. Go join them – swimming with dolphins is so over.
2. Taste Conch Salad
Bahamian cuisine blends deep southern state flavours with a Caribbean love of spices into a delicious taste sensation combo. Think rice and peas and johnnycake meets spicy fresh seafood.
An all-time traditional favourite is a mouth-watering conch salad. This ceviche-style dish takes uncooked conch meat marinated in a spicy pepper sauce with heaps of citrus, tomatoes, green peppers, and cucumber. Left to slowly meld, the acidic citrus juices do their work and the result is amazing.
3. Snorkel with Mermaids
Where: The Abaco Islands
We love the clear water of the less frequented Abacos chain for great snorkelling opportunities. Each isle has stunning sites you can reach directly from the beach, or take a short boat ride to experience a greater variety of marine life. Our favourite is Mermaid Reef off Great Abaco. You’ll spot trumpet fish, sea turtles, moray eels, butterfly fish. We haven’t seen a mermaid yet, but keep an open mind, because you never know.
4. Discover the stories of pirates
Where: Pirates of Nassau, Nassau
“Well, shiver me timbers”, you’ll learn all about a pirate’s life here in at this interactive Nassau exhibit. The capital of the Bahamas, the city played an important role in the Golden Age of Piracy, from 1690 until 1720. Set foot on board a proper pirate frigate, learn where famous pirate sayings came from and explore a quayside shantytown. Great fun for kids and adults – just be careful not to walk the plank.
4. Learn to dive
Where: Andros Barrier Reef
If you enjoy the underwater world, you won’t be disappointed with the Bahamas. Discover sunken Spanish galleons, fish-filled fault lines, underwater caves, colourful coral reefs, and even the abandoned wreck of Cuban train carriages. We recommend the Andros Barrier Reef, the world’s third-largest fringing barrier reef. The site caters for beginners and experienced divers, offers the opportunity to dive with reef sharks, turtles and rays, and to experience the phenomenon of the mysterious blue-holes.
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