Today I want to share with you my short trip to Nassau, the main island of The Bahamas.
At first when you are told of Bahamas, you think about white sand beaches, palm trees, relax… well, yes, it is, but it is not the main in Nassau.
The Island history is quite interesting, you may have watched the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, do you remember the place where every single pirate use to drop the anchor, Turtle Island? Well, that was Nassau time ago. At the 18th century, due to the lack of governor, pirates outnumbered the population of the island and so they took it over. Nassau was proclaimed as a Pirate republic and different pirates took the governorship, even one that may sound you familiar, Edward Teach, aka ‘Blackbeard’.
If you want to know more you have to visit the Pirate museum, located at Nassau Downtown, due to lack of time I didn’t visited it, must do it for the next time.
Well I was pretty excited when I arrived to the island, I had not been at the Caribbean and I really wanted to experience all I have watched about, their culture, people, of course, beaches and tropical nature, fruit…
The first thing I noticed was the weather, of course, coming from New York in winter… however, it wasn’t too hot, it was actually pretty gentle but cloudy and a bit humid. Nothing to complain about as in NY it was snowing a couple of weeks before.
Once in the terminal, ready to cope with customs and boarder officers I really wanted to experience the Caribbean warm and kindness… far from that, people resulted a bit rude. When talking to them they react as if you were bothering them… and they made no effort to ease any of the paper work…
Finally after an hour we made it to the taxi stop and took a cabbie to reach our accommodation. I had booked by the apartment by Airbnb, not far from the city centre, located in a residential area.
The ride was very interesting as our taxi driver introduced us some places to visit in the island and gave us some valuable advices. I reckon that he changed my thoughts after the people we met at the airport.
He dropped us off at the accommodation, all along we passed through some areas that from tourist eyes looked a bit dodgy, but we felt relieved when we arrived to our apartment.
The place was pretty cool, a huge living room with onsite kitchen, a proper bathroom and a room with two twin beds and a TV with satellite. I reckon that the place was comfy and handy; we did a great catch with that. The owners of the house were a lovely and helpful couple. They lived just side by side, and they offer us their help for whatever we needed.
We chatted for a while as well about things to do the oncoming days, the necessity of hiring a car, some good advices about safety… I was not taken aback at all, as during my research of the island I heard about some safety issues, which our guests confirmed.
Apparently Nassau is safety, and as a tourist you don’t have to be afraid, but there are some areas were tourists are considered vaults, and are better to be avoided. Also the Island have two faces, before sunset and after sunset. Before the sunset everything is ok, there are plenty of tourists on the downtown. But after, everything changes, no tourist to sight around the cities… message is pretty clear.
As there were still a couple of daylight hours we decided to walk through the east coast to sightseen and buying some groceries at the supermarket.
The view from the shore was beautiful, despite of not being a proper sunny day. Beaches were clear and no person was there, it was a little bit chilly. We found out one of the forts that once served to defend the island.
We were brief at the supermarket, following the advice of our hosts we wanted to be back at home before sunset. And so we did, we got back just on time, 6.30pm and already at home without chance of going anywhere… At least we could rest and have a proper homemade dinner.
Pretty lazy morning, weather and environment was so great that I slept a lot, and when I had breakfast it was around 11am. While having breakfast, mum and me concur in the fact that without a car we wouldn’t get nothing from the island, so we called our hosts for help in hiring a car.
They were pretty helpful and kind as they drove us to different car rental companies until we match what we were looking for. The problem was that all the paper work took a while, and so by the time we were leaving the park it was already 1pm.
Driving in Nassau is not difficult, but it’s pretty odd, they are a left drive country, but only the Japanese cars have the wheel on the right side… so it’s a little bit chaotic to see cars with the wheel in both sides. Also and advice when driving in Nassau, roads are easy to follow, as there are only a couple of roads. The problem is the traffic jam of peak hours. The main road is usually stuck at 6pm, as everybody leaves Paradise Island and Nassau Downtown, so it’s crazy leaving the city.
Once with our own car we stopped at the supermarket to refill our fridge and afterwards we decided to indulge ourselves with some local food. For so, we went to an area recommended for both the taxi driver and our hosts, Arawak Cay, just 5 min drive from downtown, 40min if after 6pm.
Between the number of restaurants and pubs around, we choose one that had a beautiful balcony, great for the views. We ordered a combo of local food, starred by the conch, a sort of huge shellfood that we say the day before at a wharf. It was pricey, as everything, prices are the same you can find in the USA, even though the PIB of the country is not even half. The food was pretty good and tasty; no doubt that it was fresh catch.
Having fulfilled our stomach, we drove to the downtown to experience the city. It was already 5pm so many places were on the verge of closing. We did a short walk between the main buildings, beautiful tropical buildings, full of colors, made of wood.
Something that caught our attention was a store from the main brand of the island, Turtle, they sell Rum, and Rum Cakes. Attracted by a notice board that mentions free samples we just entered in to try it. I never drink alcoholic drinks, as I dislike the taste, however, those rum cakes were sooo yummy, we couldn’t but just eat a sample so we bought one for home.
We had dinner at home and, no surprise, we finished all the rum cake, hahaha
With the advantage of the car we planned to reach the very west of the island, Jaws Bay, a beautiful beach with an outstanding coral formation all along. The day was cloudy and not at all hot but at least the sight of the coral made worth the visit.
We drove the island from east to west in less than an hour, the main road was very well maintained and some areas you even have two lines per way. Outside the city all you find is resorts, no villages or buildings, just a couple of pints with resorts around the airport with shopping centers, not really what I expected for the Caribbean, it resembled a North American place.
Jaws bay was empty and what firstly surprised me was a huge residential area, private, of course, with double fences around the perimeter and their own access to open sea for boats. From the outside you can see but the top of the big mansions as there is a forest to ensure privacy for the owners.
About the really interesting, Jaws bay, I could have spent hours there just admiring the beauty and diversity around. Coral was magnificent; it was like watching little mountains with its different shapes and formations. As a world in miniature, there was lots of sea life, impressive and colorful. While we stayed there we saw a couple of tourists going to catch some shells. I was lucky as to find a conch shell, quite pretty that I brought home as a souvenir.
After Jaws bay we still wanted to take a swim so we tried to find a public beach around with better conditions, as jaws bay was pretty wavy.
Advice, in Nassau there are no private beaches, all the 90% are public, having said that, it is bloody hard to reach them. Meaning, Beach are public, you are allowed to enter, take a swim, or do whatever you do on the beach, the problem is to reach them. All the resorts and building complex are private, just for guests, and all the shore is packed with them one next to another with literally no space in between. As a result, you can’t reach the beach.
There are just a couple of points along the north coast where you have walks to reach the sand. We made it in Paradise Island, we found a couple of places, one was closed for safety reasons, currents were quite strong and they decided to close the beach. The second one let us stay at the sand for a while but it was windy and slightly cold.
We spent the end of the day at the downtown, we walk through the hill where the Water Tower remains, beautiful views of the city from here. Entrance is only allowed for a small amount, I do not think it’s worth it. Before taking the car back home we bought another rum cake.
It was the day D, rid of being in the Caribbean but not having had a swim we booked a cruise to Blue Lagoon Island, an isolated island just an hour by ferry from Paradise Island. The island is les than 2 kms and it’s just an attraction island, no homes, just a couple of shelters and small places to store the utensils to maintain the island.
Taking the cruise was a bit of an adventure. The previous days the weather was not very good so we didn’t dare to book in advance something that required 100% good weather. So when we woke up and saw that it was a sunny and warm day, we drove straightaway to Paradise Island where the ferry terminal is located. We were on a rush as the ferry was departing at 10.30 and it was 10 or so.
When in the island, the ferry terminal is not well noticed so it took us a while to find out where it was. Once we reach it, there was no parking, so I just stopped next to the counter for my mum to ask if we were still on time. Luckily we were on time, but just have like 5 min to board. One of the members of the staff knocked my window and told me to leave him the car and keys and he would take care of the car… it was really awkward all the situation but we have no time so I leave him with the car and prayed for not finding it deep in the sea.
The sail was very nice; the sea was calm and the sun warm enough as to enjoy the cruise.
Blue Lagoon Island is the perfect place to spend one whole day as you imagine in the Caribbean, in the middle of the island there is an overture where the sea water enters and remains inside, calm blue sea water. For making it more amusing, they have placed inflatables, kayaks, and snorkeling stuff. Even there is an area where they have dolphins, sting rays and sea lions, for a fee you can swim with them and take pictures.
Around the island the North part have many open waters beaches, due to the currents many were red flagged, and south of the island there is a fort tower, only reachable by Segway tour, not because it’s far but because is one of the attractions.
To complete the complex, a couple of sport fields for beach volley and beach soccer, changing rooms as well as restrooms, a souvenir store and a bar restaurant where to have lunch and some drinks during the promenade.
Overall, the day was great, sun, beach, food, at least one Caribbean day.
As it was our last night we decided to try a different place at Arawak Cay. Our choice was the one which the taxi driver recommended us the first day. We rather try this time fritter conch and grilled seafood that resulted in stew seafood. Everything was exquisite, even the waitress was quite friendly with us, apparently that was her last week there after 5 years, she quitted to find her future abroad, I can buy that, honestly.
There was no time for tourism or anything else, we just drop off the car and went to the airport. The only thing, was a store inside the airport of Turtle products, among all a pack of 6 rum cakes, that we bought and brought home to remember our days at Bahamas.
Conclusions and thoughts.
Let me first point out that as I have only been at Nassau, what I am going to write is just about it, it is not necessarily the same for all the Bahamian Islands.
Having said that, I think Nassau is not what you have in mind when you go to the Caribbean. Nassau can only be considered as a beach paradise destination for wealthy people that stays at the massive resorts, or those who reach the island in one of those transatlantic cruises, I saw 6 at a time anchored at the port. Everything is price in accordance to tourists, no locals, and so it’s a problem.
Many locals can’t afford the prices and it makes some areas unsafe. From sunset, when tourists leave to their cruises or resorts and the amount of police on the streets drops (at peak hours, the main street have no less than two police officers each 300m, dressed up with formal police clothes) you can feel that some locals blame their situation on tourists and you can feel a little bit harassed (not our case, but I saw a couple of situations next to the wharf (accordingly fenced all around).
Under my humble opinion Nassau is a case of the damage tourism can come with for certain places. Irresponsible tourism have spoiled the island, culture and population, it all turned into a tourist focused place.
That made me realize how important is to visit places embrace new cultures, experience the environment, have the best of each trip, but we have to be aware of the negative effect we can have. We must be responsible travellers and respect the places we visit, respect their culture, not trying to impose our standards and make them change their way of being just to make us comfortable.
Respect the environment, we have to enjoy it as it is and try to preserve it the same for the wildlife and people who lives there, we are guests and so is our responsibility to maintain it.
Well guys, I hope you enjoyed the review. With that I invite you to visit Nassau, but seriously, don’t expect the stereotype of Caribbean place, for that try other of the islands, Bahamas have around 600 hundred. I will go again, at least to try the conch and rum cake again, hahaha.
Kisses for ladies hugs for gentlemen.