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Bahamas Adventure Guide

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We travel to grow _ our Adventure Guides show you how. Experience the places you visit more directly, freshly, intensely than you would otherwise _ sometimes best done on foot, in a canoe, or through cultural adventures like art courses, cooking classes, learning the language, meeting the people, joining in the festivals and celebrations. This can make your trip life-changing, unforgettable. All of the detailed information you need is here about the hotels, restaurants, shopping, sightseeing. But we also lead you to new discoveries, turning corners you haven't turned before, helping you to interact with the world in new ways. That's what makes our Adventure Guides unique. Print edition is 368 pages. Photographs throughout. A newly updated edition with the latest information on the best hotels in all price categories, restaurants, dive sites, dive operators, fishing guides and much, much more. You'll find more information on these islands here than in any other guide, with thorough coverage of the Turks & Caicos as well. Comprised of over 700 dazzling islands, the Bahamas were once the playground of pirates. Modern travelers can find a different kind of adventure here, be they divers exploring a shipwreck, honeymooners beachcombing near a secluded cove, or gamblers touring the casinos of Paradise Island. This can indeed be a paradise if you are well-prepared. This guide is the best way to prepare, whether you want to explore the British forts and tropical forests, play with dolphins in the surf, seek duty-free bargains, or pay a visit to the Out Islands, where the residents are among the friendliest people in the world. The best accommodations and restaurants, sailing, horseback riding, fishing, kayaking, diving, hiking, shopping, how to get around, sightseeing, entertainment, gambling, climate, banking, medical care, history and culture.

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About the Bahamas

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The Bahamas lie scattered across more than 100,000 square miles of the western Atlantic Ocean. From a point roughly 70 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida, the great archipelago extends some 750 miles southward toward the northern Caribbean, almost to the island of Hispaniola.

The islands that make up the Bahamas are generally low and flat. The highest point in the entire archipelago, on Cat Island, is just 206 feet above sea level. Except on Andros, the largest island of the chain, there are no rivers or streams. Apart from New Providence - where fresh water is shipped in daily from Andros, pumped from wells dug into the underlying rocks - fresh water is abundant.

 

 

 

The Bahamas from space

 

Because the islands are no more than the exposed top portions of the Great Bahama Bank, an extension of the North American continental shelf, there are only three deep-water channels suitable for the passage of large vessels.

Of the 700 islands and 2,000 islets, called cays (keys), making up the archipelago, only about 30 are inhabited. Some are little more than boulders that appear and disappear with the rise and fall of the ocean. Some are long and thin and stretch for many miles. Still others are home to thousands of busy people. The vast majority of the islands, however, are deserted, with pristine beaches and tropical forests that are untouched by humans.

 

A Land of Adventure

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Nassau & New Providence

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New Providence was first settled by the English in 1656. The colony was administered, somewhat loosely, by the colonial government on the North American mainland. During the early years, the people of the little settlement of Charles Town lived their lives without much interference from the outside world. Then the island became a haven and base of operations for pirates, who raided the Spanish fleets plying the seas homeward to Cadiz laden with the king's treasures from the New World. It wasn't long before the Spanish Governor General decided that enough was enough, and Spain invaded the island. Spanish occupation of the island was, however, short-lived; there was a new king on the English throne, who was ready to exert his power.

Charles Town was renamed Nassau in honor of King William of Orange-Nassau, and the pirates returned to the island. Men like Blackbeard, Major Bonnet and Calico Jack Rackham set up shop and soon became more active than ever. Privateers sailing under royal sanction from the Netherlands, France and England soon joined them, making the voyage from the New World to Spain extremely hazardous.

 

Grand Bahama

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Grand Bahama is the fourth-largest of the Bahamian islands, and Freeport is the second largest city. The island's modern history began in the 1950s with the development of Freeport and Lucaya.

The first inhabitants of the islands were Stone-Age Indians from Cuba. They were replaced almost 1,000 years ago by the Lucayans. They, in turn, were displaced and pretty well exterminated with the arrival of the Europeans shortly after Columbus discovered the islands in 1492. From then on, Grand Bahama was the forgotten island of the Bahamas. Except for the occasional band of pirates or loyalists, it remained virtually uninhabited for almost 300 years.

Grand Bahama was given its name by the Spanish - "gran bajamar" means "great shallows" - for the vast reaches of flats and shoals in the waters off the island.

The first permanent settlers arrived during the late 19th century. Most of them scratched out a living from the sea as fishermen, or by harvesting the abundant timber from the land. During the American Civil War, the small population declined even further when people began abandoning their farms and flocked to Nassau to join the economic boom brought by the blockade runners. Prohibition in America during the 1920s created something of a mini-boom in the island's economy when the rumrunners moved in. But the new prosperity was short-lived.

 

The Out Islands

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Beyond Nassau and Freeport lie the 13 inhabited islands or island groups that make up the Out Islands of The Bahamas. These are the Abacos, Andros, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Long Island, Bimini, the Berry Islands, Crooked Island, San Salvador, the Inaguas, the Exumas, Ragged Island and Rum Cay. They are magical places, each with a character all its own. It's here in these tiny backwater paradises that adventures really begin. This is the land of the treasure hunter, scuba diver, beachcomber, explorer and hiker. It's where the old world ends and the new one begins, a land of emerald seas, snow-white sands and mysterious blue holes, where you can wander deserted beaches for hours on end and never set eyes on another living soul. Although there are no shopping malls, night clubs, casinos or any of the other major attractions that lure visitors to the two main islands of the Bahamas, life goes on here much as it has for more than 300 years, quietly, unchanged.

These are the islands of romance where couples can leave the bustling mainland and all its distractions behind. Sunshine, warm breezes, tropical drinks, soft music and solitude make for an unforgettable experience. If, after a week together here in the Out Islands, you don't get to know one another intimately, you never will.

 

Other Islands

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For a remote and tranquil vacation, you might choose a secluded getaway on the Acklins or Crooked Island. Located almost as far south as you can go in the Out Islands, south of the Tropic of Cancer, beyond Long Island and the Exumas, these islands are accessible only by private boat or regularly scheduled flights on Bahamasair.

Here you'll discover sunswept shores, scenic coves and hidden bays. On Crooked Island there are caves, miles of creeks, tidal flats populated by record tarpon and bonefish. Days on these islands are spent swimming, snorkeling, fishing, visiting tiny churches and historic buildings while you stroll the streets of quaint little towns and villages, such as Snug Corner, Lovely Bay, Delectable Bay Spring Point, Pompey Bay and, on Cat Island, Pittstown Point, Colonel Hill, Landrail Point and Albert Town. In the evening, you'll wander deserted beaches, and enjoy a cool tropical drink as you watch the sun go down in a blaze of glory.

The history of these islands lies hidden in the mists of time; what's known for sure is that English loyalists from Virginia, fleeing the aftermath of the American Revolution, arrived here at the end of the 18th century, bringing with them hundreds of slaves. Soon, more than 40 plantations had been established, but they were short-lived. By 1825, most of them were in ruins, the result of one crop failure after another.

 

At a Glance

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Air Canada:tel. 888-247-2262, www.aircanada.com

Air Sunshine:tel. 800-327-8900, fax 954-359-8211,
www.airsunshine.com

American Airlines:tel. 800-433-7300

American Eagle:tel. 800-433-7300, www.aa.com

Bahamasair:tel. 800-222-4262, fax 305-593-6246,
www.bahamasair.com

Bel Air Transport:tel. 954-524-9814, fax 954-524-0115

Chalk's Ocean Airways:tel.800-424-2857,
www.chalksoceanairways.com

Delta:tel. 800-359-7664, www.delta.com

Gulfstream(Continental):tel.  800-525-0280, www.continental.com

Island Air Charters:tel. 800-444-9904, fax 954-760-9157

Island Express:tel. 954-359-0380, fax 954-359-7944

Jet Blue Airways:tel. 800-538-2583, www.jetblue.com

Lynx Air:tel. 954-491-7576, fax 954-491-8361

Major Air:tel. 242-352-5778, fax 242-352-5788

Pan Am Air Bridge:tel. 800-424-2557, fax 305-371-3259

Sandpiper Air: tel.242-328-7591, fax 242-328-5069

Southern Air: tel. 242-323-6833,
242-300-0155 (toll-free)

Spirit Airlines:tel. 242-377-6150

Twin Air:tel. 954-359-8266, fax 954-359-8271

USAirways Express:tel. 800-622-1015,
www.usairways.com

 

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