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The Hidden Islands of the Bahamas: The Turks & Caicos, Acklins, Inaguas & Beyond

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Based on our larger guide to all of the Bahamas, this one focuses on the Acklins & Crooked Island, the Turks & Caicos, Berry Islands, Cat Island, Inaguas, Long Island, San Salvador & Rum Cay. These islands are not for those vacationers who are looking for the high life, nightlife or wild times under the sun. But if you're looking for a week or so of sun, sand and relaxation, or if you're looking for some fine offshore fishing, or scuba diving, then the Turks and Caicos might be the place for you. Comprised of about 40 small islands and cays, the Turks and Caicos are ecologically pure. The waters are unpolluted; the beaches are clean and pristine; the population is friendly and outgoing. Ecologists will find Rum Cay to be something special. Completely unspoiled, and just as it must have been when Christopher Columbus first set foot on San Salvador next door, it's a microcosm of the islands: gently rolling hills, deserted beaches, limestone caves, deserted farms, salt ponds, and seas where the visibility underwater approaches 200 feet. On the Caribbean side of Long Island, long stretches of sugar-white beach stretch for miles in either direction. They are mostly deserted and rank among the best beaches in the world. Best of all, the beach at Cape Santa Maria is truly a paradise, a four-mile crescent of pristine white powder that almost encircles a magnificent stretch of turquoise water, and the chances are you'll have it all to yourself. It must be seen to be believed. The terrain inland is hilly and jagged cliffs of coral drop steeply to meet the surging ocean. This is the garden island of the Bahamas. Fertile fields produce a variety of vegetables and local fruits. Beyond the fields, among the hills, the island is riddled with limestone caves and blue holes. The most southerly and most remote of the Out Islands, the Inaguas, with fewer than 1,200 inhabitants living on Great Inagua, are also the most sparsely populated. The third largest of the islands, this is the Bahamas' answer to the Galapagos Islands. Wildlife still reigns over most of the rocky shorelines and uninhabited Little Inagua to the north. You can walk for miles along the deserted, rocky coast and spend long days bird-watching, fishing or bicycling. Named for a British sea captain, Cat Island is one of the most beautiful in the Bahamas: 50 square miles of tranquility, rolling hills and lush green forests. It's a peaceful retreat of great natural beauty, with a way of life that's quiet and relaxed. For a remote and tranquil vacation, you might choose the Acklins or Crooked Island. 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. 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. "This is a highly informative guidebook that reviews both the obvious and obscure. The Bahamas has so much to offer and this book really manages to cover quite a bit. I highly recommend it for someone that wants an insight into each of the islands that make up the Bahamas." -- GlobehoundÊ "Now in an updated fourth edition, The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos is a travel guide the 700+ islands of the Bahamas as well as the Turks and Caicos. Fabulously illustrated with full color photographs on virtually every page, The guide describes the best hotels in different price ranges, restaurants, dive sites, dive operators, tours, fishing guides, historic forts and pirate hideouts, where one can walk through tropical forests or play with dolphins, find duty-free shops with bargains, and much more. An easy-to-use, reader-friendly field guide. Highly recommended for tourists and business travelers alike." -- Midwest Book Review

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The Acklins & Crooked Island

ePub

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.

 

The Berry Islands

ePub

Less than 35 miles to the north of Nassau, close to the fishing grounds on the eastern edge of the Great Bahama Bank, these little-known islands have long been a favorite stop for divers, anglers and yachtsmen. There's not much to them; just 12 square miles of land scattered across a dozen, or so, small cays, most of them privately owned. Small and isolated as the archipelago is, there's plenty for the outdoor enthusiast to see and do. Tiny communities with colorful names - Cockroach Cay, Goat Cay, Hog Cay, Devil's Cay - conjure images of James Bond. Divers can explore the coral reefs off Mamma Rhoda Rock and unidentified sunken ships.

Anglers know the Berrys are renowned for championship sport fishing and that they can hunt the "big one" on the Banks, or just off-shore in the deep blue waters to the east. Naturalists can walk the deserted beaches, ply the waters between the islands in a rented boat and perhaps visit the private bird sanctuary on Bond's Cay. These islands are perfect for yachtsmen; they lend themselves beautifully to inter-island day-sailing.

 

Cat Island

ePub

Named for a British sea captain, Cat Island is one of the most beautiful in the Bahamas: 50 square miles of tranquility, rolling hills and lush green forests. It's a peaceful retreat of great natural beauty, with a way of life that's quiet and relaxed.

You can enjoy endless miles of wind-blown beaches, explore the Arawak Indian Caves near Port Howe, and follow the stations of the cross to the island's highest point, the peak of Mount Alverina at 206 feet. At the top is The Hermitage, a miniature abbey built by Father Jerome Hawes, by hand, during the early part of the 20th century.

I During the 17th century, the island was known as San Salvador, the same name as that of the tiny island just to the southeast where, so the story goes, Columbus first landed in 1492.

Cat Island is not on any list of tourist destinations. It's a distant stop on sailing routes southeast beyond Nassau and Eleuthera. Time goes by slowly; electricity and running water are luxuries. The island's residents make their living farming or fishing, and visitors spend their days quietly: swimming, hiking, visiting the ruins of Colonial plantations, or simply contemplating the great natural beauty of the island.

 

The Inaguas

ePub

The most southerly and most remote of the Out Islands, the Inaguas, with fewer than 1,200 inhabitants living on Great Inagua, are also the most sparsely populated. Almost all of the locals work for the Morton Salt Company. Very few tourists make it this far out. Those that do are in for a rare experience. The third largest of the islands, this is the Bahamas' answer to the Galapagos Islands. Here is a land where wildlife still reigns over most of the rocky shorelines and uninhabited Little Inagua just to the north. This not the place for the casual vacationer in search of lazy days in the sunshine, nightlife and full-service hotels. If you're an outdoor adventurer, however, this is the place for you. You can walk for miles along the deserted, rocky coast (sandy beaches are few and far between) and spend long days bird-watching, fishing or bicycling. It's not the easiest place to reach, either. You'll need the services of a creative travel agent.

You've a couple of options, neither of them very convenient.

 

Long Island

ePub

Long Island is, well, long. How long is debatable; nobody seems to know, exactly. Some references say it's 60 miles long; others say 70 miles; still others say it's 100 miles long. But if you get hold of a good map, you'll see by the scale that it is a little more than 60 miles from one end to the other, and not more than a mile wide; in places, no more than a half-mile wide. It is, however, one of the most scenic of the Out Islands, with starkly contrasting coastlines east and west. On the Atlantic side the coast is a lonely, rocky stretch more reminiscent of New England than the Bahamas. On the Caribbean side, long stretches of sugar-white beach stretch for miles in either direction. They are mostly deserted and rank among the best beaches in the world. Best of all, the beach at Cape Santa Maria is truly a paradise, a four-mile crescent of pristine white powder that almost encircles a magnificent stretch of turquoise water, and the chances are you'll have it all to yourself. It must be seen to be believed.

 

San Salvador

ePub

Northeast of Long Island, on the outer reaches of the Great Bahama Bank, lie two small islands, San Salvador and Rum Cay. They are just a couple of dots on the map. Fewer than 600 people live on San Salvador, and even fewer on Rum Cay. San Salvador is six miles wide and 12 miles long. It's a strange place where there's almost as much water inland as there is terra firma - brackish lakes joined one to the other by narrow, man-made waterways.

The island's one and only sizable community is Cockburn Town (pronounced "Coburn"). Named for Sir Francis Cockburn, Royal Governor of the Bahamas from 1837 until 1844, it's the capital of San Salvador and Rum Cay, its smaller, sister island just to the west.

They say it was here, in 1492, that Christopher Columbus first set foot ashore in the New World. Did he? There's a certain amount of evidence to support the theory, but some at National Geographic might beg to differ. Their choice is an island 65 miles farther south, Samana Cay.

At the time when Columbus made his historic landing, many of the islands, San Salvador included, were inhabited by Lucayan Indians. The explorers, and those that followed, quickly enslaved the Indians, shipped them out, and worked them to death. As an added bonus, they introduced the luckless Lucayans to a whole range of new diseases against which they had no defense. And so, by the mid-1500s, the Lucayans had been exterminated.

 

Rum Cay

ePub

This tiny island to the west of San Salvador has a population of less than 150. It's a pleasant, though remote, spot on the map, accessible only by private boat and mail boat. Unless you're a sailor with a boat of your own upon which you can live while you're there, Rum Cay is not the place for an extended vacation. You could visit by mail boat, but that would mean a stay on the island of slightly more than two days, and the only hotel was, at the time of writing, closed indefinitely.

Ecologists will find Rum Cay to be something special. Completely unspoiled, and just as it must have been when Christopher Columbus first set foot on San Salvador, it's a microcosm of the islands: gently rolling hills, deserted beaches, limestone caves, deserted farms, salt ponds, and seas where the visibility underwater approaches 200 feet.

If you do decide to come here, be sure to visit Port Nelson. It's a friendly little place where you're sure of a warm welcome, and the opportunity to stock up on supplies. The town is reminiscent of those featured in movies of a type that were made only in the late 1940s and early 1950s; Donovan's Reef, starring John Wayne, and The Coral Reef, starring Gilbert Roland, are two that come to mind. There are a couple of places to eat where you can sample good food made only as the locals can.

 

Turks & Caicos Islands

ePub

Mention these islands to almost anyone and you're likely to receive, at the very least, a couple of raised eyebrows and a query: "Who? What? Where?"

Very few casual travelers have heard of the tiny group of islands that lie just to the south and east of the Bahamas, and just to the north of the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and The Dominican Republic) on the upper reaches of the Caribbean. But gradually the word is getting out. These little islands are a rare undiscovered, unspoiled paradise.

The Turks and Caicos comprise two groups. A half-dozen small islands to the south and east of the Bahamian archipelago make up the Turks, of which Grand Turk and Salt Cay are the ports of entry. To the west and north are the larger islands of the Caicos group, for which Providenciales (locally known as Provo) is the port of entry, and the islands' center of tourism.

Those who claim to know these things assert that it was in these islands that Christopher Columbus first made landfall, not on San Salvador in the Bahamas. Several prominent historians have made the case for Grand Turk. What is known is that Columbus's flag ship, Santa Maria, sank in local waters just to the south of the island group on Christmas night, 1492.

 

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