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The Islands

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Welcome to The Islands

The Islands

With a subtropical climate, pristine beaches and top-class tourism infrastructure, it is no surprise that the islands and cays of the Bahamas archipelago are some of the world's top tourist destinations. Each island has its own charm and beauty, attracting thousands of visitors each year and offering something for everyone. Andros Island is not only the biggest of the islands, but also boasts the third biggest reef in the world, and is thus a haven for snorkellers and scuba divers. New Providence Island is a bustling hub of activity, with plenty of sights, sounds and activities for the visitor to enjoy. New Providence also provides easy ferry and car access to the resorts at neighbouring Paradise Island, as well as the fun and festivity of the nation's capital, Nassau.

The northernmost islands of North and South Bimini are the closest to the US, and draw serious fishermen seeking the catch of a lifetime. Named after the Greek word for freedom by English pilgrims seeking religious autonomy, Eleuthera Island, east of Andros, is a popular escape, with plenty to explore and enjoy.

The rest of the islands all have something to reel in the visitor and sunseekers, fishermen, sailors and watersports enthusiasts flock to these islands time and again to experience the magic of the Bahamas.

Information & Facts


In general the weather is good all year and the trade winds ensure that the temperatures remain relatively mild. There is little variation in temperature year round, but the coolest months are December to February, while the hottest are June to August. The rainy season extends from May to November when there is a slight chance of hurricanes. Peak season is between December and April. Generally the northern and western islands, including New Providence Island, are cooler than the southern islands.

English is the official language in the Bahamas.

The official currency is the Bahamian Dollar (BSD), which is divided into 100 cents. The Bahamian Dollar is equal in value to the US Dollar and both currencies are accepted throughout the islands. Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and many hotels. There are ATMs in the main tourist centres and credit and debit cards are widely accepted in all the big resorts. Travellers cheques can be changed at all banks, although those in US Dollars receive the best rates. Banks tend to be open from 9.30am to 3pm (Monday to Thursday) and 9.30am to 5pm (Fridays).

Local time in the Bahamas is GMT -5 (GMT -4 from first Sunday in April till last Sunday in October).

The chain of tiny Abacos islands cover 649 square miles (1,681sq km) and form the most northerly part of the Bahamas nation. Located only 200 miles (322km) from Miami, they are a popular holiday destination, and therefore fairly well developed for tourism. The two main islands, Great Abaco and neighbouring Little Abaco, are separated from each other by a narrow strait. They are often tagged the 'Loyalist Isles' because of the many Tory expatriates who fled there to avoid persecution after the American Revolution. The early Loyalist settlements are still much in evidence on the cays around Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco's main town. The accommodation on the island is fairly low-key and visitors are likely to stay in a small guesthouse by the beach or cottage near one of the many marinas. No glamorous resort complexes can be found here, but the sheltered waters around the islands make it a hotspot for yachters, and islanders claim it is the cruising capital of the world. There are also coral reefs to entice divers and inland pine forests that provide wonderful bird-watching and walking opportunities.

Andros is the largest island in the Bahamas and is a favourite for scuba divers and fishermen. The island is largely undeveloped, so the atmosphere is very casual and hotels tend to be small and unpretentious. Much of the island is covered with palm savannas, primeval forest and huge mangrove wetlands, making it a bird-watchers paradise. However, it is the underwater life that really makes Andros unique; it has the world's third largest reef running along its east coast for 167 miles (269km). Andros' most famous attractions are the Blue Holes, a network of water-filled caves, both inland and in the ocean, that draw scuba divers from all over the world. The colourful and unique marine life that lies below the tranquil surface makes Andros a fantastic spot for divers, snorkellers, and fishermen alike.

The Berry Islands are among the least busy in the Bahamas, and the perfect destination for those looking for the ultimate escape. The resorts in this archipelago are extremely exclusive, catering to wealthy travellers, big game fishermen, and yachters. The largest island is the Great Harbour Cay, a multi-million dollar resort which has hosted the likes of Cary Grant and Brigitte Bardot. The privately-owned Bond's Cay features a bird sanctuary. The beaches in the Berry Islands are known as the best shell-collecting spots in the Bahamas.

The Bimini group of islands in the Bahamas is 50 miles (80km) east of Miami and spans an area no larger than 10 square miles (26 sq km). The main island, North Bimini, is barely seven miles long (11km) and no more than 1,200ft (366m) across at its widest point. The islands are best known for the excellent fishing opportunities, with visitors from around the world coming here to test their skills and catch an array of fish including tuna, sailfish, mako shark, barracuda and, above all, blue marlin. Almost all the action happens in Alice Town, a laid-back town on the main island where fishermen gather to swap stories. During spring break in April the town becomes a little raucous with the arrival of enormous crowds of college students. Scuba divers are also lured by some mysterious stone blocks in the waters off North Bimini, which islanders claim are part of the Lost City of Atlantis.

For all animal lovers, Dolphin Encounters is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Visitors will get the chance to swim with the bottlenose dolphins, get a kiss, or just watch from the side. There are also opportunities to interact with sea lions. Dolphin Encounters is based on Salt Cay, roughly 3 miles (4.8km) northeast of Paradise Island.

Bahama's Out Islands have no resorts, no cruise ships, and no large crowds. Eleuthera, which stretches for almost 100 miles (161km) but is at most two miles (3km) wide, is the most popular of the group. Eleuthera, and especially its satellite, Harbour Island, just a short water-taxi ride away, have long been the holiday haunts of the fashionable set, sporting luxury hotels and fine restaurants that cater for trendy and wealthy visitors. The main entertainment here is sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling, shell-collecting and fishing. The scenery can be enjoyed through a meander along the coast, passing scenic headlands and wandering through villages dotted between dozens of pristine beaches.

The Exumas encompass a myriad of islands and cays that stretch for hundreds of miles. The largest, Great Exuma and Little Exuma, are home to the small community of several hundred island inhabitants, who farm the land and welcome tourists. Visitors usually arrive by yacht, as these islands offer legendary cruising opportunities, and if you come without sails, you will be tempted to hire a boat and make the most of the inviting waters. Most cays are edged with towering palm trees and expanses of white powdery beaches. The surrounding reefs have magical underwater gardens that draw scuba divers and snorkellers. The main destination for divers is the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, a 176-square-mile (456 sq km) natural underwater preserve, that can only be reached by seaplane or boat (charters can be arranged through the hotels).

Fifty miles (80km) east of Miami, Grand Bahama is an idyllic island of white beaches and aquamarine seas beneath which the coral reefs teem with life. Most visitors stay in Freeport, a few miles inland, or at the seaside suburb of Lucaya on the south coast of the island. Here you can sail, play golf or simply relax by the pool at one of the many all-inclusive resorts. In town there are plenty of boutiques and bazaars to tempt shoppers, and evenings can be spent at one of the many restaurants, after which those travellers with cash left in their wallets can head to one of the island's casinos. There is also much to entice divers and snorkellers. Outside Freeport, between Sweeting's Cay and Pelican Point are seven blue holes inviting exploration, and a little further west is Deadman's Reef, accessible from the powdery white beach at Paradise Cove. East of Freeport is the Lucayan National Park, home to the largest underwater cave system in the world. Walkers can enjoy the island's natural flora and fauna or hire a kayak and explore the mangrove creeks.

The resort is a private paradise, reserved for passengers who are tendered ashore to the pier from Holland America Line's cruise ships, and those who have paid for the pleasure will not be disappointed. Half Moon Cay (pronounced 'Key') is an island about 100 miles (161km) south of Nassau, capital of the Bahamas, and has been sensitively developed to preserve its natural assets and ecosystem, while ensuring it provides a fantastic day ashore for cruise passengers. The main attraction is the two-mile (3km) crescent of surreally beautiful beach, dotted with palm trees, adjacent to which are wonderful bird-watching opportunities in a well-preserved waterfowl nesting habitat. All the facilities at this pristine resort are connected by pathways, but those who prefer can catch a tram which runs continuously from the welcome centre to the food pavilion. Visitors wanting to cure their 'sea legs' can take some delightful walks along marked trails with descriptive signs pointing out the local trees, plants and birds.

Once the capital of the Bahamas, Harbour Island is home to Dunmore Town, whose flower-lined streets and colourful New England-style buildings are popular with tourists in the Bahamas. Harbour Island's main attraction, though, is the spectacular pink sand beach that takes advantage of the protection of a coral reef for tranquil waters and excellent swimming. The accommodation on Harbour Island caters mostly to wealthy travellers, especially along the "zillionaire's row" development.

One of the main events on the Bahamas yachting calendar is the Long Island Regatta, which takes place in the town of Salt Pond each May, drawing visitors from all around the world to one of the most beautiful and unspoilt islands of the Bahamas. The locals of Long Island still depend on fishing for their livelihood, while visitors revel in the shallow bays and white beaches of the western shore. The rugged windward coast features towering cliffs washed by wild waves. There are also some renowned offshore diving and snorkelling spots, and a spectacular view from the northern tip of the island at the site of a monument to Christopher Columbus, who enjoyed the vista when he came ashore in 1492. The island is also home to the deepest blue hole in the world, just north of Clarence Town.

Mayaguana is among the least developed islands in the Bahamas. With modern amenities few and far between, the island appeals to adventure travellers looking to experience the pristine wildlife of the area, including iguanas and bright pink flocks of flamingos. Scuba diving in Mayaguana is a top draw, especially in Abraham's Bay, and bone fishing is another popular activity. Be prepared before you visit Mayaguana, as there are no ATMs or banks, and credit cards are not widely accepted.

Connected to New Providence Island by a bridge, Paradise Island is one of the most popular destinations in the Bahamas. It offers a variety of beaches to suit a range of tastes. Most of the island's hotels and resorts are along Cable Beach, Paradise Beach or Cabbage Beach offering miles of white sand and outstanding watersport facilities. The Bahamas' capital city of Nassau is located here, or to escape the crowds one can head over to the secluded Caves Beach or Love Beach, a popular spot for snorkelling.

Pinetree Stables takes people on a 2-hour Bahamian horseback ride from Freeport on the top of the island, through an endangered Pine Tree forest, past a castle, and eventually over the dunes and onto the beach where more experienced riders can canter through the lapping water at the edge of the sea. No horse-riding experience is necessary, but the minimum age allowed is eight-years-old. This fantastic activity is a must for the whole family. Reservations are recommended.

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