Nassau Bahamas - Do it the Bahamian Way
By: Jennifer Harpez
The Bahamas are steeped
in history, rich in tradition, and teeming with life. Nassau,
the capital city of the Bahamas, has propelled itself into the
modern era as a king of commerce, industry and communications
while still maintaining its old world charm via its well-kept
colonial architecture, markets, and local events.
The city is the largest
on the islands of the Bahamas, with a population of more than
150,000. Located on the island of New Providence, and linked
via bridge to the magical Paradise Island, Nassau is where one
can discover pristine beaches, fancy hotels, a hefty casino,
and entertainment to match that of Las Vegas.
The captivating history of the Bahamas resembles that of most
other Caribbean islands. There were pirates; there were Indians;
and there was Columbus.
About 7,000 years ago,
the Siboney Indians inhabited the islands of the Bahamas, surviving
on conch and fish. The Arawak Indians, also called Lucayans,
from South America followed. Unbelievably, the Lucayans rose
to a population close to 40,000 by the late 15th century, until
Chris Columbus arrived. As a result, the tribe was exterminated
quickly. Then, there were the people of Abacos, who survived
for years by pillaging ship wrecks off shore of the Bahamas.
Nassau was founded in
1656 and was actually ruled by pirates in 1700. Edward Teach,
a.k.a. Blackbeard, commandeered Fort Nassau as his residence
while consistently angering the British Royal Navy until Woodes
Rogers, a former privateer, was named Royal Governor of Nassau
in 1718. He gave pirates a break, by providing them pardons
in exchange for ceasing their operations. The only exception
was Blackbeard, and about nine other swashbucklers. The government
finally caught up with Blackbeard, killing him in the waters
off of Virginia in June 1718.
The people of the Bahamas
are proud of their history and how far they have come. From
oppression to celebration, the residents of the islands manage
to honor their background in various ways. They hold festivals,
set up exhibits and, of course, organize numerous guided tours.
Bahamians are very welcoming to tourists. They want you to join
them in their lifestyle. They want to spread the knowledge of
who they are and what they’ve come from.
There are some incredibly
unique historic facts about the islands. According to www.BahamasGateway.com,
“a stromatolite limestone reef on the eastern shore of
Exuma is considered the oldest evidence of life on earth?”
How about this…”there is said to be nearly 500 Spanish
galleons resting in the waters off these islands?” They
are both true, quite enticing, and seem to “tell the tale”
of the islands.
Today, Nassau boats one
of the major port-of-calls in the Caribbean, where enormous
cruise ships from all over the world sail into everyday. From
piracy to tourism, Nassau has come a long way in gaining economical
status in the Caribbean.
Interestingly, approximately 85 percent of Bahamians are of
African descent. Loyalists and Eleutheran seafarer descendants
make up the rest of the white population.
Although the culture is
made of a varied people, English is the main language of the
islands. The Bahamians are known for their friendliness and
love of music, entertainment, and religion.
The Bahamas have even
developed their very own tourism program designed to highlight
the amazing people of the islands. Developed by the Ministry
of Tourism, their “People to People” program offers
creative plans for helping visitors learn the real ways of the
Bahamians. Anyone interested in joining the program is arranged
a personal visit to a families’ home for a meal, to a
church service or social function, or on an exciting sight seeing
tour with an interpreter, among other events.
Demonstrating just how
the Bahamians are tourism friendly, more than 1,000 volunteers
offer their time for the People to People program, in Nassau
alone. The Ministry does a thorough job of screening volunteers,
and matching them with visitors or similar interests, age groups,
Things to Do, History,
Adventure, and More…
Stay a week, a month, even longer, and you won’t run out
of things to do in Nassau. There is plenty of duty-free shopping
opportunities. Look for crystal, china, leather, emeralds, and
more. While you are still fresh and energetic, visit the International
Bazaar, located beside the Royal Oasis Golf Resort & Casino.
You’ll find a collection of shops and restaurants there.
When you have satisfied
your shopping bug, head out to explore the many historic and
cultural sites in Nassau. Built in 1788, Fort Charlotte demonstrates
just what Nassau was all about in its infancy, detailed by its
moat, dungeons, and revealing view over the island.
Just a short walk from
the Water Tower is a unique architectural feature. The Queen’s
Staircase is a stairway made of stones, with 65 steps representing
each year of Queen Victoria’s rule. The staircase climbs
102 feet to Fort Fincastle and the Water Tower. During your
ascent you can enjoy a waterfall that cascades alongside the
staircase down to a shining pool at the bottom. Rainbows often
appear through the glistening waters.
For more lessons in the
curious Bahamian history make your way to Royal Victoria Gardens,
Pompey Museum, Roselawn Museum, or The Cloisters.
Nassau is kind to wildlife
and nature lovers. The Crystal Cay Marine Park is a first class
underwater park, which displays a space age design outside,
and a lesson of the island’s beginnings inside. Built
around an existing reef, guests can ponder a variety of exhibits
both above and below the surface.
To see and learn about
the native flora of Nassau, consider a visit to The Retreat,
the home of the Bahamas National Trust, where you can take a
self guided bird watching excursion.
For close encounters
with wildlife stop by Adrastra Gardens, a privately owned zoological
garden where you are sure to see the endangered Bahamian parrot,
monkeys, sloths, and the national bird…the flamingo.
There are many interactive
options for adventure in Nassau. Swim with the dolphins at Dolphin
Encounter, home of Flipper, or stay dry on the Seaworld Explorer,
a “semi-submarine”, which actually floats above
water, but offers a large undersea observatory, placing callers
five feet below the surface. It turns out to be a perfect location
to view rays, turtles, barracuda, and even sharks.
If you yearn to do some
sports fishing there are numerous options. Check out Chubasco
Charters. Captain Mike Russell will venture with you onto the
deep blue water on one of his four magnificent boats, and end
the day by grilling your catch of the day for you. Also, try
Born Free and Captain Philip Pinder. Captain Phil offers it
all - shark fishing, sightseeing, cruising, and snorkeling.
Diving and snorkeler enthusiasts
will find themselves in heaven amid the waters of Nassau. There
are shipwrecks galore off the coast in shallow and deep water.
Spanish treasure ships lie among coral reefs and caverns in
the deep clear waters. Bonefish, barracuda, sharks, eagle rays
and much, much more bring life to the wrecks. When it comes
to shipwreck sites and diving, there is so much to choose from
that one should look to an expert source for assistance. That
expert would be Stuart Cove’s Aqua Adventures. The owner,
Stuart Cove, has been diving in the Bahamas since the 70’s.
Today, he has dive programs for all levels and abilities, from
introduction programs to dives that put adventurers eye to eye
with Caribbean Reef Sharks. Snorkel trips and the new SUB aquanauts
are fabulous way for beginners to get underneath the sea…no
If birding is your thing,
check out Bahamas Outdoors. Owner Carolyn Wardle will lead you
on a intriguing tour of some of Nassau’s wetlands, or
the precious Bahamas National Trust Reserve. For a more athletic
day, set aside a half day to partake in Carolyn’s off-road
bike tour through forest, mangrove creeks, wetlands, and the
historic town of Adelaide. Carolyn is a certified ecotour guide
by the Ministry of Tourism.
You can not forget about the swimming with the dolphins in Nassau. You would go to a private island called Blue Lagoon where the famous film of the same name was filmed. If you have time on the island, you need to try this program.
The night life is hopping
in Nassau. You should try Bahamen's Culture Club behind the
Astoria Hotel, City Limits Disco, or Club Waterloo.
The climate in the Bahamas is outstanding, a tropical paradise.
You’ll encounter the best weather between December 15
and Easter. Keep in mind though, that the “off season”
is fabulous too, and rates are sure to be lower.
Getting There and Then
Fortunately, the breathtaking Bahamas is only a short excursion
away. Nassau is easily accessible via major US airline or cruise
ship. There are direct flights from many major U.S. cities.
Check the TropicalAdventure.com
for travel and bargain packages via tour outfitters.
Once you’re there,
it’s a cinch to travel around. The roads are paved and
well maintained. Seek out Bay Street, the main highway that
flows east to west along the beach, and you’ll be in great
shape. If you rent a car, be prepared for honking, speeding
local motorists. They don’t adhere to the speed limit
of 40. Traveling around the island by bike might be a preferred,
more peaceful means of travel for some visitors. Cycling around
the island is easy. The terrain is flat, for the most part.
A day of cycling is most rewarding when you arrive at your final
destination…a sugar-white sand beach, with gentle blowing
warm winds and invitingly blue water.
Don’t set your expectations too high when it comes to
places to stay in Nassau. It is expensive to keep a place up,
due to high import costs, so many hotels become outdated very
quickly. The weather beating that buildings take in the Bahamas
also contributes to the wear and tear of hotels.
One thing you can expect is to have many choices in locally
owned small lodges. Bed and breakfasts an excellent choice in
The Parliament Inn, a
historic small hotel from the early 1930’s, is conveniently
located on Parliament Street, close to the shopping at Bay Street,
and Victorian Gardens.
Paradise Paradise is an
amiable hotel on the beach. The moderate rates are even more
attractive when you consider the access to a peaceful beach,
and daily bicycle tours are included in the price.
You can also expect that between December 15 and Easter hotels
book fast, so make your reservations early.
The Bahamas serves up an eclectic blend of cuisine, no matter
where you are on the islands. You’ll find food from around
the world, but never pass up an opportunity to dine on the fresh
local seafood, spicy local meats, or the season’s best
Dine at the Buena Vista
Restaurant, one of Nassau’s top spots for an intimate
setting and delicious French cuisine. The menu offers veal,
rack of lamb, and beef dishes.
For a more casual atmosphere,
try Passin’ Jacks, located on East Bay just east of the
Paradise Island Bridge, on the top floor of the Nassau Harbor
Club. With great views, and even better fresh seafood, Passin’
Jacks is one of the locals’ favorites. Try the cracked
conch, or the fresh boiled grouper.
Influenced by the American
South, Bahamian cuisine is a great choice for meals at home
too. Visit www.islandflave.com
for delicious recipes.
Legend or Myth, You
There is a legend that says that there are creatures roaming
the forests of Andros in the Bahamas. The Bahamas Travel Net
site says, “Andros, the largest island in The Bahamas,
is said to be the home of chickcharnies. These elfin, birdlike
creatures have piercing red eyes, three fingers, three toes
and a tail, which they use to hang from trees. Chickcharnies
live in the forest and build nests by joining two pine trees
together at the top. Since a large, three-toed, burrowing owl
lived in these forests until its extinction in the 16th century,
it could have been the inspiration for the legendary chickcharnie.
When sightseeing on Andros, carry flowers or bright bits of
cloth with you to charm these mischievous creatures. Legend
says if you see a chickcharnie and show it respect, you'll be
blessed with good luck for the rest of your life. Be careful
not to sneer at it, however, or your head will turn completely
With its pristine beaches,
festive culture, and inviting year-round climate, the Bahamas
has established itself as a favorite destination of travelers
from around the globe. Visit TropicalAdventure.com Quick
Adventure Search today to arrange your vacation in Nassau.