Country number: 134
When? January 2016 – coming from Colombia. Next stop – Miami.
How? Local flights, taxis, bicycle, walking, a day at sea
Who knew that there were over 700 islands in the Bahamas? I’m on an archipelago of about 365 of them called the Exumas. (Amazing how often there are 365 of things isn’t it?). From my balcony I can see a sprinkling of them, peeking out of the water to form a picture perfect scene. Great Exuma is linked to Little Exuma by a bridge and there is one long highway that runs north to south along both of them. The islands have their own currency, in theory, but they take U.S. dollars everywhere (have these ex British colonies no pride?) and change is a mixture of both U.S. and Bahamian dollars.
A boat tour is mandatory here. It’s a hundred mile trip round all the outer cays. Most of them seem to be owned by the rich and famous and are rented out for ridiculous sums of money. (I refuse to refer to them as celebrities or ‘prestigious people’ as one leaflet has it.) There’s an underwater piano that – apparently- David Copperfield actually plays on and the grotto where they filmed Thunderball. We have to snorkel in through some precarious narrow rocky channels to get there. The islands also seem to form a giant petting zoo, if a slightly bizarre one. We feed lettuce to land iguanas, straddle nurse sharks and frolic with pigs who swim out to greet us (yes honestly).
It’s all stunningly beautiful but no need to feel envious- El Niño is perfidious and the weather has been awful for the last two days. There’s not much to do on a small island when it’s pelting with rain and blowing a gale. The power keeps going off and both the internet and the phone signal are intermittent even when it’s not raining. The South African owner of the hotel offers to take me fishing one stormy afternoon. I decline.
Friday and we’re back to perfect balmy weather. I’ve missed out on exploring and I only have one more day so I commission a taxi to take me on a tour of the beaches, all of the softest powdery white sand. Some are totally empty and stretch for miles, dipping round headlands. All are catch your breath gorgeous -for my money the best beaches in the Caribbean. The busiest holds about a dozen sunbathers. This is Tropic of Cancer Beach. No prizes for guessing where it is located. The water here is unbelievably clear and the deepest turquoise you can imagine. Fish lunch at Santana’s beach shack along the road is a must.
I’m beginning to think I’m jinxed. They won’t let me check in for Nassau as the computer says I’m due to fly tomorrow even though my e-ticket says today. And they say the plane is full. Eventually they let me on, but I notice that the last person to board gets shown to a seat in the cockpit. I wouldn’t have minded that one. Nassau itself is as expected- a typical cruise port conglomeration of pastel designer and duty shops interspersed with the odd older colonial edifice. The paintwork is all colour coded, yellow for education, pink for government, green for morticians and the police academy-(I suppose there’s a connection.)