Finding Paradise in the Bahamas
I’ve been to the Bahamas, I’ve been to the Bahamas one too many times, if you ask me. That is why when I was told I’d be going back, I was more excited about the yacht I was on, than the place I was going to. That is why the more I thought about the idea of heading back, the more I dreaded it. The crowded pools of the Atlantis, the tourist ridden streets by the port, the smoke filled casino, and the cheap liquor that flows day and night. I was excited because I could fish the waters off Nassau, but not excited for much more. I landed late on a Thursday night.
I’m not much of a gambler, but when in the Bahamas. So, I headed to the casino, I sat down at the roulette table with $100 in chips at 12:07 am. By 12:17 am, I was broke, stood up and reminded myself why I’m not much of a gambler. I will give it to Atlantis though; they have a perfectly placed tobacco shop in the middle of the smoke-filled casino. It is a tobacco shop stocked with some phenomenally overpriced cigars. I bought one.
12:37 am – a mere 30 minutes after sitting down at the roulette table, I was wiped, and walking out of the casino with a vodka induced light buzz. I boarded the yacht again and poured myself a cold one out of the readily available keg. I climbed to the top floor and fired up my cigar. Looking out into the marina, it dawned on me that I had it all wrong. I was not just going to experience Atlantis Bahamas, the cheap drink Bahamas, the Tanning lotion filled pools, and coconut smelling hotels, I was going to the last frontier of the Bahamas, the Exumas. Now I was psyched, fishing, sharks, swimming pigs, iguanas and sunken plane; I could feel the excitement build with every puff I took.
Somewhere between my third and fifth dream, I heard the bow thrusters fire up and the motors slowly drag us out of the busy marina early that Friday morning. By the time I woke up, there was no land anywhere around me, just hundreds of shades of blue and greens surrounding the churning boat. Smooth seas blessed us and we trotted to the Exumas. When we got there, my far fetched dream came true. We anchored off a mangrove island straight out of shark week, literally! The island was featured on Shark Week as tiger shark breeding grounds. Sure enough, it wasn’t more than 5 minutes and we had some toothy critters circling the boat.
The thought crossed my mind of not getting in the water. I put on my sunglasses and poured a cold Corona with lime and headed to the sun deck. The humidity and the heat made for a sticky situation, so I did what any rational person would do, I grabbed a life vest, a jet ski, and went to look for tiger sharks. Speeding every which way, I found myself in a small lagoon and I was overtaken with awe. I had to turn off the jet ski and just inhale it all in. If only I knew that it was just getting started.
I eventually had to turn the motor back on, lower my sunglasses, buckle my vest and zip out. I quickly find myself getting to a little island surrounded by shallows. I ran aground 100 feet from the beach. I pushed the ski out and rounded the island to find that it was inhabited and private, but I kept going. All of a sudden, I found Hawk’s Bill Cay. At the time, I wouldn’t know it but I had found paradise.
The next day, we boarded the fast center consoles that could go through the canals and the shallower waters. The sand banks created pools, and the pools created their own eco systems. The water was crystal clear and the sand, white and soft like talcum. The sun was strong but with the salty water from the Caribbean, you didn’t need a sun bed, you simply needed to lay on your back and float. As the rosé and beer flowed, the sun set. With the falling sun, the tide rose, the waves erased our footprints and we got on the boat leaving paradise behind us. We found it, I thought to myself, we found paradise.
Day after day, view after view, I convinced myself that paradise might just be closer to home than I thought. The internet told me I had to go to Bali, Tahiti, and Fiji to find beaches untouched and crystal oceans and here I was, floating in paradise, only a couple hours from home. As the week came to a close and my dream had taken form, I was missing one thing, seeing a barracuda. I grabbed a mask and dove off in an attempt to dive for a sea star I saw off the stern and when I turned around there it was. A barracuda still, staring, and eery. A 4 foot monster patiently seeking refuge under the yacht.