The song “Kokomo” had always inspired me to go to the Bahamas, with its connotations of sun, sea, snorkelling and holiday vibe.  Apart from that I knew nothing, so was surprised to learn the Bahamas was not actually in the Caribbean, but in the Atlantic, with Grand Bahama about 163 km south east of West Palm Beach.  It is an independent country with a British heritage and is still a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. There are 16 major islands and hundreds of cays in the group, but the main ones are Grand Bahama and New Providence, of which Nassau is the capital. The cruise line provided a continuous cruise shuttle out of West Palm Beach FL for those who just want a day on Grand Bahama, or you could stay a couple of days like we did in Freeport, the Bahamas’ second largest city, specifically at the Flamingo Bay Resort which shares facilities with the Taino Beach Resort. That resort has the largest pool on the island with a hidden swim-up bar in a grotto, over which the waterslide curls and propels its riders into the pool below. It’s a temptation to visit during happy hour to get the two for one special cocktails and follow it up with an exhilarating slide! We certainly did.

The Flamingo Bay has its own marina from where you can take various boat trips and snorkelling excursions, as well as take the water shuttle into Port Lucaya Marina and Marketplace for the shopping and restaurants, as well as the casino. Our room looked out on to the marina, so it was very convenient. We took the snorkelling trip straight out from Taino Beach to a very pretty reef filled with colourful coral and many types of fish, including the resident barracuda and some stingrays. Hubby also managed to get in another round of golf at the Reef Course while I hit the shops. The Reef Golf Course is regarded as one of the Caribbean’s finest, being based on Scottish-style courses.

The Port Lucaya Marketplace is the largest shopping, dining and entertainment open air facility in the Bahamas, with over forty specialty stores and boutiques, eleven restaurants with all sorts of cuisines and eleven bars – even an Irish Pub!  Built to emulate the 19th-century building style of Old Bahamas, it boasts of a wide variety of Duty-Free stores, two generously stocked Straw Markets, two Craft Centres and Push Carts filled with Bahamian craft and souvenir items. And in the evenings the Count Basie Square hosts a band playing Bahamian music. We made sure to eat there at night by getting take-away so we could enjoy the musical entertainment. A couple of nights a week the restaurant on the foreshore at Taino Beach puts on an all you can eat and drink buffet and bonfire, with a fire-dancer and lots of games for adults. It certainly was an entertaining night watching guest make fools of themselves!

Lucaya Square

Our time on the island concluded with a private taxi tour around  Port Lucaya, Freeport and the residential areas like Millionaire’s Row ( Grand Bahama’s version of Beverly Hills) and then what our driver called the “native” settlements, where she lived.  She explained that the earliest people on the islands were known as the Siboney, which later were replaced by an Arawak tribe called Taino or Lucayans, from which the Lucayan National Park, and the Port get their name.  However these disappeared with the conquest by Spain and the islands later were settled by the British, particularly those, who with their slaves, were expelled from the American colonies after their independence. So the current “native” population is made up of the descendants of the emancipated slaves.

The Lucayan National Park is a major draw card and boasts an intricate underwater cave system, but we did not have time to explore it. We did see where the annual hurricane onslaughts had done their damage to vegetation and buildings. At the time of our visit there was still much needing repair. But the popularity and proximity of the Bahamas for US holiday makers will help the community restore itself once tourism opens up again.

Flamingo Bay Marina

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