Introduction

The Bahamas stand out as a true paradise among the islands that make up the Caribbean. Just southeast of Florida in the United States, and north of Cuba, this jewel of the Atlantic is an island chain consisting of 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 rocks, that make up almost 14,000 kilometers of pure blue tropical waters and pristine beaches.

The aptly named Paradise Island comprises the best-known tourist destinations, with challenging golf courses, white sand beaches that nearly encompass the island, and some of the grandest, most sought after five star hotels available. Home to the world famous Atlantis Resort, with its 34-acre marine habitat and popular aquarium, Paradise Island is the ultimate location for the vacation of a lifetime.

From the lovely and artistic wood carvings in the shops throughout the islands, to the majestic tropical scenery and turquoise cays of crystal clear waters, there is more to see and do in the Bahamas than you can possibly accomplish in a single vacation.

People

With a growing population estimated at 309,156, the Bahamas has a rich and varied population consisting of African, European, and Asian descent.

Primarily made up of blacks between the ages of 15-64 years of age, the people of the Bahamas, or Bahamians, are a soft spoken and laid back people, typically found throughout the Caribbean. Quick with a smile and a greeting, the Bahamians are known for their pleasant, and easygoing ways. Even first time visitors cannot help but be impressed by the genuine friendliness, and gentle good will of the people of the Bahamas. Their unspoken motto echoes that of Will Rogers, in that they never meet a person they don't like.

Geography

All of islands that comprise the chain are normally low and flat, with ridges that rise approximately 49 to 66 ft. The highest point is Mount Alvernia on Cat Island, formerly known as Como Hill, with an elevation of 210 ft.

With a subtropical to tropical climate moderated by the waters of the Gulf Stream, the Bahamas enjoy a sunny, summer atmosphere year round. This provides for a great range of tropical flora and fauna with a countryside thick with lush palm trees and tropical flowers. It also provides the necessary climate for the many lush sugar cane plantations that dot the inner islands.

History

First discovered by the Spanish who followed in the wake of Columbus, the island chain of the Bahamas has a rich history.

It is estimated that the Taino people first migrated to the southern islands from South America around the 7th century AD, and were soon depopulated by the Spanish, who impressed them into slavery. Until the mid-17th century the islands remained, for all intents and purposes, uninhabited.

In 1648, English puritans established the first permanent European settlement on the islands, and by 1670 control of the islands was granted to the Lord Proprietors of the Carolinas. Under their rule, the Bahamas became notorious as a haven for the pirates who plundered the Caribbean, and an important port for the slave trade.

Many African slaves were used on the sugarcane plantations there, and the influx of gold from pirates made Nassau as infamous as Port Royal. To restore order, the British crown made the islands a British colony in 1718, and it remains a Commonwealth of the United Kingdom to this day.

Famous Attractions

The Outdoor Aquarium at Atlantis Resort:

The Outdoor Aquarium at the Atlantis Resort boasts a 34-acre marine habitat with 11 exhibit lagoons and pools that are home to over 200 species of marine life. Through a large acrylic walkway that travels through the habitat you are immersed directly inside the aquarium.

Lucayan National Park:

Lucayan National Park Kayak and Cave Tour on the Grand Bahama Island offers three different excursions for your pleasure. Kayaking, caving, and swimming are a single package on one of the island's most beautiful beaches. Paddle through a beautiful mangrove forest, followed by a picnic on Gold Beach, where you can take a swim, then enjoy a wondrous nature walk featuring several natural caves.

Blue Lagoon Island:

Just three miles from Nassau is Blue Lagoon Island where the world famous Dolphin Encounters makes it's home. Here you can swim with, and get to know, the most gentle of marine mammals up close and personal.

Nightlife

Contrary to popular belief, it is Cable Beach, not Nassau, that offers the best in nightlife entertainment. The Wyndham Nassau Resort and Casino not only hosts one of the largest casinos on the island, but it also houses an 800 seat theater, with grand shows running on the weekends and some week nights.

If you prefer Nassau proper as the source of your nighttime entertainment, then a variety of nightclubs and bars are available. Charlie's on the Beach is one of the oldest and most well known nightclubs in Nassau, and most of the Nassau night life can be found centering around Charlie's.

Culture

Although increasingly influenced by American customs, due to heavy tourism, Bahamian culture is a mix of African and European cultures. The predominant language of the islands is Bahamian English, a dialect of English influenced by Jamaican Patois and Bahamian Creole, although it should not be confused with either, but stands as a dialect all on it's own. Spoken by both black and white, it is often referred to by native Bahamians as "the dialect."

Christianity is the main religion of the Islands, with Baptist forming the bulk of the religion, followed by Anglicans, Catholics and Methodists. Seventh Day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses are also represented, as well as a number of small "home grown" churches.

Cuisine

While virtually any flavor of international food can be found in the Bahamas, Bahamian cuisine is a delicacy in its own right, consisting mainly of seafood. You will want to try an interesting local dish called conch (pronounced konk), which forms a staple of typical Bahamian meals. A firm, white, peach-fringed meat that comes from a large type of ocean mollusk it is usually served raw on it's own, or included as an ingredient in several seafood stews.

Fresh fish is also a favorite of the Bahamas, and a popular brunch consists of boiled fish served with grits. Fish stew made with celery, onions, tomatoes, and various spices, is another local specialty that is highly favored throughout the islands.

Bahamian cooking is always spicy, never bland, and flavored with local herbs, meats and produce. More than any other island in the Caribbean, Bahamian cuisine is the most influenced by the American South.