On a Bahamas trip, Andrew Doherty explores Nassau’s newest mega resort, Baha Mar, and goes off the beaten track to the Abaco Islands.
My muscles strain as I clamber up the wooden pole at the end of the jetty. Reaching the top, I catch a glimpse of the cheering swimmers below. With the rum punch-induced courage quickly fading and the wind picking up, it feels as if this impromptu dive wasn’t such a great idea after all.
I’m on an uninhabited cay in the Abaco Islands with local skippers and experienced divers Brendal and his son, Kyle.
“We’ll go on the count of three,” Kyle grins as he scales the other pole. “One, two, three!”
Before I have time to muster up a feeble excuse, he’s gone, slicing through the water like a Samurai sword. Miraculously I avoid belly flopping, which as a desk-bound Londoner, astonishes me. And despite what feels like half the ocean rushing up my nostrils, I’m buzzing.
“Just like a local,” Kyle laughs, fist-pumping me. “Shall we try another?”
Situated in the northern Bahamas, the Abacos comprise a 120-mile-long chain of secluded islands, sandy coves and protected harbours.
Instead of the high-rise resorts and cruise ports of the Bahamian capital, Nassau, there are boutique hotels and settlements accessible only by ferry and private boat charter.
My base is Bluff House Beach Resort & Marina, a charming colonial-style hotel on Green Turtle Cay – a small island located 10 minutes by boat from Great Abaco.
General manager Molly McIntosh tells me how best to explore the island. “What you need is a golf cart,” she beams, handing me a set of keys. “Just to warn you, if you crash, it’ll cost you $8,000!”
With Molly’s warning ringing in my ears, I make the short drive to New Plymouth village for dinner at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar. Recommend clients sample the cracked conch – a deep-fried sea snail that tastes similar to cod – and the Goombay Smash cocktail, which is said to have been invented here.
The next few days are spent island-hopping. I head to Elbow Cay to see one of the world’s few remaining manually operated lighthouses, meet with the Albury family of boat builders on Man-Of-War cay and spend an afternoon snorkelling with Brendal and Kyle. Brendal and his wife, Mary, have been operating boat charters, diving courses and deepsea fishing adventures from Green Turtle Cay since 1985, with famous clients including George Clooney and Marlon Brando.
I can see why celebrities are drawn to the Abacos – it’s just so quiet here. I lie down on the powder-white sand after a beach barbecue of fresh grouper, thankful to be indulging in an experience shared with a lucky few.