Mention the name The Bahamas and sparkling blue water with pink or white sand beaches spring to mind. Conch fritters, Conch salad, 700 islands, duty free shopping and Junkanoo are all terms that are synonymous with the Bahamas. This island nation has a total land area of 5,300 square miles and consists of 700 islands plus 2,500 cays (low banks or reefs). New Providence Island on which Nassau (the capital) is located is 21 miles by 7 miles. Paradise Island, which is 5.5 miles long by 2/3 of a mile wide is connected to Nassau by a short bridge. Thousands of tourists visit Nassau every year to enjoy the clear water or place their bets at the gambling tables at Paradise Island.
All of the Bahamas however has myriad outdoor recreational activitiesthat are perfect for burning off the pounds gained from eating all those conch fritters or adding some variety to your holiday and Nassau is no exception. For the business person who wants to catch some recreational activity on a business trip or the individual who wants to get some fresh air after all the time at the gambling tables, Nassau's outdoor recreation can be all day or just a few hours.
Those sparkling blue waters make Nassau an ideal location for snorkeling. Some of the more popular snorkeling destinations for excursions leaving from Nassau include Rainbow Reef, Blue Lagoon Island (home to Stingray City as well as other snorkeling venues), Blackbeard's Cay, Pearl Island, and Rose Island Reef. Rainbow Reef is approximately 45 minutes from Nassau by catamaran or other high-speed boat. The water at Rainbow Reef is about 15 feet deep throughout the viable swimming and snorkeling area. Blue Lagoon is a circular island encircling water. A narrow opening in the land leads into a large pool of water. A 15-minute walk through some of the most beautiful beaches and on bridges spanning absolutely calm sparkling blue water leads to Stingray City. Another stingray encounter can be had at Pearl Island which is a 30-minute boat ride from Nassau. Yellow tail snapper, Grouper, and many other tame fish make Athol Island in Athol Island National Marine Park at the eastern end of Nassau Harbor an outstanding snorkel site.
Those sparkling blue waters also make Nassau a wonderful location for the sport fisherman. Fishing charters are available for half day or full day with a choice of deep-sea fishing or reef fishing. Wahoo are abundant between November to January and 100 pounders are frequent. Dolphin fish (Mahi Mahi) are found between April and June, while Sailfish can be fought during April and May and again between October and November. Barracuda and Marlin (Black, Blue and White) are found year round.
For the landlubber, there is off-road cycling, away from traffic and noise. On all-terrain bicycles, you can enjoy a guided tour of shady woodland trails, open forest, the seashore and mangrove creeks and visit the historic village of Adelaide. You can have a relaxed, easy ride or a longer route. For the seasoned cyclist there are more challenging rides.
The Bahamas sits on the migration route for birds moving north and south on their winter and spring migrations. As such there are two opportunities to see many northern species. Of course, no visit to the Bahamas would be complete for a birder without viewing the Bahama Pintail duck (also known as the White-cheeked Pintail). These inhabitants of lagoons and mangrove swamps are widely distributed and the clear water of the mangroves makes viewing them a pleasure. Other species that are generally seen include eurasian collared doves, neotropic cormorants, american coot, great blue herons, snowy egrets, great egrets, reddish egrets, green herons, white ibis, blue winged teal, northern mockingbirds. Some of the locations for viewing various species include the Paradise Island ponds, Clifton Heritage site and the Harold & Wilson ponds.
For those who want to be outdoors but simply want a walking pace, Nassau has retained much of its older architecture and blended it with modern buildings so that it creates a harmonious whole. The original part of the city is small enough that you can wander along and see much of the historic architecture. Parliament Square with the Houses of Parliament, the Old Colonial Secretary's office, the Supreme Court and the Statue of Queen Victoria is definitely worth a visit. Nearby at Parliament and Shirley Streets is the Nassau Public Library that was originally a prison. Not far away at Shirley and Elizabeth Streets is the Bahamas Historical Society with numerous exhibits.
If it is "action" and people watching you seek, Arawak Cay is not to be missed. This lively gathering spot has a row of small wooden restaurants fronted by a large park and backed by the sea. You can sit on the verandah of any of the restaurants or in the open air and watch the parade of people as they stroll by. Have a Kalik (Bahamian Beer) and enjoy the West Indian atmosphere and when hunger strikes you can have a conch salad or conch fritters or fried fish prepared before your eyes.
You can learn more about Bahamas vacations at the Caribbean Outdoor Life web site and the next time you are in Nassau or if it is your first time remember there is an interesting world to discover beyond the beach.