Travel Tales

The Bahamas, Shallow Waters

Because of the proximity of the southeast coast of Florida to The Bahamas, I have jumped over to this extensive island chain of about 30 inhabited islands, many times. Usually the natural hazards, such as hurricanes and tropical storms which cause extensive flooding and wind damage, hit them before attacking our Florida coastline. Tourism accounts for more than 60% of their gross domestic product, and employs in various ways, half of the archipelago's labor force, in constructing their hotels, resorts, and other tourist attractions. The second-most important sector of their economy is banking. The Bahamian dollar currently is one-on-one with the US dollar, and many rich people keep, or hide, their money in these banks. English is their official language.

Geography played an important part in Bahamian history. In 1492 the islands were inhabited by Arawak Indians, when Christopher Columbus made his landfall in our New World on the island of San Salvador, in the eastern section of the Bahamas. After looking at the shallow sea around the islands, he said: "baja mar" (shallow sea) and thus named the Bahamas, or The Islands of the Shallow Sea.

Bahamas Resort Map

During the 1600s to the 1700s, pirates and privateers such as the famous Blackbeard, used the islands of The Bahamas as their port because of the numerous islets with their complex shoals and channels which offered them excellent hiding places for the plundering of ships, especially Spanish galleons filled with treasure. Also, since these islands were later closed to the well-traveled shipping lanes, it gave the buccaneers many opportunities to steal from merchant ships. Little has changed today as danger lurks in these shark-infested waters. Florida boaters have to also be on the alert.

They do not have elections because Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, is the Chief of State, but Dame Ivy Dumont, has been their Governor General since May 2002.

As the monarchy is hereditary the governor general was appointed by the monarch, and following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party is usually appointed prime minister by the governor general. There are 21 districts, and I love their names: Crooked Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Exuma, Freeport, Fresh Creek, Green Turtle Cay, Harbour Island, Inagua, Marsh Harbour, Mayaguana, Berry Islands, New Providence, Ragged Island, Rock Sound, Sandy Point, San Salvador, Rum Cay, etc.
I have five chapters written about a female pirate who lived on Rum Cay, but I never seem to find the time to finish writing this book.

Whenever I want to run away I go to Freeport, (and I should not be telling you about my little secret because it might start a flood of tourism and I want that island all to myself, because it is balm to my nerves.) It is pleasantly peaceful, tropically tranquil and quietly romantic. The sand is as pink as the borders of this site, and it is heaven on earth. I enjoy reading a good book while basking in the shade of a hammock strung between two coconut palm trees. Wish I were there right now, but I have work to do! In the evenings I usually dine on a conch salad, which is served raw with fresh lime juice and spices. I prefer it with white wine and then usually order Bahamian cuisine of stew fish cooked with onions, tomatoes, celery, pigeon peas, spices and rice. Delicious!!

I have visited many a Junkanoo, which is like a New Orleans Mardi Gras, or Rio de Janeiro carnival. Their colorful costumes, dance and music usually revolve around one central theme. The Straw Market is one of Nassau's main attractions, and it is one of the largest in the world; but I feel sorry for the horses drawing the carriages, standing in the heat of the day, and feel this is very cruel to the animals, and wish this type of tourist attraction were abolished. (Any animal lover out there want to tackle this abuse with the Bahamian government?) The market has an interesting assortment of straw hats, mats, baskets, woodcarvings, and sea-shell jewelry, and people from all over the world disembark from the cruise ships at the nearby docks to buy these trinkets.

The West Indies boasts of a diverse heritage and now many Haitians speaking Creole are flocking to the Bahamas to find work. Their religion is mostly Baptists of about 35.4%, Anglican 15.1%, Roman Catholic 13.5%, Pentecostal 8.1%, Church of God 4.8%, Methodist 4.2%, and other Christians 15.2%. Now the country, because of its geography, is a major transshipment point for illegal drugs and smuggling of illegal migrants, which find their way into the USA. The Bahamian Islands caught the attention of explorers, settlers, invaders and traders, and these people shaped the colorful history of the Bahamas and made the country what it is today.


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