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Learn about The Bahamas by reading The Bahamas—Oceans of Joy by Charlie Spence, Aviation Writer. It features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all you'll need to know to plan your trip including getting there, objective information on places to stay and eat, and things to do. At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the contact information for your easy reference. Enjoy!

The Bahamas—Oceans of Joy

by Charlie Spence, Aviation Writer and IFA Member

Kayaking in the Bahamas

Grand Bahama kayaking. Photo courtesy of Bahamas Ministry of Tourism

When planning to go to the Bahamas, the first big decision is deciding which of the many delightful places to visit. There are more than 700 islands spread throughout 100,000 square miles of Atlantic Ocean, offering everything from quiet, restful retreats, beaches and coral reefs, and amazingly clear water to hotels and resorts in areas abounding with entertainment, casinos, and active surroundings. And, it starts only 50 miles off the coast of the United States.

Unless you have actually seen the waters here you can’t believe its clarity. Here is the only place on earth where water is so clear it has visibility of more than 200 feet. It is in this setting that you can explore the coral reefs, scuba dive, snorkel, or check out the relics of ship wrecks. Spot the dolphins or be amazed at the beauty of schools of colorful fish.

Apparently fish like the waters around the Bahamas as much as do humans. Those attracted include bonefish, wahoo, and blue marlin to name only a few of the most sought-after varieties fishers will find. Whether fly-fishing or on a deep-sea charter, you will find the many fish attracted assures you some will be waiting for your baited hook.

You might not be into fishing but would enjoy exploring the habitats of the fin families. Take a sea-kayak. Go along the shores at your own pace. Explore the caves, mangroves, and bonefish flats. Be among the blue herons and egrets. Explore the uninhabited cays and isolated beaches. The shallow waters along the shores and cays make kayaking the ideal way to explore the beauty of the out islands. If the mood strikes while exploring the white sand beaches, hop into the water and do some snorkeling along the reefs.

The out islands hold a particular attraction for me. Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells is a particularly pleasant place to either stay active or roll up in a restful, quiet atmosphere. These islands are steeped in history. Eleuthera, what residents of Spanish Wells and Harbour Island call “the mainland,” was founded more than 300 years ago by English adventurers in search of religious freedom. The name “Eleuthera” is the Greek word for freedom. In 1647, Spanish Conquistadors sunk the first well on land that has been named Spanish Wells and made this a port to take on gallons of potable water before starting the long, arduous trip to take their riches from the new world back to Europe. Later, as the colonists on the North American mainland sought their independence from England, Loyalists from the Carolinas settled on the island and many residents today trace their ancestry back to those who preferred to be English subjects.


An aerial view of Eleuthera. Photo courtesy of Bahamas Ministry of Tourism

Eleuthera is 110 miles long, but only two miles wide, meaning you are not far from any of the pink-and-white sand beaches. Visit any of the colonial villages or some of the pineapple fields. A fine airport welcomes private aircraft and commercial carriers.
Maybe you think water is only for drinking and bathing and want something different for your get-away. You can find it in the Bahamas. Nassau is the capital city of the Bahamian Commonwealth and has a wealth of things to make your stay exciting, entertaining, and yes, perhaps even profitable. Two casinos offer a variety of gaming opportunities: blackjack and poker tables, craps, hundreds of slot machines, and sports betting.

With a heritage part British, part Spanish, and part West African, Nassau emits a cultural vibe all its own. Residents like to party and this is evident in the local night spots and at the special festivities. Visitors are always welcome. Throughout the year there are many reasons to party. There is a weekly fish fry, a Junkanoo to celebrate the new year with Mardi Gras-style costumes and dancing in the streets, Fox Hill Day celebrations in August with two weeks of street parties and dancing, or Boxing Day, to name a few.

Nassau/Paradise Island is well known as a duty-free shopping center. Boutiques, gift shops, straw markets, or the convenient shops in your hotel all offer popular jewelry, perfumes, watches, cameras, electronics, and more. You’ll also find hats, bags, wood carvings, gift items and other souvenirs to take home as reminders of your happy visit.

Paradise Island was originally known as Hog Island, but in 1961, A&P grocery chair heir Huntington Hartford II convinced the government to change the name. He built the exclusive Ocean Club and on the site developed a garden inspired by the Versailles garden of King Louis XIV. It is a spot to take in for beauty. Seven grassy terraces climb half-mile up the hill from the resort’s pool with each level exhibiting sculptures.

Only guests of the Ocean Club are permitted to walk the gardens, but others may view them from the vantage point across the street. This is the Cloister, a 14th century Augustinian monastery William Randolph Hearst, the publishing magnate, purchased it in France and had it brought to Florida in the United States where it stayed in crates for some 40 years until Hartford bought it and had it erected on Paradise Island.

Another stop on your itinerary should be to see Government House, the official residence of the Governor General of the Bahamas. It is a pink and white building dating back to 1801.

Golfers will take one look at the championship fairways and greens and begin thinking of reasons to return for future visits to the Bahamas. The challenging courses were designed by golf architects Robert Trent Jones Jr., Dick Wilson, and Greg Norman. Some holes are on the edge of Emerald Bay with tifdwarf grass for a faster putting surface and ocean winds and tight fairways to make the round even more challenging.

In the Bahamas the coldest winters reach about 70 degrees Fahrenheit so this can be a year-round destination for a memorable get-away for rest, excitement, fun, or adventure. Each island has its own charm and its own features for luring you back with temptations on each visit to try your stay on one of the other islands.

Bahamas Details

How to Get There

The Bahamas have long recognized arrivals by general aviation as important to the economy and made these visitors welcome. Almost every day, weather is delightful for flying to the Bahamas—most of the time it is “severe clear.” In the mornings, you might find scattered cumulus clouds at about 2,500 feet, rising to about 7,500 feet in the afternoon. Just about every place you select for arrival you will find a welcoming airport. At government owned airports, there is no landing or tie-down fee for aircraft weighing less than 6,000 pounds and are on a non-commercial flight. Privately-owned airports might charge fees. There are no customs or immigration fees for non-commercial flights if the pilot declares no compensation is received for the flight.

A flight plan must be filed and activated prior to entering Bahamian airspace and closed after landing. When departing, a flight plan is mandatory.

When flying across a U.S. border, pilots are required to use eAPIS –electronic Advance Passenger Information Service. Familiarize yourself with the requirements of using this online reporting tool and also with Customs and Border Protection requirements.

Pilot requirements: Valid passport, pilot certificate with an English-speaking endorsement, current medical certificate, and, if not the owner of the aircraft, a letter of authorization.

Passenger requirements: Current passport. If a child is traveling with only one parent, a notarized statement giving dates of the trip and approval from the absent parent.

Aircraft: For aircraft registered in the U.S. the following lists most requirements: permanent registration certificate; radio station license; airworthiness certificate; weight and balance information; ID data plate; transponder with mode C; a flotation device for each person on board; and 12-inch registration marks.

To check current requirements for entering/exiting the Bahamas, please visit

Where to Stay

Accommodations will depend on where you plan to stop and in what type of activities you expect to participate. There are plush hotels with all the amenities. Hotels can be a good source for joining in guided tours. Also, smaller hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts are available on most areas in the islands.

IFA’s Travel Discount Program serves up deeper discounts on hotels, car rentals, flights, and activities all over the world. Most of our travel deals are not available to the public, which means rates are much lower than what the average consumer can find online. Click here to start accessing for free today.

Where to Dine

Dine at any of the excellent restaurants, including those at most hotels, and grab a snack at the typical fast food shops. And by all means try some of the restaurants with the ethnic cuisine. It is certain to add spice to your meal.

This information is current as of June 1, 2010 and is for planning purposes only. IFA cannot assume responsibility for its accuracy or for omissions or changes which may occur.

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