Topside Activities In The Bahamas
While the diving is great, the 2,000 islands and cays also offer plenty of topside sights and activities for you to explore during your surface intervals. Here's a selection of the things that are waiting for you...
VISIT A 'MEDIEVAL' MONSTERY
At only 63m The Bahamas' highest peak - a small medieval style monastery overlooks the island. The Mount Alvernia Hermitage was built in 1939 by Monsignor John Hawes, a Roman Catholic priest, using local stone and named after a mountain in Tuscany. Visitors can reach the cultural site via a stone staircase and enjoy the panoramic view of Cat Island.
BUY ARTS AND CRAFTS
Grand Bahama Island and Nassau & Paradise Island
The local straw markets sell crafts like straw weavings and wood carvings. Your best bet is to go to the Grand Bahama Arts & Craft Centre where you can look over the shoulder of local artists and purchase items directly from them. The Doongalik Studios in Nassau & Paradise Island sell hand-made modern Bahamian art, including paintings, sculptures and Junkanoo masks while the gift shop of Balmain Antiques is great for jewellery and art prints.
FOLLOW HEMINGWAY'S TRACKS
Between 1935 and 1937 Ernest Hemingway lived in Bimini. Although a lot of memorabilia were destroyed when Hemingway's main residence, the Compleat Angler Hotel, burned down in 2006, literary enthusiasts can still follow his tracks around the islands. Tourists can rent The Marlin Cottage, Hemingway's holiday home during his first visit in 1935 which is also the setting of Islands in the Stream, and parts of Old Man and the Sea.
JOIN THE JUNKANOO
Nassau & Paradise Island and other islands
Junkanoo, the Bahamian Carnival, is the national festival and an integral part of the culture. The festival starts in the early morning of Boxing Day (2am till 10am). The competing 'Junkanoos' show off their colourful masquerades and dance skills and lively rake 'n' scrape music echoes through the streets as the parade, called 'rush' by the locals, travels through the town centre. A second 'rush' follows on New Year's Day. Prizes for the best music, best costume and best overall group presentation are awarded at the end of the procession.
Visit Lake Rosa in The Bahamas National Trust Park where, between December and June, large numbers of flamingos come together to mate and raise their offspring.
CATCH SOME SUN
Eleuthera & Harbour Island
The sand on this beach shimmers in a light pink, a result of finely crushed coral, and invites beachgoers to kick off their sandals and stock up on vitamin D. Spend the day snorkelling, fishing or just sunbathing. You might well spot a couple of Hollywood stars here! Mick Jagger, Cindy Crawford and Susan Sarandon have been seen here before.
MINGLE WITH LOCALS
All across the islands
A Bahamian fish fry can be both a place or an event - either way, it is the perfect opportunity to sample local seafood and mingle with locals. In the early evening, colourfully painted wooden shacks all over the islands open shop and bring neighbourhoods together to eat, gossip and dance. If you're in the area, join the flocks of people who stream to Nippers Beach Bar & Grill in The Abacos. The rainbow-coloured wooden venue lures with great food and drinks and a legendary pig roast every Sunday. If live music is more your thing, head to Gregory Town on Eleuthera. Lenny Krevitz who owns a holiday home in the area is seen here regularly. For glitz and glamour the Aura nightclub on Paradise Island is a safe bet.
SWIM WITH PIGS
The Bahamas' most peculiar wildlife encounter is one not to be missed. In The Exuma Cays trusting pigs frolic in the shallow waters of Major Cay. Legend has it that the pigs were dropped off by sailors who intended to come back but never showed again. Others believe they escaped from one of the islands nearby.
KAYAK THROUGH MANGROVES
Grand Bahama Island
A kayak tour through the Lucayan National Park is a fantastic way to explore the area. The all-day trip includes 90 minutes of paddling through the park's beautiful mangrove forests, lunch at a shady beach and you'll even have time to go for a swim.