MENU
FIVE questions
you should
ask ...
CALL US
Speak to one of our travel
experts
within 5 rings
020·7962·9933

Which of these is important to you?

  • Concierge style service. Your own dedicated travel manager who'll look after you until you travel.
  • Better value. Exclusive fares you won't find online to save you money.
  • 24 hour helpline. A worldwide team just a phone call away if you need help while you're overseas.
  • Top on Trustpilot. More highly rated than all our competitors with 98% saying they'd book again.
  • Risk free. Fully licensed with Client Trust Account to protect your money. ABTA, ATOL protected.

Your calls always answered within 5 rings.

x
Caribbean Reviews 4326
Caribbean Offers 24

The barmy Bahamas

Swimming with sharks and eating pickled lamb's tongue are just two of the more unusual highlights Mark Porter finds in this glorious tropical archipelago

Against my better judgment, I roll backwards off the boat into the warm ocean and tread water until Brendal, my snorkel tutor, swims over and leads me by the hand to the reef.

No teacher has held my hand since Miss Hinks did, before whacking it with a ruler. I was nine. Now I am 62 and very pleased to have my hand held, but that's because I'm scared of sharks and want to live to be 63.

I am in the Bahamas to mark the 50th anniversary of independence from the UK, exploring two of the 16 inhabited islands — Green Turtle Cay and Abaco — that make up this 100,000-square-mile Atlantic archipelago.

Abaco Beach Resort boasts its own marina


First, Green Turtle Cay, where Brendal's boat is moored near a coral reef off a tiny cay, or islet — and it's a long way from the nearest hospital.

Furthermore, we have seen a lot of sharks in the last hour. But, for now, there is no sign of them, and I am soon swimming, enchanted by impossibly colourful shoals of fish.

After 40 minutes, I am heading back to the boat when I catch sight of a dark presence, 30 yards away. It is watching me. Then, with a twitch of its muscular body, it hurtles closer.

Fortunately, Brendal processes it faster than me and swims between us, waving hands and legs like a demented harlequin. The predator turns on a sixpence and skedaddles. Back on deck, I shakily pour myself a fruit and rum cocktail. 'He just wanted to say hello,' says Brendal, 75, who has been diving for 60 years. It was a 6ft black tip shark, he says. 'Man, you could trust them to babysit. Ain't never gonna hurt you.'

Back at base a roll-of-honour board lists previous clients of Brendal's Dive Center: Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Jacques Cousteau, Alfred Hitchcock, Chris Boardman and a Wonderbra model.


The Tranquil Turtle Beach Bar at Bluff House


I am staying at the Bluff House, one of two hotels on Green Turtle Cay, in a spacious room with a balcony overlooking the sea. Green Turtle is an Out Isle, which you sail to from the mother island of Great Abaco. This is off-grid Bahamas, though Abaco does have a tiny airport.

Green Turtle is three miles long and half a mile wide, and far removed from the five-star glitz often associated with the Bahamas. Most of the island's 450 inhabitants live in the 'capital' — the fishing village of New Plymouth.

On September 1, 2019 Hurricane Dorian hit the Out Islands, and the damage is still being repaired. With winds of 225mph, it was on a par with the worst ever Atlantic storm to make landfall, the Labor Day hurricane of 1935.

The brightly painted older homes in New Plymouth are unique in the Bahamas, with their tidy, steep-pitched roofs. This is because it was first settled by British 'loyalists' from New England in the 1780s, during the American Revolution.

A Union Jack flutters in New Plymouth's Loyalist Memorial Sculpture Garden; a Bahamian National Monument featuring 24 busts of prominent islanders arranged around a central pair of life-sized bronze figures of both black and white loyalist women, sculpted by James Mastin.

Feeding the friendly local wildlife


The name Green Turtle Cay originates from the turtle population which was hunted to virtual extinction for the production of turtle soup. Now the turtles are protected and thriving in the coves, inlets and mangrove marshes.

My ferry back to Abaco stops at Elbow Cay, where I visit the last functioning kerosene-powered lighthouse in the world. There used to be 18,000 of them, many British built, like Elbow Reef. Its arrival in 1863 marked the end of a thriving local industry: shipwrecking.

I take another short-hop ferry across South Abaco Sound and stop at Marsh Harbour, the main town on Abaco, the second biggest island in the Bahamas. Here I check into the Abaco Beach Resort, set in 40 acres, boasting its own marina. I go to Trissies, a local hangout, for breakfast, where I try pickled lamb's tongue and soused pig's foot — surprisingly tasty.

Deans, one of many blue holes in the Blue Holes National Park


I head off for 'Da Bush N Da Beach' nature tour with wildlife expert Marcus Davis in the 33,000-acre Blue Holes National Park. We are soon at Dan's Cave, one of three renowned cave-diving venues on Great Abaco. There are miles of labyrinthine chambers to discover leading out to the Marls, the shallow bay where folk pay a fortune to hunt bonefish.

This is a world away from the bling of Nassau and the opulence of Exuma. Perfectly preserved, if a little storm-battered, Great Abaco and its Out Islands are offgrid, unspoilt and deeply romantic. But watch out for sharks — stick close to Brendal if you go snorkelling off the reef.



First published in the Daily Mail -  November 2023

More articles below...


For more inspiration, read what travel writers have to say...

Sailing the high seas

Cruising the Windward islands proved just the ticket for Helen Atkinson Wood

Caribbean cocktail

Grenada packs a punch, as Tamara Hinson discovers

Cuba's new revolution

One of the most fascinating holiday destinations, as Richard Eden discovered

Spicy Grenada

Renowned chef Rosemary Shrager discovers paradise on a plate

For sun and stars

Follow Wendy Gomersall to the beautiful Bahamas

Bliss in the BVIs

Vincent Graff discovers he can do without room keys and TVs

Chilling in Grenada

Samantha Lewis discovers the perfect island to relax

Happy hour

Stephen Macdonald samples deadly cocktails in Jamaica

St Kitts and Nevis

Wendy Driver puts her best foot forward on a hiking trip

Stunned by St Lucia

Marina Fogle is dazzled by this corner of the Caribbean

Authentic Cuba

John Hutchinson visits before the island nation changes forever

Bountiful Bequia

Nick Redman reports from the little Caribbean island of Bequia

Islands of treasure

There's so much more to the Cayman Islands than offshore banking says Sian Boyle

Chill out says Harriet Sime

With new direct flights, it's never been easier to relax in the Turks and Caicos

Marvellous Mustique

Mustique may be pricey but Kate Silverton discovers its laid-back glamour

Sun, sea and salsa!

The perfect partners for Bruno Tonioli

Art beneath the waves

Rob Crossan discovers sublime beauty in this stunning underwater sculpture gallery

Past Perfect

Tristan Davies finds himself in a luxurious time capsule

Plantation houses

Discover the Caribbean's historic hotels

Serene St Lucia

Ben Bailey finds paradise on gorgeous St Lucia

Get fit in paradise

Toni Jones signed up for sun, sea, sand and floating yoga

Bountiful Barbados

Jack Davidson discovers the island’s greatest treasure

Paradise on a plate

The fabulous food of Anguilla has Harry Denning’s tastebuds tingling

In love with St Lucia

Josh Cuthbert, of boy band Union J, knew there was only one place he wanted to celebrate his engagement

Best of Barbados

Fred Mawer's top tips to enjoy this fabulous Caribbean island

Gourmet gala

Jason Arnold delights in the culinary treats of Antigua and St Lucia

Caribbean heaven

Mark Palmer revels in two luxury resorts in the Dominican Republic

Bowled over by Bequia

Jonathan Agnew unearths a secret Windies gem

Rock and Royalty

Nigel Tisdall tells you how you can join the St Barths' jet-set

Besotted with Barbados

Sam Tonkin loves everything about this Caribbean idyll

Barbados or Bequia

Hunter Davies has to decide which of two idyllic islands comes out on top

BREAKING NEWS

Piers Morgan's favourite Caribbean hotel is better than ever

St Lucian sounds

Nigel Tisdall is dancing to a different beat in St Lucia

Batting for Antigua

The Caribbean just bowls you over says Mark Palmer

Shifting Sands

James Henderson finds the Dominican Republic is quietly moving upmarket

The Dominican dream

Max Davidson discovers the most popular destination in the Caribbean

Not quite what you're looking for?
We can easily customise an offer to suit your exact requirements

x