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Eco-tourism in Grand Bahama.

Eco-tourism in Grand Bahama.

Normally when I travel I end up in destinations tourists normally visit to see famous monuments, museums, art and buildings. Visiting Grand Bahama didn’t find me going through my usual travel itinerary, but instead allowed me to indulge in Eco-tourism where I was able to appreciate the natural environment and interact with the wild-life found on the island. I had the pleasure of experiencing two such attractions; the Garden of the Groves and West End Ecology Tours.

The Garden of the Groves:

As a certified wildlife habitat, the Garden of the Groves provides a wonderful experience for nature lovers. It features a scenic landscape which includes beautiful ponds, cascading waterfalls, an aquaponics garden, a labyrinth and of course the exotic wildlife that inhabit the garden. There are different varieties of birds to be seen, as well as turtles, butterflies, fish and plants. I found walking through this garden to be very serene and calming. This is definitely a place I would recommend for a day of relaxing with friends or kids. There is also a lovely café where guests can enjoy some local cuisine after their walk through the garden and a craft shop to buy souvenirs. Unfortunately, in October 2016, hurricane Matthew took a devastating toll on the Bahamas and this conservation site is still in recovery mode, but I was still able to appreciate its serene beauty.

Check out The Garden of the Groves’ website for more details: http://www.thegardenofthegroves.com/

Enjoying the view.
The labyrinth.
Pretty little ducks.

 

The Garden Cafe.

 

Cute little parrot that kept saying “Hiiiii” and “Crackers”, lol.

West End Ecology Tours:

This tour was an amazing Eco-tourism experience for me and was indeed the highlight my trip to Grand Bahama. The tour involves the guide, Keith Cooper, taking guests to an offshore cay called Sandy Cay where they are able to interact with sting rays in their natural habitat.

Check out West End Ecology Tours’ website for more information: http://www.westendecologytours.com/

It was definitely something intriguing for me so I gathered a group of friends to give it a try.

I had never had the experience of interacting with wildlife like this before, but I was so happy that I got the chance. Keith made us feel quite at ease from the very beginning. He was super friendly and kept us laughing for the entire tour. Our tour started in Old Bahama Bay which is on the west end of Grand Bahama. We began at about 6:30am, and though we were all still a little sleepy it was completely worth seeing the gorgeous sunrise over Sandy Cay as we journeyed by boat for our play date with the sting rays.

I have to admit, I freaked out a little bit in the beginning since I was not used to touching these alien looking creatures, but Keith did an amazing job of putting me at ease and eventually I was comfortable enough to feed and swim with the sting rays. I absolutely loved how educated Keith was about his craft and was very impressed to see the relationship he had developed with the sting rays. The tour also included us snorkeling over a boat wreck and I had never seen so many fish in my life all in one spot. It was indeed a beautiful wreck, if such a thing exists. Keith also treated us to refreshments; snacks and drinks along with fresh fruit salads. To top off the morning, Keith ended the tour by treating us to coffee to warm us up after all the swimming. Needless to say this was a fantastic experience for me, full of exotic creatures, beautiful cerulean waters and picturesque backdrops. If you’re ever in Grand Bahama you should definitely give this tour a try! I’m sure the photos and video below will say more than I ever could:

 

The sunrise heading to Sandy Cay. Breathtaking!

 

Enjoying Sandy Cay’s beauty.

 

Keith rallying up the sting rays.

 

Such majestic creatures.

 

Daring to touch.

 

Beach treasures!

 

A Travel Guide to Grand Bahama.

A Travel Guide to Grand Bahama.

Looking for a destination teeming with exciting parties and nights that never end? Well sorry, but heading to Grand Bahama is not that kind of trip. But if relaxing on beautiful quiet beaches, interacting with exotic wildlife and indulging in delicious food is what stokes your travel fire, then this little out-island paradise may be just what you’re looking for.
Grand Bahama is the northernmost of all the islands of the Bahamas and is the 4th largest in the archipelago. Although it is not the most energetic of all the Bahamian islands, it does offer the typical tropical charm of the other islands and is only a 3 hour boat ride or a 40 minute flight from Florida. Having been here for an extended period of time I will admit that the island does not offer the daily upbeat rhythm one might find in other more lively Caribbean cities; however I believe it is a good option for a quick trip to get away from it all. The island attracts a fair amount of tourists, most of who arrive via cruise ship, but does offer a more intimate alternative to Nassau since it is less crowded. So if you plan to give Grand Bahama a try on your next visit to the Bahamas here are a few tips to consider.

 

Things to do:

Port Lucaya Marketplace– This marketplace is one of the biggest tourist hotspots in Grand Bahama. It offers a central place where visitors can enjoy duty free shopping as well as restaurants of varied cuisines including Bahamian, Japanese, Latin fusion, Greek and more. It also features colourful and quaint craft shops where tourists can stock up on Bahamian souvenirs. The Port Lucaya Marketplace also offers a little bit of nightlife as the bars and restaurants attract a mix of tourists and the locals who come out to listen to local bands play music, on occasion, or to enjoy karaoke and tapas.

Port Lucaya Marketplace entrance.

 

The picturesque boat dock inside the marketplace.

 

Craft shops to stock up on souvenirs.

 

The Beaches– The best part of getting away from it all is being able to relax on a quiet beach. That is definitely one of the charms of Grand Bahama. I have never seen what one would call a crowded beach since I’ve been here and if you’re lucky you may just have an entire stretch of white sand beach all to yourself. The best part is the beaches are free! Beaches to try include Paradise Cove Beach, Taino Beach, Barbary Beach, Fortune Beach and Lucayan Beach among others. Some of these beaches provide opportunities for water sports or boat rides.

Lucayan Beach is one of the many beaches which offer water sports. Jet Skis anyone?

 

Fortune Beach.

 

Gorgeous pathway into Fortune Beach. Had to take this shot!

 

Nature Tours– Another highlight of Grand Bahama are the wonderful experiences it offers through Eco-tourism. There are many nature tour companies that will offer activities such as kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, bird watching and excursions via bike or jeep.

Snorkeling with the sting rays out by Sandy Cay.

 

Boat dock out by Old Bahama Bay. Let’s set sail!

 

Money:

The Bahamas uses Bahamian Dollars (BSD), however it is the equivalent of the United States Dollar (USD) so US dollars are accepted everywhere. When making any purchases tourists can ask to have their change given in US dollars as most businesses are happy to oblige if they have it available.

 

Getting around:

Unfortunately Grand Bahama does not have the most reliable public transportation, and almost everyone on the island gets around via personal vehicle. If you are visiting as a tourist, there are jeep and car rental companies to provide you with transportation if you want to discover the island on your own.

 

Where to stay:

There are a few hotel choices on the island including Paradise Cove Beach Resort, Pelican Bay Hotel and The Grand Lucayan. It is worth mentioning however that the Grand Lucayan is conveniently positioned as it is just by Lucayan Beach and directly across from the Port Lucaya Marketplace.

 

Food:

If you are not familiar with Bahamian cuisine then I should let you know that the one thing you must try while in the Bahamas is conch. Bahamian cuisine features conch in so many forms; cracked conch, steamed conch, conch fritters, conch salad and the list goes on. I also highly recommend their fried fish as well as their crab rice. Some good spots to try local food include Pepperpot, Sire’s, Silk Café, and Smith’s Point Fish Fry.

Delicious Bahamian conch fritters!

 

Climate:

The weather in Grand Bahama is mostly warm, however it does get quite chilly around the winter months. I was quite surprised when I experienced temperatures as low as 12 degrees Celsius.