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Celebrating Island-style: Festivals of the Bahamas

Celebrating Island-style: Festivals of the Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com


Year-round sunshine, crystal clear waters, and hundreds of white sand beaches: welcome to the Bahamas! This island chain is only a short plane ride from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but the tropical scenery makes it feel like a world away.

While most people head to the island chain for relaxation (and rightly so!), there's another reason why you should check your calendar before you make your vacation plans here: the festivals of the Bahamas. 

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands | CosmosMariners.com

Nestled less than a hundred miles off the coast of Florida, the Bahamas are a playground of crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, and beautiful resorts. While it might be easy to clump all of the islands together, each actually has its own personality and unique offerings. 

If you’re thinking about vacationing in the Bahamas, it’s essential to pick the right islands for the trip that you want. While there are 700 islands in the chain, only about 30 are inhabited. Here’s a quick overview of the major islands you’re most likely to visit on a jaunt to the Bahamas!

Paradise Island, located right next to Nassau, is worth a visit, even if it’s only to walk around the grounds. Since it was built in 1998, people from all over the world have flocked to the Atlantis resort’s water parks, fancy hotel suites, dining, aquariums, and water sports. Check out the more than 30 restaurants, 20 pools, and 3,400 rooms! 

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands | CosmosMariners.com


Head to Andros Island for a taste of what the unexplored Bahamas are like: laid back and incredibly scenic. I had the opportunity to explore Andros during a college study abroad session, and the island was unforgettable. With only 6,000 people spread out on the largest of the Bahamian islands, you get all of the beaches, snorkeling (on the world’s third largest barrier reef!), and fishing practically to yourself for a fraction of what you’d pay on Nassau. Visit the Androsian fabric factory for a glimpse at how this iconic local fabric is still made by hand, visit Morgan’s cave to see if you’ll be the one to find some pirate gold, or listen to the oral history of a village that remained a secret from the world for over a hundred years. 

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands | CosmosMariners.com


Grand Bahama Island, where Freeport is located, is another popular cruise port. With golfing, casinos, nightclubs, and parasailing on the island, it’s one of the two major settlements in the Bahamas (with the other being Nassau). Still, even with the large number of annual visitors, you’ll be able to find some quiet time in the Lucayan National Park and Gold Rock Beach. And if you’re visiting in mid-April, do not miss the Junkanoo Carnival—with the colorful costumes, upbeat music, and dazzling parades, it’s the perfect way to immerse yourself into the cultural of the Bahamas. 

The capital of the island nation, Nassau is probably best known as one of the busiest cruise ports in the Atlantic. As soon as you step off of the boat, your senses will be overloaded: you’ll have people calling to you to get your hair braided, the smell of fried conch wafting out of nearby restaurants, and the sun sparkling on the blue waters. 

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands | CosmosMariners.com


The Exumas, a portion of the Bahamas' out islands (so called since they're away from the hustle and bustle of Nassau and Grand Bahama Island) is another excellent place to discover your own private breach or perfect snorkeling spot. Dive down into the waters to examine the stromatolites, the world's oldest known macrofossils. Relax on the island's longest beach, the Tropic of Cancer Beach, which was named after its geographic coordinates. But winning out for cuteness in the island's offerings are the island's acclaimed swimming pigs. They swim out to boats that moor nearby and are tame enough to feed and swim near--you'd better have a treat or two handy to share!

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands | CosmosMariners.com


You're not seeing things: the sand on Eleuthera is actually pink! The island is over 100 miles long, but is only a mile wide in some places, so you have a very high likelihood of finding a beach all to yourself. Choose from the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Atlantic on the other--no matter where you decide to settle for your vacation, you'll love the peace and quiet.

No matter where you visit in the Bahamas, make sure you grab a Goombay Punch (a sugary sweet pineapple-coconut soft drink) and some fried conch before you head to the local beach to relax!

Visiting the Bahamas: A Guide to the Islands | CosmosMariners.com


Have you been to the Bahamas? Which is your favorite island? 

Searching for Pirate Gold at Morgan's Bluff, Andros Island, Bahamas

Searching for Pirate Gold at Morgan's Bluff, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com


If you inquire--even briefly--around the Bahamas, you'll find a place that has ties to pirate lore pretty quickly.

Even Andros, that large but often overlooked island to the west of Nassau, touts a pirate spot or two. The most famous of these places would be Morgan's Bluff (often referred to as Morgan's Cave).

Supposedly, the cruel and infamous buccaneer Henry Morgan (yes, the real Captain Morgan) had a hideout in a cave at the most northwestern portion of Andros Island. Legend has it that he and his crew hid their booty, composed of both gold and rum, in the cave.

The spot was chosen because the bluff under which the cave is located was a notoriously dangerous spot for ships. Since everyone else avoided that area, Morgan thought it was the best place in the world for his treasure.

Searching for Pirate Gold at Morgan's Bluff, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com


While I was trekking around Andros during a college study abroad trip, both the cave and the bluff were on our agenda. When we arrived, there was a storm just off the coast, and the waves were whipping up on the bluff furiously. It didn't take a great imagination to understand why most sailors avoided this area.
Searching for Pirate Gold at Morgan's Bluff, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com
Crazy winds do not a good hair day make. But when there might be pirate treasure around, who cares about nice looking hair?!
Since the trip was led by a geology teacher, we discussed the make-up of the rocks and the geological formations of the bluff--but our teacher quickly got to the pirate legends.

Sir Henry Morgan was one of the most successful (if you can say that about someone who steals and terrorizes) pirates of the 17th century. He was actually a member of the British Navy and ransacked Spanish territories on the command of his superiors in the Navy (a long cry from how pirates are portrayed in movies nowadays!). After he was captured following his sack of Panama--an attack that supposedly violated an ongoing treaty between England and Spain--he was knighted and and given a Lt. Governor position. By the end of his career, he was known not for his prior pirating abilities, but for his excessive drinking and weight gain.

I guess we can't all go out on top.

Searching for Pirate Gold at Morgan's Bluff, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com
Is that the ghost of Captain Morgan? Nope--just one of my classmates with a death wish.


Anyway, after exploring the bluff, we headed into the cave below, which, from the entrance didn't look like much of a cave at all. There are all of these vines growing over the main way in, and, if you weren't sure what you were looking for, you could easily walk right past it.

Searching for Pirate Gold at Morgan's Bluff, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com


After searching around in the cave for a while, we had to admit defeat and leave without any treasure. Our teacher told us later that, while Henry Morgan definitely used northern Andros as a hideout, there hasn't been any historical evidence that placed Morgan in that very cave.

In other words, Morgan's ties to the cave are all local legend--and, since no treasure has been found--it will likely stay that way for the time being.

Know before you go: 

  • When you're adventuring along the bluff, the rocks are incredibly slippery, so walk with caution.
  • Bring a flashlight to explore the cave. The floor is uneven, and bats call it home.
  • The mouth of the cave is easy to miss! 

If you're interested in searching for Morgan's lost booty (and don't mean what he wore on his feet), you can head north on Queen's Highway until you come to a cross street. Turn left, then immediately run back right onto Main Lumber Road. When the road splits, stay to the right. Follow the road until it ends, and look for signs leading you to the cave and bluff. Happy treasure hunting!

School in the Bahamas: Forfar Field Station, Andros Island

It's rainy and gloomy here, and I'm exhausted from all of the getting-ready-to-sell-our-house stuff that we've been doing the last few days (more on that later this week!).

What better way is there to avoid everything else that's going on than to look at more pictures from my trip to Andros Island?

Answer: there isn't one. At least, there isn't one that doesn't involve my passport and an overseas flight. 

The trip that I took to Andros Island was so different than anything else I'd ever done before. It was this crazy mixture of a college class, a vacation, and summer camp.

Red Bays, or the Place that Time Forgot

Red Bays village, Andros Island, Bahamas | Cosmos Mariners
Visiting Andros wasn't all frolicking on deserted beaches and worrying about the ghosts of dead divers grabbing me in the blue holes.

Lest you think this was some crazy spring break masquerading as a college class, let me assure you-- we actually did some work and learned about the island's culture. 

As someone who loves exploring new sites and meeting people from different backgrounds, I found our trip to Red Bays fascinating.

Blue Holes, Andros Island, Or How to Get Really Freaked Out While Swimming

Blue Holes, Andros Island, Bahamas
Instead of a weekend filled with painting (indoors AND out--in 99 degree heat!), tiling, grouting, and cleaning out the garage, I'm going to pretend that I spent the weekend out doing something fun and awesome and adventurous. Let's all live vicariously though my next post in the Andros Island, Bahamas series I have going on, shall we? 

As I've mentioned in a few of my earlier posts, I went to Andros as a part of a geology class while I was at Clemson. Even though I wasn't a geology major (far from it!), I found the class absolutely fascinating as it combined the geological history of Andros with studies about biology, culture, geography, and plant life on the island. 

Androsia Fabric Factory, Andros Island, Bahamas



Imagine the Bahamas if you will. It's all white sand and aqua water and green palm trees and light blue skies, right?

There are just so many colors on Andros that it's kind of like living inside a kid's painting. Everything looks more vivid and so much brighter than you imagined that it could.

It only makes sense that Andros has its own fabric factory in Fresh Creek and that fabric comes in a dozen crazy bright, beautiful hues.

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

There are some places that you visit that stay with you forever. For me, one of those is Andros Island in the Bahamas. It's the largest of the Bahamian islands, but it's also the least populated. That means that you get all of the gorgeous blue water and white sands you can get anywhere else in the Bahamas, but without any of the crowds!

I got to visit this amazing place my senior year in college when I took a class in marine biology: as a part of the class, we spent 2 weeks on northern Andros Island over our spring break to study the things we'd been learning the rest of the semester. Besides exploring the deserted beaches (which we'll get to in just a second), we also took classes at Forfar Field Station, looked for pirate gold at Morgan's Bluff, swam in blue holes, and discovered the place that time forgot at Red Bays

But back to those deserted beaches. When I say that they were deserted, I meant it. The experience of spending an afternoon on the uninhabited, unexplored shores of northern Andros was so awesome that it even made my top 5 favorite travel moments.

Who wouldn't love the chance to cavort in some place that looked like this?

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

Getting to the beach was an adventure unto itself, as we had to park on the side of the road and hike two miles. We were in the middle of nowhere near the tip of Andros Island, so while there are gorgeous beaches, you have to work to see them.

We forded the river (luckily, none of our oxen died. Thank you, Oregon Trail, for teaching me real life lessons on crossing bodies of water). We even had to do the whole tie-your-shoes-around-your-neck thing that you see people in movies do.

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

We waded through mud. Lots and lots of mud. Have I ever mentioned that I am not an outdoorsy person? (I think my face in the picture below says it all.)

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

We got scratched by brambles and this prickly grass that was everywhere. Most of us were in bathing suits and were ill equipped for everything the hike threw at us. But we were determined, so we didn't let a little sawgrass stand in our way.

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

Our view stretched on and on like this. We had to believe that our trusty guide (aka our teacher) that the crystal clear water was out there somewhere waiting for us. 

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

On the way, we even found the wreckage of a plane. While it creeped us out, our teacher (who knows these kinds of things) assured it that 1) the wreck had happened a long time ago, and 2) no one had been hurt. Looking back, I wonder if he actually knew that or if he was just making it up to keep us from spazzing. Either way, I'm happy not knowing.

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

When we made it to the beach, every bug bite, scratch, and sun burned patch was worth the view. I've never seen a place that was so pristine and perfect. We were the only people for miles--literally, as waaaay over to our right was Fort Lauderdale, and to our left was nothing but the road we'd parked on that was two miles back.

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com
No trip to the beach is complete without burying someone and adding fake sandy genitalia. (P.S. Can you tell that we were super mature college students at the time?!?)
Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

The water was warm and shallow, and the sand was soft and white. I think the entire class would have agreed to camp out on those deserted beaches on Andros for the rest of the trip, but we had other adventures that awaited us!

What's been your favorite travel moment? Would you go out of your way on your travels if it meant you'd get to see something extra awesome?

6 Reasons Why You Should Visit Andros Island, Bahamas

6 Reasons Why You Should Visit Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

Most college seniors take super easy classes because, duh, it's their senior year.

Little Miss Overachiever (aka me) decided to take 21 hours, work two jobs, and study for the LSAT. Yeah, I know--what's wrong with me?!?! 

As a part of those 21 hours, I signed up for a elective geology class. I'm usually not super into geology, but this class taught us geology, marine biology, history, culture, and botany. It focused on how all of these elements came together on the island of Andros in the Bahamas, and it culminated with a two week field study there. 

In other words, it was THE COOLEST elective class EVER. The fact that my sister, two of our friends, and my then-boyfriend (who was not Landon--scandalous!!) also went on the trip just made it that much better.

A lot of people have been to Nassau or Freeport but haven't ever heard of Andros. Seriously, people, you're missing out. Here's why: