The Bahamas is an English-speaking country consisting of 29 islands, 650 cays, and close to 2,500 islets and is located in the Atlantic, north of Cuba and Hispaniola. When you add up the land area, it is slightly larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island.
The Bahamas is one of the most prosperous nations in the Caribbean basin and relies on tourism to generate most of the economy. Tourism accounts for 60% of their gross domestic product and provides jobs for more than 50% of the country’s workforce. To see the impact of tourism at work, one only needs to look at the number of cruise ships which dock in the capital city of Nassau.
One of the most prosperous countries in the Caribbean region, the Bahamas relies on tourism to generate most of its economic activity. Tourism as an industry not only accounts for over 60 percent of the Bahamian GDP, but provides jobs for more than half the country’s workforce. An example of Tourism in the Bahamas is the number of cruise ships that land in the capital of Nassau where tourists visit the straw market to buy different items or have their hair braided. After tourism, the most important economic sector is financial services, accounting for around 15 percent of GDP.
There are four main areas of the Bahamas, New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, and the Out Islands. The rest are, relatively speaking, uninhabited.
This is the island most visitors erroneously call Nassau. Nassau is the capital city of the Bahamas and is by far the largest on the island. Nassau was named in 1695 for the Dutch Prince of Orange-Nassau after he took over the British throne. New Providence is home to 2/3 of the population and is not the largest island. The allure of Nassau, and its fame Straw Market, have fueled incredible development on the island. Some of the most popular resorts are Atlantis, Cable Beach, & Paradise Island.
For a much lower key experience, head to Grand Bahama Island. GBI offers many activities for the environmentalist in us all. They include eco-adventures such as kayaking, hiking and jeep tours through remote areas for a close-up look at mangroves, birds and marine life. Or you could snorkel on a spectacular reef, ride horseback along trails and beaches or enjoy the sheer beauty of nature in wild and cultivated settings. But GBI is not without some cosmopolitan flair. Freeport boasts the Port Lucaya Marketplace and the International Bazaar for shopping and dining as well as some great resorts.
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The Abaco islands are really a crescent shaped mini-archipelago comprising 130 square miles of land, 82 cays and 208 rocks. They are The Bahamas’ crown jewel, according fans and residents alike. The Abaco islands are distinctly distant from modern feel of New Providence or Grand Bahama. These serene islands are renowned for clear turquoise waters, coral reefs and silky beaches. The Bone fishing in the flats is also a winner. Rare Bahama Parrots can be found in Abaco National Park; and if you are lucky, you might catch a peek at some descendents of horses that travelled with Columbus when he landed here in 1492.
The Out Islands
About two dozen of the Bahamian islands are inhabited, and each has its own, distinct personality. Even the terrain and weather varies, as the islands are scattered over 100,000 sq miles of ocean – an area about the size of Great Britain. With so many islands, cays, and around 2,000 islets, the country could take months of exploration.
All in all, the islands are low lying, with sandy beaches, coral reefs (cays), and a laid back culture that is a mix of American (Grand Bahama Island) and British (New Providence). This difference also flows over into the architecture where you are apt to spot simple wooden homes in bright pastels, luxury Florida-esqe villas all next to the latest Arnold Palmer golf course.
New Providence has the most attractions, including the Christ Church Cathedral, galleries, museums, gardens and forts. Fort Charlotte is the largest and most impressive with its 42 cannons, moat and dungeons. Of course, the Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island is a destination in and of itself. However, some of the most memorable sights are the natural ones: the Bahamas has the world’s third largest barrier reef, one of the largest systems of underwater caves and clearest waters with visibility of more than two hundred feet. There are whales and dolphins to spot, world class dive sites and 109 species of birds breeding. And don’t forget the marine reserves, like Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, which are accessible by boat.
The Bahamas will have an appeal to everyone from the eco-traveler, to the adventurist, to the shopper, to the one looking for glitz and glamour, to the sportsman, and to the one that just wants to sit on a beach with an umbrella in their drink. And you wonder why the Bahamian Ministry of Tourism’s tag line is “it’s better in the Bahamas?”
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