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Eleuthera & Harbour Island – where adventures await

Exploring every nook, cranny, crevice and blue hole and fascinating history

My latest mission from the Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board – should I choose to accept – uncover all that Eleuthera has to offer (or as much as I could in the time frame that I had.) And to not leave a nook, cranny, crevice or blue hole unexplored. The island – known for magnificent pink, white sand beaches and luscious, fragrant pineapples – is also rich in history, and is definitely where nature lovers go to play.

And I certainly gave it the old college effort, traversing the length and breadth of this 110-mile-long island from the south to the north, taking in the panoramic view at the Glass Window Bridge, exploring Preacher’s Cave, wandering through pineapple fields, scaling the cliff at Lighthouse Beach Point to explore this historic relic. My explorations included taking time out to visit places like The Island School/Cape Eleuthera Institute and the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve to educate myself on what they’re about.

From caves to cliffs, to fields and diving deep under the sea, Eleuthera unfurled like a true playground.

I began my visit in South Eleuthera with a visit to the much-recommended Sammy’s Place for breakfast to fuel up to begin my multi-day adventures. The first stop, The Island School/Cape Eleuthera Institute, where they bring together students from pre-K through Ph.D, and world-renowned researchers to create transformational learning experiences.

Nikki Rolle, executive assistant, Dr. Nicholas Higgs, director of research and innovation, and Ruben Gomez, facilitated the tour of the facility, and spoke to the institution’s goal – that entails connecting primary research to education and outreach, creating unique opportunities for students and scientists to learn about native ecosystems and environmental sustainability through immersive, place-based experiences.

Choppy waters during my visit meant I was unable to take to the boat on the high seas to take in what they are doing out there. The campus, with the surrounding ocean as a laboratory, allows for study, research, and live in a learning community dedicated to a more environmentally responsible and sustainable future. At The Island School, students, educators, and researchers work side by side, connecting with the environment and engaging in the process of inquiry in order to discover sustainable solutions to real-world problems.

Rolle pointed out various fruits growing there from which I could pluck a fruit if I could reach it to enjoy. I even had my first taste of the Moringa plant. (Every part of the Moringa plant is edible – leaves, pods, seeds, flowers, even its roots.) And then there are the snakes. When one slithered across the path I was on, with a screech I turned tail and ran, while Nick, on the other hand, tried to catch it to show it off. (As all Bahamians know, naturally, The Bahamas does not have poisonous snakes, but if it’s slithering along, I’m out of there.)

Then I was off to Bannerman Town for a visit to Lighthouse Beach, located at the southern tip of Eleuthera, with Awesome Adventure Tours, which turned out to be a guided ATV tour of Lighthouse Beach to Lighthouse Beach Point. Now, this adventure was one for the books. As soon as I saw the dune buggies, the first question out of my mouth was whether mud was involved. The answer “Yes!” I drew a hard line in the sand. I wanted to go to see Lighthouse Point Beach, which I’d been told was amazing to behold, but I wanted no part in mudslinging.

Tour guide, Ralvin, relented and decided to share another route to the same destination, but you have to endure a hot, dusty, bumpy road to get to the opening that leads to the beach for the two-mile ride to Lighthouse Point. (Might I add, I really had not dressed for this adventure.)

I had to scale a cliff using foot holes carved into the sides of the cliff and a rope to make my way to the top where you are met by a vista so beautiful it can best be described as majestic. The panoramic blues of the water were vivid. While I was there, I ventured into the lighthouse itself, because it simply made no sense to get that far without stepping in, and as I discovered, the windows of the lighthouse act as the perfect frame for a photo. (I was super careful where I stepped, of course.) The building is old.

Lighthouse Beach is also known for its powdery, soft sand beach; and after all the effort it takes to get there, a swim in the waters is worth the effort.

(This was an adventure I almost missed out on due to a number of misfires with Ralvin’s buggies, that had him “MacGyvering” equipment in trying to get me and my traveling partner to the beach, including the buggy he was driving stalling and me and my travel companion having to head back to base camp to get a replacement buggy for our leader. As we were going to get his rescue, the buggy we were in, stalled. We agreed to trying to hoof it back to the base during the hottest time of the day with no idea how long the walk would be. A good Samaritan saw us walking, pulled over and took us to where we needed to go. It was at this point that I waffling about continuing with the experience, and against my better judgement, still went and did it. If I had opted out, my traveling companion’s description would not have done this beach justice. I say all this to say, if you have a few miscues when you take this adventure, don’t give up. It will be so worth it.)

And, of course, the thing is to jump into the blue holes. Well, when I saw the Ocean Hole in Rock Sound, which is referred to as a bottomless blue hole, I marveled at it, and opted to dip a toe into it.

In Tarpum Bay, I had to take a photo on the picturesque swing. I visited the Eleuthera Island Farm in Palmetto Point (where you can shop for fresh produce, bread and coffee, hot sauces, chutneys … you get the picture).

Then it was on to the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, where Lakeisha Wallace, education officer, guided me and Eleuthera Ministry of Tourism representative, Samantha Fox, on a tour of this sanctuary that inspires and promotes an appreciation of Eleuthera’s indigenous plants, birds, and natural resources, especially its traditional medicinal plants. The Preserve is a sanctuary where everyone can enjoy the island’s biodiversity and school children can learn about their botanical heritage.

Fox then picked up with a guided tour of Cupid’s Cay, a tiny island connected by a short causeway to Governor’s Harbour (where the first seat of government in The Bahamas was established), that is not to be missed. History buffs will love its story. It’s known as the birthplace of The Bahamas. (Captain William Sayle, ex-governor of Bermuda, established the first settlement in The Bahamas at Cupid’s Cay.) And, it is believed that some of the Eleutheran Adventurers (English Puritans who arrived here in 1649 in search of religious freedom, permanently settled here.) The island’s elevation and protected bowl-shaped harbor made it an ideal location for a small community. Cupid’s Cay has been a place of commerce for many years and serves as the main dock for Governor’s Harbour. Cupid’s Cay was also the location of the first U.S. consulate and home to historic Wesley Methodist Church, which was built in 1883 and has a basement set into the rock.

For years, I’ve heard of the legendary, vivacious and jovial Diane “Lady Di” Thompson who is known to be one of Eleuthera’s finest pineapple farmers. So, of course, I could not visit the island and not visit her pineapple fields. As luck would have it, pineapples were not in season, but Lady Di was quite entertaining with sage advice and wise quips. (And goodness knows, in true Bahamian style, when I had to wait for her to visit the farm, she told me to meet her at the tamarind tree near the 7-11 to make may way to the field. … Lord help the person who does not know what a tamarind tree looks like, or missed the 7-11 sign painted on the building.)

The Glass Window Bridge in North Eleuthera is most definitely one of nature’s true wonders – rich blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean on one side of the road and the calm Bight of Eleuthera (often incorrectly called the Caribbean Sea) on the other side, separated by a strip of rock just 30-feet wide. After hearing the stories of people being swept away by rough seas, and cautioned to be careful when visiting, I was a little scared. But on the day of my visit, the seas were as calm as could be expected, which allowed me to safely take in the land that is high on both sides and that falls away abruptly to nearly sea level, almost dividing the island in two. A bridge on its topside connects the northern and southern points of Eleuthera by a paved road.

I hopped a water ferry to Harbour Island, where you can’t help but marvel at the colorful architecture and beautiful makeup of the island. I toured historic Dunmore Town with Conch and Coconut (a full-service island concierge company) guide Martin Lee Grant. The town takes its name from Lord Dunmore, the first governor of The Bahamas who served from 1787 to 1796 and who built a summer residence and laid out the streets of the town in a simple grid.

While Pink Sands Beach may be the first thing on everyone’s list to visit in Dunmore Town, that should not mean that everything else should be written off. One of the top natural sights to view on Harbour Island is Lone Tree, on the northern shoreline. The impressive driftwood is lodged into the sand and is a spot people gravitate towards to take pictures.

For the most part, most of the activities I engaged in on Eleuthera took place on land, but the island has its share of diving, snorkeling, swimming, fishing and boating.

I took a snorkeling excursion with Valentines Dive Center which anchored at two spots – Trigger, where you can expect to see nurse sharks, and turtles, and Sister Rock, where the turtles literally swim up to you to frolic. (And they do bite, so you are warned to never touch a turtle.) I even caught sight of a stingray meandering about on the seafloor.

My Eleuthera adventures were fast and furious, so-much-so that I missed a few stops as I journeyed from south to north, but Bernadette Collins, an Eleuthera native I had met (along with her husband Kevin) during my Bimini visit wasn’t having it. On the last day, she encouraged me to take the ferry over to the mainland a little early and made certain that I visited the “Hot Tubs” known as Queen’s Bath at Gregory Town, formed of rocks hewn by mother nature and in which you can swim. (The crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean roll over the rocks and settle into large pools of water which is warmed by the sun.) She also took me to Preacher’s Cave (noted as a place of refuge for Eleutheran Adventurers, the first English settlers in The Bahamas; after shipwrecking on Devil’s Backbone Reef, they found shelter in the cave); I’m glad I didn’t miss this, and Sapphire Blue Hole in North Eleuthera, which is within walking distance of Preacher’s Cave before hopping on the plane to New Providence.

Exploring Eleuthera and Harbour Island was made possible by The Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board which provides the perfect vehicles to explore The Bahamas with their Bahamas Residents Two Fly/Cruise Free From Nassau promotion – one free airline/Bahamas Ferries ticket from Nassau for pre-booked two-night hotel stays or two free airline/Bahamas Ferries tickets from Nassau for pre-booked four-night or longer hotel stays, plus individual hotel offer.

When visiting family and friends for the summer, take time to get out and explore the island’s offerings, like a visitor. There’s absolutely no excuse to not take in all off the natural wonders of your home island and country.

Bahamians have been missing out on the natural wonders of our own country. The Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board’s Two Fly Free initiative seeks to rectify that, allowing Bahamian residents the opportunity to get out and experience the country at a reduced cost and introducing them to the fact that there’s a collection of unspoiled islands that cater to true connoisseurs of island life.

The Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board’s domestic tourism program – Two Fly Free from Nassau makes domestic tourism incredibly attractive and doable. The oyster that The Bahamas has become for me is unfurling nicely and revealing its beauty. I am absolutely loving the out islands and the uniqueness that each offers.

There are three ways to redeem the fly free offer – directly with participating hotels, via Majestic Holidays and Bahamago.com.

WHERE TO STAY

Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina (South Eleuthera)

While in the south, I checked into Cape Eleuthera, an oceanside resort and marina perfect for families and couples looking to get away. The beaches beckon, the sun calls and the accommodations feel like home with modern amenities and a serene atmosphere to create a private beach retreat where you can truly disconnect and unwind and immerse yourself in Out Island tranquility.

Valentines Residences, Resort and Marina (Harbour Island)

An upscale resort that attracts people with taste and a love for life. People with a flair for the finer things and adventurous souls all find their way to Valentines.

Even though the architecture of Valentine’s luxury accommodations were inspired by the historic dwellings that once dotted (and still do in some places) Harbour Island, they feature modern amenities. Each luxury suite makes your stay a comfortable escape away from home, but not an escape from modern life. The junior villas feature a kitchenette, while the one-bedroom and two-bedroom villas or townhomes feature a full kitchen. All accommodations also welcome you with stylish island décor and a spacious patio or terrace to enjoy the balmy breezes. Every detail is a stroke of beauty – from stylized fabrics that ribbon the suites to the tubs in the marble bathrooms.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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