Monday, April 6, 2009

Calgary Herald - Best Bars, Beaches and Personalities Press Trip

Kick your bucket list in the Bahamas

The Calgary Herald
Sat 04 Apr 2009
Page: F4 Section:
Travel Byline: Joanne Elves Source: For The Calgary Herald
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On my last trip to the Bahamas, I crossed off a bunch of things from my bucket list, even though some of them weren't on the list to begin with: swimming with sharks, handfeeding stingrays, diving for lobster or staying in a beach house fit for royalty.
We stopped in Nassau just long enough to go clubbing for one night at the swanky Aura nightclub at the Atlantis Paradise Island. Though it was fun, I couldn't afford another night. Cover charge at the Aura is more than my utility bill and drinks start at $20. A bottle of scotch shared at the table cost $425 --whichincluded endless free ice. It's a hip bar, to be sure, which plays great tunes and you can dance under a state-of-the-art lighting system. It wasn't so much the fun we had inside, but more the fact we got in with the wave of a big guy behind the velvet rope.
Because the Bahamas is made up of hundreds of islands dragged along the ridge where the Caribbean Ocean meets the Atlantic, there's more than enough places to put more of that bucket list under your belt. We flew from Nassau to the Exumas, landing in George Town.
A water taxi took us to Stocking Island where we grabbed yet another Kalik (Bahamian beer) from the friendly folks at Chat 'n Chill. A fisherman on the beach was cleaning his catch and after a few minutes of waving the freshly butchered fish spoils in the water the stingrays came out, and we'd get a chance to feed them, too. It was kind of creepy at first.
I could see them moving stealthily through the water honing in on the bait I dropped at my feet. I stood there motionless --mainly out of fear--until one landed on the scraps. As it noshed on the fish, I reached down and petted its warm spongy skin. As it moved away still sucking up morsels, its wing gently rolled against my leg and across my feet, quickly counting to make sure all my toes were still there.

Swimming with pigs wasn't on my list either, but now I can honestly say I've done that, too. As we stepped into our boat which was included with our mansion on Fowl Cay, the chef handed us a beautifulpicnic basket and a bag of old vegetables. "For the pigs" he said.
I didn't know what he was talking about until we were heading to the shores of a nearby island. Seven pigs heard our engine and ran out of the shade of the sea grapes and into the water. Captain Steve stopped the boat in the shallows and we jumped in with bruised apples, wilted carrots and soft tomatoes--a pig's banquet.

Steve says the islanders leave the pigs there for tourists like us to fatten. I can report that it's working because as we left another boat with kids waving celery pulled up.
Swimming with pigs is easy and no match for swimming with sharks so to scratch sharks off the list we went looking for fins. We didn't have to go far. Compass Cay Marina is a delightful spot to pick up lunch and that's exactly what the nurse sharks are waiting for.
One, then two then 15 sharks were at our feet as we tossed chopped hotdogs off the dock. It was crazy but I had to do it. I started down the ladder into the water while the proprietor, Tucker Rolle nonchalantly watched.

"Have any tourists been taken here?" I ask. "Not yet," he replied. I let go of the ladder and treaded water with my knees tucked under my chin. The sharks didn't care about me at all. I got bumped once in awhile, but all I could handle was a few minutes of bravado. I came out of the water to scratch "swimming withgreat white sharks" off my list.
Staying in a fantastic beach house was also purged from my list and I couldn't have picked a finer place to stay. I just wish I could have stayed at The Royal Plantation Island at Fowl Cay a lot longer. It's just a short boat ride from Staniel Cay in the Exumas. The 20-hectare island only has six villas. The only other people on the island are the chef, the managers, their twins and four dogs. I walked the entire circumference of the island and didn't see any footprints in the sand.
What makes Royal Plantation Island special are its all-inclusive features, service and seclusion. Bring a toothbrush and the island is yours. Meals are prepared by the chef, your boat and tackle and picnic lunches are all included.

Captain Steve will either take you out for the day or set the GPS in a whaler to aid in your exploration of neighbouring islands, coves, caves and sunken airplanes
Taking "diving for lobster" off the list would be a lie because everybody knows I can't get my face more than a foot under water.

But I was floating on the surface when my friend David Hocher, owner of the Staniel Cay Yacht Club dove three metres down to spear the biggest lobster ever. At least I can take "dining on freshly caught lobster in a Bahamian yacht club" off my list.
IF YOU GO - Air Canada and WestJet offer direct flights from Calgary in the "I have to get out of the snow" season to Nassau. The rest of the time you connect through Toronto. Small charters and Bahamas Air will get you to most of the big out islands. also check Bahamas Fast Ferries to connect to the out islands. For more information, visit the following websites: -, Bahamas Tourism -, Staniel Cay Yacht Club -, Royal Plantation Island -, Stocking Island
Illustration:• Photo: • Photo: Joanne Elves, For The Calgary Herald / It may not be at the top of your bucket list, but yes, you can feed the pigs with vegetable scraps in the Bahamas.

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