The Forgotten Island




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When we think of the Bahamas we think of the cities of Nassau and Freeport and maybe of the fabulous Atlantis Resort. We also think of an island archipelago with many sandy beaches.

The Bahamas, in fact, has over 700 islands of varying sizes. One of them used to be the home to an American Naval Facility which operated from 1957 until decommissioned in 1980. This island also used to be a playground for the rich and famous – mostly Americans, mostly Hollywood types, who maintained vacation homes there.

Now that island is largely forgotten. Tourism is still its mainstay, but it is a permanent residence to just 11,000. We happened across it by chance as it was the first stop on a cruise we took in January 2015. Our cruise was with Princess Cruises and the stop was at a place at one end of the island called Princess Cays Resort. As far as we know, it is an exclusive stop for Princess Lines. No other cruise ships visit here.

The Ruby Princess at Anchor at Princess Cays
The Ruby Princess at Anchor at Princess Cays

The island is Eleuthra, a long boomerang shaped island 110 miles long and just a mile wide at its narrowest point. It was discovered by Christopher Columbus and the Spanish who left the island decimated, its native population routed by disease and the remainder carried off as slaves to work the mines on Hispaniola.

It remained largely unpopulated until rediscovered by Puritan colonists who called themselves the Eleutherian Adventurers. They had originally settled in Bermuda but refused to swear allegiance to the British Crown. They struck out for a place they could practice their faith free of persecution in the late 1640s (some time between 1646 and 1648). They were the first settlers of the Bahamas and gave Eleuthra its name.

The Adventurers were led by William Sayle who had created a constitution of sorts. Dissension in the ranks led Sayles and his followers to retreat eventually to New Providence where the city of Nassau is. But it is said that if Sayles had been successful, Eleuthra would have been the first independent democracy in the Americas, some 130 years before the American Revolution. Sayles later became Governor of the Colony of South Carolina.

On our cruise, we were taken by tender to the small dock at Princess Quay. There, as is usual with cruise ship stops, we had a variety of options open to us, including just lazing on the beach. We opted for a bus tour that would cover about half the island.

Our guide gave us a short history of the island before we came to our first stop – a small church sandwiched between the highway and the shore near Rock Sound. It was a Sunday so services were in progress at the time.

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Anglican church near Rock Sound

Our next stop was the Blue Hole. Our guide called it the Blue Hole but apparently its actual name is Ocean Hole. Blue hole is the generic term for such geological features. It is not far from Rock Sound.

The Blue Hole near Rock Sound on Eleuthra
The Blue Hole near Rock Sound on Eleuthra

The hole is a salt water lake a mile inland from the ocean. It was stocked by locals with salt water sea life many years ago. It is said to be bottomless and it rises and ebbs with the tides so there must be a subterranean connection with the ocean. Jacques Cousteau, who used to live on Eleuthra, tried to find the connection but failed.

Feeding Fish in the Blue Hole
Feeding Fish in the Blue Hole

We continued on to Governor’s Harbour, about half way up the island. There we saw Government House as well as a number of homes boarded up while their owners were away. There were also some abandoned buildings. Our tour guides sang the Bahamian National Anthem for us on the steps of Government House.

Our tour guides sing for us in front of Government House
Our tour guides sing for us in front of Government House

On the return trip we stopped at Tarpum Bay, a small and picturesque fishing village along the way.

Tarpum Bay
Tarpum Bay seen from the dock

Then it was back to Rock Sound where we stopped for lunch and entertainment at a seashore restaurant. Most of the staff and entertainers were black and I discovered that black culture has a long history in the Bahamas.

After the American War of Independence, many Loyalists to the Crown fled the United States, many of them settling in the Caribbean. Thousands settled in the Bahamas. They brought their slaves with them. The Bahamas became a haven for freed slaves and formally abolished the practice in 1834. Today descendants of freed slaves and free Africans make up 90 percent of the population.

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Junkanoo musicians and dancers in their colorful garb

We very much enjoyed the Junkanoo parade put on for us. Junkanoo is an annual festival and parade with colorful costumes, dancing and music.

Some locals also demonstrated how to prepare conch as a meal. They showed how to remove the live conch from its shell and then prepare it in a salad.

Making conch salad
Making conch salad

All in all, we very much enjoyed our trip to this fascinating island.

Below is a link to an additional photo gallery as well as another link of interest.

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Photo Gallery: Eleuthra




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Here are some additional photos of our visit to the island of Eleuthra in the Bahamas.

Our tour guide on the bus tells of the history of Eleuthra
Our tour guide on the bus tells of the history of Eleuthra
During the ride we were shown how to make some crafts, including this headband made from reeds
During the ride we were shown how to make some crafts, including this headband made from reeds
A house shuttered against storms while the owner is away
A house in Governor’s Harbour is shuttered against storms while the owner is away
Myself at Tarpum Bay
Myself at Tarpum Bay
Tarpum Bay homes and businesses
Tarpum Bay homes and businesses. I believe the blue building is a small hotel.
A pile of conch shells
A pile of conch shells
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How to extract a conch from its shell
Extracting a conch from its shell
Slicing up a conch to make a conch salad
Colorful Junkanoo dancers and musicians
Colorful Junkanoo dancers and musicians

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The Aquarium at Atlantis




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In 2002 Forbes Magazine had an article on the most expensive hotel suites in the world. Top of the list at $25,000 a night was the Bridge Suite at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. Ever since, I’ve always wanted to see the Atlantis Resort.

In January 2015, my wife and I, her sister and her brother and his wife took a Caribbean cruise that stopped at Nassau in the Bahamas. One of the excursions available was to the Atlantis Resort. Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity.

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The Atlantis Resort Hotel

The  Bridge Suite is in the bridge between the two Royal Towers. But the hotel complex shown above is just one of five hotel complexes and they also have the Harborside Resort which is a collection of villas and a marina if you want to stay there on your boat.

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The Harborside Resort is the colourful collection of villas you see across the inlet.

Besides accommodations, Atlantis has a 141 acre waterpark, beaches, pools, aquariums and  21 restaurants. There is also a street of shops you can check out. You can swim with the sting rays, snorkel, scuba dive, and get up close and personal with dolphins. It really is a destination resort with something for everyone.

Our tour barely scratched the surface of what there is to see. A bus took us from the cruise ship to Paradise Island where Atlantis is located. We met up with our guide who first took us through the casino. No picture taking was allowed inside the casino.

The Casino at Atlantis
The Casino at Atlantis

And then we got to the main part of our tour which is the aquarium. It’s a world class affair with many different species of fish. There is a clear tunnel you can walk through and watch the fish swim overhead and alongside. And there are many different aquaria, each with its own theme.

Many colourful tropical fish were on display.
Many colourful tropical fish were on display.
Including this odd bunch that liked to hang out in the corner by themselves.
Including this odd bunch that liked to hang out in the corner by themselves.

I’ll include more pictures in a separate photo gallery because I want to focus on the best part of the aquarium visit which was quite different and which I haven’t seen anywhere else. Many of the aquaria opened up at the surface to the outdoors and you could, in fact, walk around outside and look down on the fish.

Juvenile sawfish and stingrays swim around in this outdoor area.
Juvenile sawfish and stingrays swim around in this outdoor area.

When we finished our inside tour, our guide told us we could spend the rest of our time exploring on our own. She recommended checking out the feeding of the sharks and rays outside in about a half hour. So we went out and waited. Remarkably few people joined us. Their loss as what we saw was amazing. A young lady named Bianca, one of the curators at the aquarium, came out with a trolley filled with pails of fish. She fed some in one location and then walked across a shallow section of the immense pool field with sharks and rays following her around like puppies.

She climbed out of the pool and walked over to another area where she hand fed stingrays and zebra sharks. It was an incredible sight as these denizens of the deep snapped fish from her hand. She sometimes patted their heads and you could see she had a great affection for these beasts. And they seemed to like her as well.

My wife asked Bianca if she named her charges. Indeed she did using names from Greek and roman mythology. But she only named the rays and sharks. Too many other fish to name them all. Amazingly, she could identify which sharks and rays were which though they all looked much alike to me.

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Bianca and one of her charges.

In the video below, Bianca explains the names of her fishy friends. But watch that zebra shark just snap up that last fish as she tries to identify him. Chomp! So cool!

We still had an hour or so after the feeding session so we explored some more of the Royal Towers complex. Outside the casino was an immense abstract sculpture, one of five that each cost over a million dollars.

Janis and her sister Betty in front of a million dollar statue.
Janis and her sister Betty in front of a million dollar statue.

We headed for the lobby and came across the Throne of Atlantis. Naturally we had to try it out. It was big enough for two!

Janis and I sitting on the Throne of Atlantis.
Janis and I sitting on the Throne of Atlantis.

The lobby area had an immense atrium with intricate carvings and fluted columns. Quite amazing.

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The immense lobby of the Royal Towers.

We inquired about the Bridge Suite and yes, it was open to tours. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time before we had to return to the cruise ship. Another time for sure.

The Bridge Suite
The Bridge Suite

Our tour guide had told us that it was informally know as the Michael Jackson Suite as he was the first person to have stayed there. It rents for $25,000 a night with a four night minimum.

I recently checked online and it is no longer the most expensive hotel suite in the world. In fact, it slipped to number three in 2003 and it is not even on this year’s top 15 list. A lot of fancy hotels have been built since 2002!

But I also checked to see how much a stay at Atlantis would set back the average person. The budget complex, still pretty fancy, is the Beach Tower. There is currently a special on if you order before July 20th. Forty percent off. I did a tentative booking for a week in early October and it costs a much more affordable $129.14  a night.  I think a week at Atlantis just might be in our future!




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Photo Gallery: Atlantis Resort




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Here are some additional photos of the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

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Visitors with boats and yachts are welcome at Atlantis.
The lobby.
Detail shell work in the cupola at the lobby of the Royal Towers.
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Another million dollar sculpture at Atlantis. Looks like Medusa to me!
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Through the plexiglass tunnel.
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Silver dollar fish at the aquarium at Atlantis.
A grouper
A grouper
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Jellyfish
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Stingrays

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Bianca walks through a shallow part of the pool, followed by her good buddies.

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This cat lives at the Atlantis Resort near the aquarium.
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Bianca prepares to feed the rays and sawfish.

Here sharky, sharky sharky!
Here sharky, sharky sharky! Come and get it!



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