Open doors and pretty flamingos - the ‘Out Islands’ of Bahamas

March 19th, 2008 - 10:19 am ICT by admin  

Nassau (Bahamas), March 19 (DPA) The doors of homes in these parts are left unlocked, the children enjoy going to school and even the flamingos seem to be having a grand time. And where can you find such a happy, contented atmosphere? Try the Bahamas archipelago, or the so-called “Out Islands” to be precise. Unlike New Providence and the capital Nassau, or Grand Bahama with its free port and gaudy fast-food chains, many of these cay islands are completely off the beaten tourist track.

Only around 30 of the low-lying 700 Bahamas islands are inhabited. And there are also more than 2,000 coral reefs in the shallow waters which prove a magnet to sailors and divers alike.

One of the islands where people do live is Eleuthera. On the map it looks like a giant seahorse with a very thin middle section. The island is 180 km long but mostly between 3 and 4 km wide. The narrowest section is mere 10 metres across.

To ensure that Eleutherans never have to travel far to catch a plane there are three airports and regular international flights to Fort Lauderdale in Florida. According to tourism director Glenda Johnson, there is an airport for every 100 hotel rooms on the island.

From the tiny settlement of Governor’s Harbour, one of the oldest inhabited places on the island with some handsome colonial houses, headmistress Karen Crean and 10-year-old Nigel are happy to show visitors around their school.

Nigel is surprised to hear that some children in Europe are not keen about going to schools but then they don’t live on a paradise island where pineapples and oranges ripen in the Caribbean sun.

These days Eleuthera and the other cays attract those seeking tranquillity, the carefree feeling which results from a remarkably low crime rate and the chance to sunbathe on beautiful pink beaches lined with coconut palms and slender casuarina trees.

“People from all over the world appreciate that things move more slowly out here and that people have more time for each other,” said Simon Worley, a 42-year-old Englishman on board the Sealink ferry between Eleuthera and Nassau.

The globetrotter and businessman says he could easily have afforded the flight but prefers the authentic atmosphere on board. “I want to enjoy myself and this way I can get a four-hour cruise.”

Small, propeller aircraft fly to almost all the cays and where no runway is available amphibious versions set down on the waves.

Visitors might get cold feet when they disembark but they will be impressed by the warm hospitality in these parts. It is not unusual for motorists to simply stop and offer pedestrians a lift into town.

For those who would like to get to know the locals a little better, there is a “people-to-people” programme with around 1,000 families participating.

These invite visitors who have registered their interest beforehand at the local tourist office to a stroll around the countryside or a sporting event.

“Many a tourist has made friends for life by taking advantage of this scheme,” said the programme’s director Marilyn Johnson in Nassau.


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