From pirates to blockade dodgers to rum smugglers, wily go-getters have converged and caroused on the country’s 700 islands and 2400 cays for centuries. The Bahamas are a wonderful collection of islands that are picture perfect tropical paradise. The famous Atlantis resort is here where you can spend thousands on rooms and casinos per night or you can relax at one of the smaller bed and breakfasts and enjoy some quite time on the beach. The waters around the islands are filled with fish making for excellent diving and fishing.
Quick Facts About the Bahamas
Size: 13,878 km
Power Outlets: 127/230V 50Hz
Official Languages: English
Currency: Dollar (BSD)
Time Zone: GMT/UTC -5
Calling Code: +1-242
Weather: The Bahamas enjoy 320 sunny days a year and temperatures of 70 F during winter and 80 F during the summer. The islands are balmy year-round, with cooling, winds blowing by day from the east. The rainy season is from late May to November. Humidity in the northern islands is relatively high year-round. Hurricane season is June to November. The high season typically runs from mid-December to mid-April.
Cost and Budgeting for the Bahamas
The Bahamian dollar (BS$) is linked one-to-one with the US dollar and you can use US currency everywhere. There are ATMs in the leading tourist centers. Bring extra cash for small meals, sundries and tips when heading to the far reaches of the Out Islands or hopping between cays where ATMS are few and far between. Major credit cards are widely accepted throughout the islands.
The seafaring Taino people, known as Lucayans, moved into the uninhabited southern Bahamas from Hispaniola and Cuba around the 7th century AD. There were an estimated 30,000+ Lucayans at the time of Columbus’ arrival in 1492. The Spaniards who followed Columbus depopulated the islands, carrying most of the indigenous people off into slavery. In 1648, the Eleutherian Adventurers migrated from Bermuda. These English puritans established the first permanent European settlement on an island.
In 1670 King Charles II granted the islands to the Lords Proprietors of the Carolinas, who rented the islands from the king with rights of trading, tax, appointing governors, and administering the country. During proprietary rule, the Bahamas became a haven for pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard. To restore orderly government, the Bahamas was made a British crown colony in 1718 under the royal governorship of Woodes Rogers, who succeeded in suppressing piracy.
In 1967, Lynden Pindling of the Progressive Liberal Party became the first black premier of the colony, and in 1968 the title was changed to prime minister. In 1973, the Bahamas became fully independent, but retained membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. Sir Milo Butler was appointed the first black governor-general shortly after independence. Based on the twin pillars of tourism and offshore finance, the Bahamian economy has prospered since the 1950s. However, there remain significant challenges in areas such as education, health care, international narcotics trafficking and illegal immigration from Haiti.
In the less developed outer islands, handicrafts include basketry made from palm fronds. This material, commonly called “straw”, is plaited into hats and bags that are popular tourist items. Another use is for so-called “Voodoo dolls,” despite the fact that such dolls are the result of the American imagination and not based on historic fact. Obeah, a religion of folk magic, sorcery, and religious practices derived from Central African and West African origins, is practiced in some of the Family Islands (out-islands) of the Bahamas. Junkanoo is a street parade of music, dance, and art held in many cities of the Bahamas every Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Regattas are important social events in many family island settlements. They usually feature one or more days of sailing by old-fashioned work boats, as well as an onshore festival. Some settlements have festivals associated with the traditional crop or food of that area, such as the “Pineapple Fest” in Gregory Town, Eleuthera or the “Crab Fest” on Andros. Other significant traditions include story telling.
Things to See and Do in the Bahamas
Bahamas National Trust Park– For hikers, birders, turtles and more than 50,000 flamboyant flamingos, this national park is a great way to spend the day when the beach gets boring.
Clarence Town– Beautiful churches watch over secluded bays and a 660ft deep blue hole that makes for excellent diving.
Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park– Explore 365 cays with excellent boating, snorkeling, and diving.
San Salvador– This area boast some great diving around deep sea walls.
Cat Island– African heritage apparent in crumbling slave plantations and obeah practices
Sailing– There’s sailing great to Abacos where the gentle trade winds blow.
Diving– Dive Andros’ blue holes to sea a plethora of undersea life.
All the islands are low and flat, with ridges that usually rise no more than 15 to 20 m (49 to 66 ft). The highest point in the country is Mount Alvernia, formerly called Como Hill, which has an altitude of 63 metres (210 ft) on Cat Island. To the southeast, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and three more extensive submarine features called Mouchoir Bank, Silver Bank, and Navidad Bank, are geographically a continuation of the Bahamas, but not part of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The climate of the Bahamas is subtropical to tropical, and is moderated significantly by the waters of the Gulf Stream, particularly in winter. Conversely, this often proves very dangerous in the summer and autumn, when hurricanes pass near or through the islands.