Freeport – Grand Bahama Island (cont.)
With beachside proximity, the sea is the centerpiece of your Our Lucaya vacation and there is plenty to do for those who don’t want to just watch the waves lap the secluded beach. There are numerous planned activities, for adults and children, in which to take part including scavenger hunts, croquet or a game of coconut bowling.
De-stress with a lounge in the infinity pool or visit the pool at the Our Lucaya Reef Village where the Sugar Mill Pool features a 60-foot-high tower slide (that is for the kids!). A large, 35’ diameter wading pool is great for little guests, particularly with the adjoining sand playground.
Camp Lucaya offers supervised activities for children ages 3-12.
Stepping across the road to the Our Lucaya Marketplace find plenty of duty-free shopping from collectables and jewelry to clothing and accessories.
Outside of the shops there are open stall vendors selling regional goods and wares, each promising the best prices for “you.”
It is a great part of the fun and allows a visitor to mingle with a small section of the Bahamian people.
Food choices at the marketplace are numerous and tasty. An early morning breakfast at Le Med at Port Lucaya allows guests to relax while watching the harbor waken and tour boats fill with tourists clutching towels and sunscreen for a day on the sea.
Le Med Restaurant makes a perfect place to start your day with rich coffees and sumptuous breakfast plates.
Familiar breakfast treats, from two-eggs any style to buckwheat crepes, are enhanced with Bahamian favorites like Stew Fish or Stew Conch and fry jacks, Chicken Souse and the ever-present Boiled Fish.
The market place offers a beautiful end of the day experience when dining at Luciano’s.
At this classic Italian fine dining restaurant Chef Boulet serves classic dishes from land and sea. A deep menu offers gifts from the sea including Osetra Caviar and Bloc de Foie Gras to sweet Stone crab claws hot dripping with hot garlic butter or served cold with a mustard sauce.
The Luciano’s House Salad brings a Bahamian flair to the table with an island inspired combination of avocados, hearts of palm, baby shrimp, pineapple chunks, sweet cor and tomatoes in a lemon cream sauce.
In addition to their printed menu, special dishes change seasonally allowing the enjoyment of a large, moist, flaky grouper. The sweet meat of the grouper was offset by the crunch and earthiness of slivered almonds. Prepared to perfection, the fish was served with crisp asparagus, carrots, potatoes and the ever-present citrus, lime.
The island and its surrounding water are everything to the Bahamians. From the fishermen who pull fresh grouper and snapper, along with the pink shelled beloved conch from the sea to the off shore oil tanker parking lot where crude is offloaded to Freeport holding tanks before being re-loaded to new carriers taking the “black-gold” to the United States for refining.
The conch is an interesting story in Bahamas. The name conch references a variety of sea-snails, or mollusks.
The Queen Conch is a “mainstay” of the Bahamian diet however they are commercially extinct throughout the ranges where they live and reproduce. Widely eaten throughout the Caribbean islands, conch has been overfished and trade in conch to the U.S. from many Caribbean countries, is always regulated and often prohibited.
Additionally, laws exist making it illegal to harvest a conch that has not reached adult size, meaning that it has reproduced through at least one mating season, juveniles are still widely, and foolishly, harvested in the Bahamas.
As laws chang quickly and vary from country to country, as the cleaned and polished shells are hawked on the beaches and by street vendors, it is important to make sure you know the rules before you purchase any conch meat, shells or souvenirs prior to leaving the country.
Freeport got is name because it is a free-trade-zone for exporters of oil and goods to, primarily the U.S., and the islands largest commerce, after tourism and banking, is its off-shore banking role and then as a stopping off place on the journey of oil from the middle east and goods from China and other export partners before reaching the Americas.
One aspect of this island that makes it a multiple-day destination are the many eco and sight-seeing tours that are offered, many that are available through The Grand Bahamas’ Island club.
The Rand Nature Center, Peterson’s Cay, a small isle off the shore of Grand Bahamas and Lucayan National Park an incredible 40 acre reserve that features five ecological zones from land to sea, including an extensive underwater cave system.
The Grand Bahamas Tour presents a variety of tours from the water – kayaking lush mangrove forests or snorkeling the many reefs and coves – to the land bike sightseeing, beach and shopping. Eco tours include a Jeep Safari and the Lucaya National Park tours or the Birding Tour where visitors seek out over 200 bird species that call Grand Bahamas Island home.
For a bit of both worlds, our choice was the Western Heritage Tour (included in the GBI platinum package or $79/pp), a five hour narrated van journey that travels to four incredible sites, Pinder’s Point, an old lighthouse on the rocky banks that, when tide is out, you can scurry down to see the life teaming in the small tide pools left between the fossil encrusted rocks, Hawksbill Creek, a fresh water river surrounded by wetlands.
One of the interesting Island challenges we learned about are the Casuarina, or Australian, pine trees that are an invasive species first brought in as a “wind break” but that now outgrows native plants and trees.
The trees were introduced to Florida in the late 1800’s as the fast growing (5-10 feet per year) tree was planted along ditches and canals in an effort to stem erosion. Small winged seeds easily found themselves floating on wind and water to Freeport’s shores where they now displace native plants, changing the soil structure and destroying habitat for native plants, insects and wildlife.
Boiling Hole, one of our stops, is an incredible natural lagoon so named for how the water swirls and bubbles during the tides. The lagoon is the entry point for an underground cavern, famously explored by Jacques Cousteau, and is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. With the tide out, it is easy to climb down the ladder to wade in the warm waters, enjoying the many fish and other shallow water animals that can be seen.
The tour continues to Fern Gully, an interesting place to spot large, land hermit crabs and peer into the caverns that islanders use for shelter during hurricanes. Paths take you past trees and shrubs that have identifying markers, showing you one more aspect of Freeport’s vast ecological structure.
Throughout your tour, your naturalist guide, for our tour it was Chad, keeps you informed on the ecological and cultural balance of the island. You will learn that the people of Freeport are taking proactive steps to encourage reuse and recycling, green habits, such as using reusable versus plastic bags and conservation.
Interesting enough Chad explained that on Freeport the conservation and recycling message is being taught first to the children through the schools and those children are leading the campaign to preserve the island and its natural bounty.
The tour ends at Paradise Cove where lunch at The Red Bar and shallow water to snorkeling at Deadman’s Reef awaits. If your visit to Grand Bahamas Island’s includes a bit of time for a secluded get-a-way, make reservations at Paradise Cove in one of their two villas – one two-bedroom and one one-bedroom – complete with kitchens and front-door ocean access.
Though time did not permit, an activity for a return visit is the hour and one-half mangrove forest kayak tour that meanders through the island’s wetlands beneath the red mangrove trees.
This forest is part of the island’s unique ecological system where the mangrove trees have adapted to growing in seawater, their vast above ground and water root systems creating a nursery habitat for the sea, allowing juveniles to grow up safe from larger predators.
Species that can be seen among the mangrove’s roots are barracudas, baby sharks, rays, moray eels, snappers and the abundance of brightly colored fish that will, once they reach maturity, move to the coral reefs.
The reefs that make Grand Bahamas Island a vacation destination for many.
Also: Bahamas: Scuba Diving with Caribbean reef sharks
All photos @Jacquie Kubin
Jacquie Kubin is a 15-year, award-winning veteran of travel and culinary writing. Today, Jacquie edits and directs a staff of writers for Donne Tempo Magazine, where you can read more of her entertainment, travel and culinary reviews. Jacquie is always looking for new talents who want to expand their horizons.