Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas is an island known for its slow “island life” and relaxed atmosphere. In stark contrast to Nassau it has a slow pace both on the road (30 mph speed limits) and off the road (longer meal times and slower service). The island is very safe (I took several runs on my own through various neighborhoods) and it’s easy to get around, assuming you have a GPS (see below).
What To Do:
Gold Rock Beach is touted as one of the best beaches in the world and the filming location of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. The beach is part of The Lucayan National Park and is approximately 25 miles from Freeport. At a cost of $5/person you can explore the caves and the beach at your leisure.
Deep Sea and Reef Fishing are popular activities on the island. My husband caught snapper, porgy, and triggerfish on his reef fishing adventure and several barracuda during his deep sea fishing excursion. We chose to stay at a fully furnished apartment making it possible to cook and eat some of the delicious fish Ty caught during his fishing trips. Of note, conch is very popular on Grand Bahama Island so if skin diving is of interest be sure to skin dive in the canals.
Scuba diving on Grand Bahama Island should definitely be on your bucket list! Our shark and dolphin dives turned out to be the highlight of all of our diving experiences thus far (even in comparison to the huge sea life in Egypt and the beautiful coral reefs in Cozumel). We quickly adapted to the sharks after jumping off the boat for the first dive and seeing the sharks swim in circles underneath us (and it wasn’t even a “shark dive”)!
Our first dive, “Picasso’s Gallery”, had everything a diver hopes for in a dive (beautiful coral, numerous species of fish, a huge turtle, conch, and dozens of sharks). After several minutes of sharks swimming alongside, straight at you, or directly over your head I became comfortable enough to look around at other sea life. At one point I became focused on a trumpet fish and felt something close to my head. Assuming it was another diver I swiftly turned my head only to headbutt a shark. I was stunned to say the least and every other diver, including our dive masters, witnessed it. One of the dive masters calmly looked at me and gave me the “ok” signal. I signaled back and went about the dive. Afterwards my husband informed me the shark was nibbling on my mask or braid and was also stunned when I bumped into him. The dive masters stated they’d never seen that happen so needless to say I had a shark “encounter” before our actual shark dive.
“Shark Junction” is the dive site known for shark feedings. During the first of two shark dives we swam around with them and took pictures. I met a new friend, a very large black grouper, who followed me around even during the 15 feet safety stop. Although he had a huge mouth and probably could have eaten my head in one swallow we became fast friends and let me pet him throughout the dive. Slowly but surely I became comfortable enough to get some close up pics of the sharks. One shark got a little frisky with me and started nibbling on my flipper as I was taking his picture. I started laughing so hard into my regulatory some other divers doing their safety stop heard me down below and caught a glimpse of the action. Again, the dive masters stated this has never happened before so please don’t let it stop you from taking part in this breathtaking experience.
The second shark dive was considered a “feeding” (see video below) where sharks brush your face with their bellies and fins. Yes, it was slightly unnerving (considering my previous encounters) but diving with sharks and dolphins is one of the rare “WOW” opportunities you must experience if you’re a diver. I’ve included a short video segment of our dolphin encounter (kissing, dancing, hugging) and one of our shark encounters.
Which dive company do I recommend? Unexso. Hands down Unexso is the best scuba company I’ve ever had the pleasure of diving with. Great customer service, efficient, safe, clean, and well worth the price (which is higher than the other companies).
Where To Eat:
Bernie’s on the beach: Great beach hut with fabulous food you can enjoy while watching the sun set over the ocean. I would recommend going on Tuesday evenings (get there early if you want lobster) for Bernie’s bonfire bbq. For $20 you’ll get snapper, lobster, or chicken/ribs bbq with 2 Bahama Mamas and a shot of rum.
Zorba’s: A favorite of both locals and tourists alike. Zorba’s is known for their breakfast stew conch and cracked conch for lunch and you can’t go wrong with the original, the gyro.
Garden of the Groves: Planning to take a drive around the island or an afternoon trip out to Gold Rock Beach? If so, stop by this haven for a nature walk and a chat with some exotic birds. You’ll enjoy lunch with waterfalls as the backdrop to your picturesque meal and colorful birds and ducks who call the place home. Of note, there is an entrance fee unless you choose to stay at Bill’s place (see “Where to stay” below).
Taino Beach-Known for the jazz music on Sunday evenings and a fish fry on Wednesday evenings. Taino beach is the place to be if you’re interested in music and hanging with the locals well into the night.
Where To Stay:
Stay at Bill’s place! It’s pretty rare to meet someone who is meticulous about their business and thinks of all the extras to make your stay enjoyable. As I thoroughly searched listings that met our criteria (full kitchen, separate bedroom, washer/dryer, outdoor eating area, and on the water) I came across Bill’s VRBO listing. It was everything we wanted and more!
From the moment we booked Bill began emailing his recommendations of what to do, see, and eat. He provided us a discount on a rental car which included his very own GPS with the location of his home and his favorite places on the island. His apartment was fully stocked with information about the island and all of those little things that make a stay enjoyable such as board games and an umbrella for the rainy days, fishing poles to catch fish right in his backyard, and everything you need in a kitchen to make a fantastic meal.
If you’re looking for a great place to stay, a fantastic travel agent, and a great location for your vacation this is the place to stay!
What to know before you go
- Get a rental car as the island is very spread out.
- Remember to drive on the opposite side of the road.
- Like most islands, food and gas are more expensive than in the U.S. They do accept the dollar but be sure to bring cash as many places don’t accept credit cards.
- “Roundabouts” galore! If you decide to stay somewhere other than Bill’s house be sure to have a GPS (or international data plan with your phone carrier) as roundabouts are everywhere and can make for a confusing way back home if you’re not paying attention.
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