Grand Bahama Island: Action Packed Adventures
- Submitted by: Webmaster, American Samoa
- Website: http://www.caribbean.com
- Submission Date: 28th Jun 2005
The Birth of Grand Bahama Island
The fourth largest island in the 700-island / cays chain of The Bahamas, in 1513 Grand Bahama Island found a place in island history when the Spanish explorer, Ponce de Leon chanced upon it in his quest for the Fountain of Youth. Describing the area as Gran Bajamar or Great Shallows due to the many flats and shoals in the waters off the island, the name Gran Baja mar evolved and eventually became Grand Bahama, thus, a new island nation was born.
The history of the Grand Bahama Island is an important part of the history of the island chain of the Grand Bahama. The Bahamas history and its fortunes are as you will find, irrevocably tied to that of the United States of America, along whose coastline the Islands of the Grand Bahama stretch. The history of The Bahamas is one of island invasions; piracy and slavery till freedom became the birthright of the people of The Bahamas. White minority domination ended in 1967 and finally in 1973, the Grand Bahama Islands gained full independence from the crown, adopting their own The Bahamas Flag. Becoming official in July 1971, the colours of The Bahamas flag are symbolic representations of the Nation of The Bahamas and its people. The black triangle of The Bahamas flag is for the strength and will power of its people, a yellow bar between two blue bars symbolises the sandy beaches surrounded by the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and the aquamarine blue represents the Caribbean Sea.
Grand Bahama Island: The Past
The history of the Grand Bahama Island begins with the Stone Age Siboney Indians people who lived off agriculture, fishing, conchs, shelling and other bounties from the ocean. In time, the Siboneys disappeared being superseded by the Tainos or Lucayans who had arrived from South America in their dugout canoes. As hunter-gatherers, there is little evidence left of their presence on the islands apart from the shells and jewellery they used for ornamentation.
The Tainos or Lucayans, a sub-tribe of the Arawak Indians soon established themselves and occupied the entire archipelago of the Grand Bahama creating a new island culture. Living in well-organised communities, they had an advanced political and social structure, their population increased and numbered around 40,000 when their peaceful existence was rend asunder as the Spanish Conquistadors made their first landfall on San Salvador Island of the Grand Bahama. Their arrival rung the death knell for the islanders and, if they had not succumbed to the deathly European germs, guns and steel, they were enslaved and transported to Europe or to work the gold mines of Hispaniola and Cuba or dive for pearls in the fisheries of Margarita, near Trinidad. The Spanish either killed or stole the native population and, before long the beaches of Grand Bahama Island regained their pristine purity without a footprint to mar the silky smoothness of the sands. The discovery of skulls, animal bones, artefacts, hearths, pottery shards, shell beads and an ancient burial system testify that before the Spanish, there were other claimants, the earliest inhabitants of the Grand Bahama Islands.
After depopulating the Grand Bahama Island, the Spanish simply forgot it. Ignoring it completely, once in a while, a ship would anchor down to scavenge for provisions before setting sail for Europe or South America. Treacherously shallow reefs made it a perilous landfall and many a ship floundered on the island reefs. Wrecking became a major livelihood for the West End island inhabitants and during hard times, they were known to have lured ships on to the reef at night with a well-placed lantern.
In 1670, Great Britain laid claim to the Islands of The Bahamas with a new settlement on Eleuthera, Harbour Island. The first settlement led to the gradual development of ports and colonies gradually bringing in privateers and the pirates. Notorious Legends like Blackbeard, Calico Joe, Captain Kidd and Henry Morgan probably used the shallow reefs of the island of Grand Bahama for their piratical activities. Once the Crown successfully established control over the Grand Bahama Islands, they saw far fewer visitors than during the Golden Age of Piracy. Undisturbed for 200-years, history finally caught up with the sleepy colony. Most of the population had abandoned the Grand Bahama Island for the bright lights and greater opportunities of Nassau, New Providence Island. The American Civil War and Union blockage / embargo saw the people returning to Grand Bahama Island, virtually doubling the population overnight. Generous rewards for smuggling sugar, cotton and weapons to the Confederates in the South from the West End, the island saw a short burst of prosperity and the history of the Grand Bahama Island tied an intimate knot with the history of the United States of America. The next smuggling boon came with Prohibition in the U.S.A. and rum running became a lucrative enterprise. With the repeal of Prohibition, the economy went into a spiralling tailspin and the people of Grand Bahama went back to subsistence farming and fishing. The birth and rise of tourism in the Grand Bahama changed the fickleness of the economy for the island chain.
Grand Bahama Island: The Present
The watershed moment in the history of Grand Bahama Island begins in 1955 when a Virginia businessman, Wallace Groves saw the enormous potential of the island as tourist destination. From little more than a pine forest, he transformed Grand Bahama Island into the quintessential tropical playground of the Americas and the world. A visionary, he saw the island as a welcome alternative to the overcrowded beaches and casinos of Havana, Cuba and sought to develop it into a winter playground for rich and famous. The Bahamas history took a turning point; the islands were no longer forgotten and everyone wanted a vacation in The Bahamas!
Signing an accord with the British Government, he set about enacting his vision and Freeport and Port Lucaya were born. The ultimate tourist destination, it is the Port-of-Call for cruise ships due to its duty free shopping, straw markets, fine dining and local colour.
Grand Bahama Island: Glitz and Glamour
Tourists come for the variety of cultural experiences, ecological wonders and the impressive variety of vacation adventures that the island can offer for one and all. Miles of deserted beaches, nature preserves and endless seas, Grand Bahama seems uninhabited in parts. On the other hand, as you travel to Freeport or Port Lucaya, it becomes obvious that the island is on its way to becoming a tourism capital.
Already, Port Lucaya has become the centre of the Grand Bahama as far as the tourists are concerned. Cruise ships call in, activity boats depart and the islands night life is concentrated here for the most part in Port Lucaya Marketplace, with its large hotels, speciality stores, Straw Market and restaurants. Port Lucaya with its access to instant beaches, restaurants, activities and shopping is an excellent choice for booking into one of its many hotels. The constant bustle of the city from dawn till sunset, the nightlife offers of live music in Count Basie Square, half a dozen bars frequented by locals and tourists alike, hotel lounges and a mellow dinner at the open open-air restaurants makes it irresistible.
Grand Bahama Island: A Natural Adventure
The secluded West and East End of the Grand Bahama Island are magnets for nature lovers. The tiny resort of Paradise Cove near Dead mans Reef is known to have some of the best snorkelling in The Bahamas.
The Grand Bahama Island is an ecological wonder waiting to be discovered. There are miles and miles of sandy beaches and park trails to take a bike ride down, explore quaint fishing villages dotting the West End, take a nature walk through a national park, dive to explore the underwater limestone caves, there is always something to see or experience. With a reputation of being a divers paradise, Grand Bahama Island offers coral gardens, playful dolphins, blue holes and the second largest underwater cave system to explore.
For the sports enthusiast, there is always plenty to do from sailing, fishing, golfing, water sports and much, much more.
Grand Bahama Island: Bright Lights and Island Sounds
Although, Freeport and Lucaya are renowned for providing fun times in the sun, the fun goes on well into the night when darkness descends and the lights go on. You can visit a nightclub to hear the local sounds, get on the dance floor at a discotheque or visit the casino for non-stop gambling. The Port Lucaya Marketplace always has some kind of special activity for participating in with your family. If you want a bit of peace and quiet after carousing at the nightclubs and discos, simply saunter down to a small bar on the beach away from the bright lights and sounds of the city.
Grand Bahama Island promises you one of a kind experience!