BEST TIME TO GO: November through May
FUN FACT: Christopher Columbus first landed in the Bahamas, whose name derives from baja mar—shallow sea.
GETTING THERE: Delta flies from Atlanta to Exuma and Freeport and from Atlanta, Detroit and New York (LGA) to Nassau
ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport
CURRENCY: Bahamian dollar
MUST-TRY LOCAL FOOD: Spicy Bahamian stew fish, often served at breakfast
BEST BUYS: D’Vanya makes two pepper sauces: hot and hotter
INFORMATION PLEASE: Bahamas Ministry of Tourism—bahamas.com
The Exuma Islands of The Bahamas are a chain of mostly tiny, uninhabited islands that begin about 35 miles southeast of New Providence Island and dribble south for 100 miles. Great Exuma Island is the biggest of the bunch, but even there, the largest city, George Town, only has 1,000 residents, which tells you a thing or two about how undeveloped these islands are.
You don’t have to be an angler to love the Exumas; just rent a small boat (hire a guide, too, at least for that first time out) and discover your own perfect little desert island beach. While you’re at it, you’ll cruise through water so shallow, calm and clear that you’ll easily see fish and rays swimming alongside your boat. Another day, take a guided excursion to Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, a mostly maritime park that was established, wisely, since the 1950s. The only fishing allowed here is by sea birds, and the snorkeling is extraordinary.
Which brings us to the question: What if you are an angler? In that case, this is heaven. These flats are so teeming with bonefish and tarpon, permit and barracuda, that they attract fly fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. Deep-sea fishing is exceptional on the east side of these islands, where the edge of a 5,000-ft. underwater drop-off forms the perfect habitat for world-record sailfish, blue marlin, tuna and other large species.
Sandals Emerald Bay Great Exuma and Grand Isle Resort and Spa are the tried-and-true choices on Great Exuma Island, but there are a dozen or so less expensive hostelries, too. These include Peace & Plenty Bonefish Lodge and Regatta Point, also on Great Exuma, as well as a few hideaways on other flyspecks like Sampson’s Cay Club. Welcome to the world headquarters of getting away from it all.