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Revisiting the Bahamas - are they ruined?

Here is a brief overview of our experience in the Bahamas. For years I had dreamed of getting WAY off the beaten path and really exploring in the Bahamas. Now we have done it and it was better than I imagined. Why?

Returning can be difficult. You have a perfect image of a place and when you go back years later it has changed. Before you know it you are heard to say "You think its nice here now - you should have seen it 15 years ago!! Now its been ruined". We have heard this more times than I can count. Either your favourite restaurant has closed, prices have risen or maybe your rose coloured glasses have slipped a bit. I was really worried before we returned to the Bahamas since our last visit was in 1996 - and I was concerned that I would be caught saying "this place has been ruined".

Well, I am happy to report we were able to return and I have not said that!!!!

Of course things have changed in 12 years... but many of those changes are for the good, at least from my perspective.

Communications - Here's a big improvement. We remember waiting in line at the Telephone Office (BATELCO) to make a call. It was inconvenient and expensive. This time we walked into the BATELCO Office in tiny remote Mayaguana, and walked out 10 minutes later with a GSM chgip for our Euro phone. Voila - instant reasonable communications throughout the islands. Good coverage and fair prices. Plan on taking an open GSM phone with you. Their service is quite good, especially considering the wide area they have to cover. We had service in most areas. On top of that we had wifi internet access! So we had real communications with back home and it was affordable.

Crowding - I had been worried the Bahamas would be more crowded than before - but it didn't seem so. Certainly more boats seemed to be in some of the popular areas, but not much. And getting further off the beaten path meant we easily had whole islands just to ourselves.

Charting - Getting off the beaten path has gotten easier as well. While many people just go to the popular spots, we tried to find quiet remote places. There are a number of better guides (see Stephen Pavlidis excellent guides "On and Off the Beaten Path" and "The Exumas") but thats not the biggest factor we found that helped us explore further. Since our last visit the GPS system accuracy has increased to just a few meters accuracy. Electronic charting has really come into its own! Our Navionics charts for the Bahamas have incredible detail for some very remote areas. Places not even in cruise guides or on charts are detailed on our Navionics chart chip for the Bahamas. This means that the huge expanse of Bahamas is now MUCH more accesible. Instead of being more crowded, there are way more remote places you can visit these days thanks to accurate charts. Add in Google Earth and people who dream of a tropical paradise for themselves can find it!

Money - Here's one area I was expecting an improvement but didn't find one. Banks and bank machines have expanded only slightly, and in the remote islands there are still many islands where you can't get money from a bank since there isn't one on the island. Just plan ahead and bring cash to the islands. You will regret if you don't and have the opportunity for super great local cooking but are hoarding your cash until the next Cash Machine.

Pick the Season - We still feel the nicest season to cruise the Bahamas is the spring. We arrived in May just after many cruisers had left to head north. The weather in April May and June is often the best of the year. We enjoyed a fabulous cruise with lovely breezes and just one front. Perfect for exploring the out islands! If you get down as many do, for the winter, don't head out to soon in the spring. Its often the best time!

Its not to late - the Bahamas haven't been ruined. Maybe we'll see you down there on our next visit! If you see us please come and say hi to us on "Distant Shores"!
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