WHAT-TO-DO - FREEPORT/LUCAYA & GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND - JULY 2004
Adventures for active visitors
Grand Bahama has them all
WHAT-TO-DO - FREEPORT/LUCAYA & GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND - JULY 2004
The choices of pursuits to fulfill the needs and desires of active visitors are limited only by the imagination - and your energy level.
The great outdoors is just brimming with opportunities for visitors to get active in Grand Bahama. Deep-sea fishing, snorkelling, sailing, parasailing, scuba diving, windsurfing, kayaking, cycling and running are there for the doing.
If you're really into it you might consider the annual Grand Bahama Conchman Triathlon with a 1/2-mile swim, 20-mile bike ride and 3-1/2-mile run.
Reef Tours at Port Lucaya Marketplace has been offering a host of ocean sports and leisure activities since 1960. Glass-bottom boat rides, sailing, snorkelling and cocktail cruises aboard Freeport's only sailing catamaran, bottom-fishing excursions and half-day or full-day deep-sea fishing trips are available.
Owner Doug Silvera Jr has operated the company for about 30 years, with the largest deep-sea and bottom-fishing fleet in the northern Bahamas. His boats range from 32-47 ft. Experienced captains and crews ensure a serious fishing adventure.
Fantasea is the island's only custom sailing catamaran and is used for morning sail cruises and afternoon sailing and snorkelling trips.
Island Princess and Lucayan Princess are large, powered cats running daily snorkelling tours, and Ocean Wonder is Reef Tours' 60-ft glass- bottom boat, the largest on the island, with room for 50 people for a unique brand of sightseeing.
Silvera has a versatile array of deep- sea fishing craft including the Sundance Kid, a beamy 32-ft Island Hopper, a pair of 42-ft Hatteras sportfishermen, Lady B and Chasin Tail, and a 34-ft Hatteras, Blue Runner.
Garden of the Groves is a 12-acre botanical garden, considered to be one of the finest in the Caribbean. It hosts more than 10,000 species of trees, shrubs, flowers and exotic tropical plants. It is also home to a growing menagerie of animal life, including a dozen alligators, six macaws, cockatoos, peacocks, tortoises, and fresh water sharks in the Garden's Fern Gully and a children's petting zoo with pot-bellied pigs and pygmy goats.
The serenity of the Garden of the Groves is enhanced with manicured lawns, shaded paths, waterfalls and waterways with swimming waterfowl. Native birds are a visual and auditory delight. The quaint hilltop chapel provides a unique backdrop for wedding photos and the garden, over the years, has become home to a world of flowering plants and exotic vegetation.
Paradise Cove offers a day of adventure or tranquillity. Just 50 yards off the beach is Deadman's Reef. Snorkellers have access to this unspoiled home of hundreds of species of tropical and reef fish and other marine life. Ashore, explorers will find a wild assortment of birdlife, egrets, blue herons, snipes and rich foliage at Duck Pond.
The Paradise Cove Beach Resort offers boat trips to the reef and snorkelling gear, swimming, kayaking, sunbathing and volleyball. The Red Bar serves drinks and snacks and there's a sunset bonfire.
Adventures in diving
Xanadu Undersea Adventures offers divers a wide range of programmes and state-of-the-art facilities. Highly qualified instructors teach everything from three-hour resort diving courses to fully recognized PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) certification and advanced TDI (Technical Dive International) specialized training courses.
Daily dive trips include cave and cavern diving, shark feeding, reef and tunnel dives, underwater photography, drop-offs and wreck dives. Manager Chris Gjersvik says Theo's Wreck, a 230-ft cement freighter in 100 ft of water is the most popular wreck dive.
Xanadu also conducts night dives and is the only facility offering nitrox certification and nitrox dives in Grand Bahama. Nitrox is a gas mixture with a higher concentration of oxygen than regular compressed air. It allows divers longer bottom time with a decreased risk of decompression sickness.
UNEXSO, which pioneered resort diving on Grand Bahama, ushered in the year with a new philosophy and new headquarters to carry it out.
After nearly 40 years of catering to the business of scuba diving, UNEXSO has moved into family-related activities that include shallow reef adventures and eco-experiences in the canal system when the outside water is too rough, says chief operating officer Don Churchill.
The company has also introduced the mini-breather, called Mini-B, a simplified underwater breathing device.
First introduced at the annual Dive Equipment Manufacturers Assoc (DEMA) convention and show in Las Vegas in October, 2002, the Mini-B is a lightweight (about 25 lb) compact and versatile unit and an ideal tool for helping introduce families into scuba diving activities.
The complexity and expense of scuba equipment steers many people away from scuba diving. The Mini-B overcomes these obstacles by packing all the necessary components inside a sturdy polyester knapsack.
"Diving was getting more and more technical," says Churchill. "With scuba you're buying the training rather than the diving experience. With the Mini-B we can skip most of the training and we can get people into the ocean quickly and safely.
This takes it back to what the customer wants."
UNEXSO has curtailed its NAUI, PADI and SSI training and certification programmes. It has also discontinued its shark-feeding dives, in order to concentrate on family recreation activities. Those activities are centred around the new easy access 75-ft by 30-ft swimming pool which slopes from three ft to 17 ft deep. Attractive landscaping and a new entrance drive enhance the property, which also includes a vastly extended retail shop featuring dive and recreation gear, swimwear and resort clothing.
UNEXSO still offers its Dolphin Experience with friendly Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. Participants can interact with dolphins while standing in the water on a shallow wading platform or swim with the mammals in a protected lagoon. In the Ultimate Dolphin Experience participants get an open ocean training session and a swim with the dolphins. UNEXSO's signature dive is a scuba diving session with dolphins in the open ocean along a coral reef.
Reefs and wrecks
Paradise Watersports operates from two locations, providing ocean adventure for all ages. With operations at Island Seas Beach, and Club Fortuna Beach, they offer a variety of watersports options including deep-sea fishing, jet ski rentals, parasailing, reef and wreck snorkelling cruises or exciting glass-bottom boat cruises to view reefs and wrecks and feed tropical fish.
Deep sea fishing aboard the 36-ft Chris-Craft sports fisherman Lil Paradise is offered as half-day trips or on full-day charters. A free bus ride from most hotels to one of the beach locations is part of the package.
Explore on horseback
Trikk Pony Adventures offers an exhilarating way to fill a few hours in the company of Mother Nature - horseback riding through forest trails or splashing along a deserted beach on horseback. Participants can choose from several different excursions. No experience is necessary and transportation is provided.
Whatever your level of interest, energy or ability you're bound to find an active pursuit to meet your needs on Grand Bahama.