We packed our bags for a trip to Grand Bahama Island-just the two of us. I can’t remember the last time we traveled alone. Our bags were full of sunblock, swimsuits, flipflops, and some light reading. Just me and my seven-year-old, Connor, off on an adventure to Kids Sea Camp in the Bahamas.
An early morning flight with a quick stop in Atlanta had us approaching the airport in Freeport with plenty of daylight to spare. Connor was glued to the window, peering down at the clear water and eagerly awaiting touchdown. After a short drive from the airport, courtesy of an exceptionally kind and knowledgeable driver, we arrived at our hotel, the Pelican Bay at Lucaya, just steps away from the famous Lucaya Beach and Port Lucaya Marketplace. European architecture mixes with Caribbean warmth at Pelican Bay. It’s hard not to unwind here with private balconies, multiple pools, and a staff that was beyond attentive, plus a complimentary al fresco continental breakfast served poolside each morning.
The resort overlooks Bell Channel Bay and is adjacent to UNEXSO Grand Bahama, a PADI 5 Star Gold Palm IDC facility and the site of Kids Sea Camp adventure. New to the island this year but a regular fixture at many of the world’s top diving spots, Kids Sea Camp gives families an adventure vacation. Adults can dive while their kids take lessons on scuba, snorkeling, and marine ecosystems from some of the best-trained instructors. Kids’ activities are set up for the entire day while adults can enjoy their own program of diving, dolphin swims and, of course, downtime.
Since I was looking forward to reconnecting with Connor, I spent much of my time with him at camp and the UNEXSO dolphin sanctuary, where we were able to swim, feed, and interact with trained dolphins in protected waters. This was easily the most entertaining part of the trip and something that we will never forget, especially Connor, who got his first kiss here. When we weren’t swimming with the dolphins, snorkeling with Connor’s camp counselors, or building sand castles, we explored the island and talked to the local people.
In the Port Lucaya Marketplace we met local residents, fished on the docks with some Bahamian children, shopped in the open-air market, and spent our evenings in the square dancing and singing karaoke. This is also where we met our new friend, Lou, the operator of a conch salad stand. A local delicacy, conch can be served fried, chopped, grilled, raw, or as a fritter. It’s everywhere. Neither of us is a big fan of seafood but we were fascinated by the process of cracking the conch shell and making conch salad. Lou let Connor try his hand at it and by the end of the week we were self-proclaimed conch experts. Though conch was not on our personal menu, we did eat at many outstanding restaurants, including our favorite, Pisces, billed as a seafood house, pizzeria, and curry pot. We returned multiple times, typically ordering the same dish. For me, the mouthwatering (literally) red curry was a must. Connor was a big fan of their pizza, and he was in full agreement of the restaurant’s claim that it has the best pizza on the island. He did inform our server that they should revise it to a claim of “Best Pizza in the World.”
On an island full of magnificent sea life and brimming with natural parks and outdoor activities, it is hard to sit still for long. The Lucayan National Park is the only place you can experience all six of the islands’ ecosystems. It is home to the awe-inspiring Gold Rock Beach, where Connor and I enjoyed a picnic and a quick swim. Another great spot is Ben’s Cave, where, for the daring explorer, bats dangle
from the underwater caverns.
A more docile way to experience the island is by signing up for one of the many organized eco-tours. We opted for the four-hour Jeep Safari tour but kayak, walking, birding, and bicycle tours are also available. For shoppers, a highlight is the International Bazaar in Freeport, an enormous complex with buildings mirroring multiple architectural styles, from a Japanese arch to a Turkish bazaar. Here, we found a collection of stores selling a wide variety of goods from all over the world as well as traditional Bahamian arts and crafts.
Beyond the beauty and adventure of our trip to Grand Bahama Island was the gift of a slower-paced life, allowing time to reconnect with my oldest child. Oh, and that first kiss? An Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, but Connor’s not naming names.
– Melissa C. Gillespie