RTW2007: Bahamas, wherein our piratical plunderer pretends to be James Bond, goes iguana-spotting and gets his timbers thoroughly shivered with a complimentary double exfoliation treatment.

Nassau‘s Lynden Pindling International Airport is surprisingly run-down and ramshackle, but unlike coldly formal San Juan, at least they welcome you into the immigration hall with a live ”goombay” band tooting out tropical numbers. (No free pink drink service this time, though.) After being stamped in and congratulated on coming in all the way from Singapore, I located my bag from a host of carousels, all with LED scrollers reading “BAHAMAS — IT’S GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME!!!” (as opposed to telling which flight’s bags were where, and just how bad was it before, anyway?). My host was waiting for me and we zoomed off across the island.

Pier at Saddleback Cay Iguana at the beach

Path to the beach at the Ocean Club Marina Village, near Atlantis Resort

Now, I like to think I’m not much given to effusive gushing, but the Bahamas are, quite simply, the most gorgeous place I’ve ever been to. I was initially thrown off by the comparative dryness, quite unlike the tropical humidity of Puerto Rico (or Singapore), but the beaches are just jaw-dropping: white sand, crystal clear water, and an unearthly hue of aqua quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen before where they meet. Add in pastel pink government buildings, lots of palm trees and a laid-back vibe that felt far more Caribbean than Puerto Rico, and the realization that it’s actually more pleasant to be out and about when humidity isn’t 100% all the time, and I think I fell in love.

Beaches aside, my Bahamas experience was rather significantly improved from the average package tourist’s lot by me managing to inveigle an invitation to the mansion of a local resident and his lovely wife, located in the ultra-exclusive Ocean Club Estates (part of and next to the Ocean Club, where Casino Royale was filmed) on the aptly named Paradise Island, best known as the home of the gargantuan and exceedingly Vegas-esque Atlantis resort. And as luck would have it, the owner’s gorgeous twentysomething daughter C and her equally attractive best friend R were in town, and willingly took up the task of showing me around. And oh, it was brutal: cocktails at the Ocean Club, a spot of gambling at Atlantis (which proved that my luck did have its limits), checking out the golf course and the yacht, being stuffed full of amazing homemade food, lazing about the pool and hot tub with a cold Kalik or two, and shivering our timbers with the Pirate Museum and dark & stormy games of Dread Pirate (arr!). On the last day, we went on a full-day excursion out to the Exuma islands, which had yet more impossibly picturesque beaches, snorkeling, rum punch, shark-feeding, iguana-spotting and two complimentary one-hour Salty Spray(tm) exfoliation treatments, lovingly administered at 30 knots by dual 200-hp engines on the way in and out.

And then came the sad moment of goodbye and a harsh return to reality at Nassau’s remarkably charmless international terminal, which serves the (few) non-US international flights that depart from the Bahamas, including mine. Arriving a good two hours before the flight, check-in and security were completed quickly, but once through there’s only a distinctly unappetizing snack shop left to entertain you. Fortunately, my laptop managed to snag a Internet signal and I was spared from having to entertain myself by watching dust gather on the shelves of the closed gift shop.

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