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The Bahamas

Adventure, Romance, Charm

Any day, any moment, on any island in the Bahamas, there's only one thing for you to do — choose. What can you do on Day 2 that you didn’t do on Day 1? The choice and the experience that comes with it are all yours. Pick something and see where it takes you. It's true the beaches are a big attraction, but something that won't be found on the shores is the rich history and culture of each island and its people. Trek inland. Stroll through the towns. Find the attractions that tell the story. At the core of the islands, you'll discover big hearts, open arms, and a way of life that is both timeless and new. Their heritage is your departure from everyday life.

The Bahamas form a 100,000-square-mile archipelago that extends over 500 miles of the clearest water in the world. The 700 islands, including uninhabited cays and large rocks, total an estimated land area of 5,382 square miles. The Bahamas boasts the world's third-longest barrier reef, and about 14.5% of the globe's coral can be found in its waters. The islands are made of calcium carbonate, mainly produced by the organisms on the coral reefs.

Geography plays a crucial role in Bahamian history. In 1492, Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the New World on the island of San Salvador in the eastern Bahamas. After observing the shallow sea around the islands, he proclaimed it "baja mar" and effectively named the area the Bahamas, or the Islands of the Shallow Sea. Since it was located close to Florida and well-travelled shipping channels, the Bahamas caught the attention of explorers, settlers, invaders and traders. These people shaped the colorful history of the Bahamas and made the country what it is today.

See why the Bahamas has produced over 50 record catches. Come for big-game tournaments, deep-sea charters or to witness the vigorous strike of the bonefish. The flats and deep waters of the Bahamas are suitable for beginners and sportfishing enthusiasts alike.

Coral reefs. Blue holes. Walls. Caves. Shipwrecks. Sharks. Dolphins. Stingrays. The variety of diving experiences is stunning. Dive a cave that originates from a hole found inland that is connected to the sea, or explore the stunning reefs found in the balmy water, mostly less than 20 feet deep. Explore one of the countless shipwrecks or sink into the depths of a Blue Hole, up to 200 feet deep.

Sun, sand and surf may own the days in the Bahamas, but clubs and live shows own the nights. Thanks to a Bahamian fondness for music and dancing, there’s no shortage of nightspots, local talent and good company to make a vacation day last long after twilight.

An unforgettable way to experience Bahamian culture is through your stomach. Although virtually any type of international food can be found, it would be a mistake to miss an opportunity to sample the local cuisine. No matter where you are, you won't have any difficulty finding plenty of restaurants serving Bahamian cuisine and fresh local seafood at reasonable prices. Sample. Or feast outright. Remember, this is a vacation.

Championship fairways and greens await golfers eager to bring their game to a new level - mere feet above sea level. 18-hole it. 9-hole it. Double round it. Savor all of it. Because the scenery can turn even a bad round into a flawless day.

The ecosystem of The Bahamas is a natural playground for a variety of ecotourism pursuits. Hook up with guides for exploration under the water, on the water, and across the terra firma. See the flora. Meet the fauna. Write home about the indigenous beauty.

Maybe it's Bahamian familial values or the local's appreciation for big smiles of the small variety. Regardless, special programs for children abound. Give the sitter a vacation, too. Bring the kids along. See The Bahamas in a way only a child can.

Some of the must see attractions include Abaco National Park where about 1000 endangered Bahama or 'Abaco' Parrots are protected against predators within 5,000 acres of pine forest where they nest on the ground; the Hope Town Lighthouse built in the 1860's and one of only two remaining beacons that still use their original kerosene-burning lights; Ardastra Gardens and Conservation Center where more than 300 birds, mammals and reptiles from the Islands of The Bahamas, the Caribbean, Latin America and around the world are on display among acres of lush tropical gardens.

The Queen's Staircase, Nassau's most visited attraction, features 65 steps carved out of solid limestone by slaves in the late 18th century. The 102-foot staircase was named in honor of the 65 years of Queen Victoria's reign. The climb up the stairs culminates near Nassau's Water Tower and Fort Fincastle.

Take a nature walk through the Lucayan National Park and Caves. Then, kayak through the quiet waters of Gold Rock Creek, where the water is never more than waist deep. The creek is a pristine mangrove environment and a habitat for bird and marine life.

If you have time to visit only one fort, then Fort Charlotte is the one. It is by far the largest and covers 100 acres. Located on a hill overlooking the far west end of Nassau harbor, Fort Charlotte commands an impressive view of Paradise Island, and a good part of Nassau. Built in 1788 by Lord Dunmore, this fort has a moat, dungeons, underground passageways and 42 cannons, which have never been fired in an act of aggression.

The islands offer the largest assortment of vacation spots of any tropical destination. Islands are circled by cays (pronounced 'keys'). Some cays are surrounded by uninhabited rocks. Which island or cay is right for your vacation? It's a hard choice, but what's most notable about these islands, however, is that each has its own diversity that continues beyond geography, carrying through to the real heart of The Bahamas - the Bahamian people.

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