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The Bahamas

Capital: Nassau
Population: 371,960 (2012)
Dialing code: 242
Currency: Bahamian dollar
Continent: North America
Government: Unitary state, Constitutional monarchy, Parliamentary system
Official language: English Language

The Islands of The Bahamas

“The Bahamas, is a country consisting of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean; north of Cuba and Hispaniola; northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands; southeast of the U.S. state of Florida and east of the Florida Keys.

The beauty extends far beyond the extraordinary natural wonders. It’s the smiles on the faces of the Bahamian people, the unique sounds of our rich culture, and the warm hospitality of our heritage with our colorful history.

The capital of The Bahamas is Nassau located on the island of New Providence. The designation of "Bahamas" can refer to either the country or the larger island chain that it shares with the Turks and Caicos Islands. As stated in the mandate/manifesto of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, The Bahamas' territory encompasses 470,000 km2 (180,000 sq mi) of ocean space.

Originally inhabited by the Lucayan, a branch of the Arawakan speaking Taino people, The Bahamas were the site of Columbus' first landfall in the New World in 1492. The islands were mostly deserted from 1513 until 1648, at which time English colonists from Bermuda settled on the island of Eleuthera.

The Abacos

The Abacos are a group of islands and cays that form a 120-mile–long chain stretching over 650 square miles. The coastlines are scalloped with bays, coves and protected harbors that feature full-service marinas and resorts. Great Abaco Island and Little Abaco serve as the "mainland." Marsh Harbour has a lively downtown area with all city amenities. Treasure Cay boasts miles of pristine beaches, including one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Elbow Cay and Green Turtle Cay are old English loyalist settlements, where you’ll find beautifully preserved colonial architecture with a touch of Bahamian pastels, of course. Guana Cay is famous for Sunday barbecues atop the island's tall sand dune, which overlooks a magnificent 7-mile–long beach.

Acklins & Crooked Island

Both Acklins and Crooked Island are extremely remote and not well known as tourist destinations. But don’t let their natural surroundings fool you. Both offer plenty of exciting activities for the adventurous visitor. Acklins Island is one of the least known and most preserved islands in The Bahamas, which means it's rustic landscape is ideal for vacationers looking for private getaways with outstanding secluded beaches and premier bonefishing.

Crooked Island on the other hand, is one of the best guarded secrets in The Bahamas. It boasts sparsely populated settlements such as French Wells and Gun Point, which are reminiscent of early plantation lifestyles. Just over 350 people call Crooked Island home, making it a great place to explore your natural surroundings in peace.

Andros

At 2,300 square miles, Andros is the largest island of The Bahamas and the fifth-largest island in the Caribbean. It's miles of deserted beaches and freshwater lakes play host to countless species of wildlife, marine life, flora and fauna. Andros is covered with vast areas of wetlands that create channels perfect for bonefishing. In fact, many consider Andros the Bonefishing Capital of The World. When visitors feel like taking a break from all the adventure, the island offers quaint settlements and secluded beaches known for their local charm and laid-back lifestyle.

The Exumas

The Exumas are an archipelago of 365 cays and islands, beginning just 35 miles southeast of Nassau. Once called Yumey and Suma (names of Amer-Indian origin), the islands have gone through many changes over the years. Today, they’re divided into three major areas - Great Exuma, Little Exuma and The Exuma Cays. Each offers it's own unique Bahamian experience. Great Exuma and Little Exuma are known for their laid-back surroundings, while The Exuma Cays act as a playground for the rich and famous, showcasing numerous private homes, luxury resorts and beachside condos. The Exumas are also rich in history, as they were settled by British Loyalists with their slaves following the American Revolution.

Inagua

Inagua actually consists of two separate islands, Great Inagua Island and Little Inagua Island. Both are known for their natural beauty and serve as great ecotourists destinations. Inagua National Land & Sea Park covers 45% of Great Inagua Island and is home to over 80,000 West Indian Flamingos, the Bahama parrot, and other pelicans, ducks and hummingbirds found nowhere else in The Bahamas. Little Inagua Island is a protected habitat for endangered sea turtles, and features a vast reef that prevents boaters and sailors from getting too close to it's shores. Over 30 square miles of the island are currently uninhabited.

Mayaguana

Mayaguana is the only Bahamian island that still bears its original Arawak name, which is said to refer to a specific species of iguana found nowhere else in the world. The island was a favored base for pirates before residents began migrating from nearby Turks and Caicos in 1812. Today, it’s home to just 300 locals who live in three main settlements—Abraham's Bay, Pirate's Well, and Betsy Bay. The villages are quaint, rustic and located no more than 15 minutes from each other, making Mayaguana a very close-knit community. Most residents make a living by fishing for conch and farming the land. Visitors looking for adventure can dive through sea caves at Northwest Point, reel in a bonefish or take a guided tour of the three main settlements.

Nassau & Paradise Island

Nassau, the capital city of The Bahamas, is located on 21-mile-long New Providence, our 11th largest island. Nassau’s main harbor is protected by Paradise Island. The harbor attracted settlers in the early days, particularly pirates. In fact, Nassau’s population consisted mainly of pirates until 1718, when The Bahamas first Royal Governor, Woodes Rogers expelled them, restored order and built Fort Nassau. The Bahamas for centuries adopted Rogers’ motto, “Expulsis Piratis, Restituta Commercia,” which means, “Pirates Expelled, Commerce Restored.” Currently 212,000 people call New Providence Island home, with a large portion of them residing in Nassau.

The Berry Islands

The Berry Islands are made up of a land mass that totals just over twelve square miles. Many of the 30 cays that comprise the islands are great for snorkeling, hiking, diving and beachcombing. Great Stirrup features a now-abandoned lighthouse built in 1863 during the reign of Prince William IV. Little Stirrup Cay is a private island that's used by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines as a one-day stopover. Chub Cay is known as The Billfish Capital of The Bahamas, as it borders the Tongue of The Ocean and attracts countless numbers of baitfish. And then there's Great Harbour Cay. It boasts seven continuous miles of magnificent beaches and one of the best protected harbors in The Bahamas. It once was a major golf resort for the rich and famous. In fact, there are more millionaires per square inch on The Berry Islands than most places on earth.

Bimini

Bimini consists of two main islands - North Bimini Island and South Bimini Island - and numerous cays. The history of Bimini is as fascinating as the islands themselves. Just 50 miles from the United States, they served as a convenient offshore speakeasy and liquor store during prohibition. Rumrunners used to store their stash on the nearby shores. And speaking of rum, Ernest Hemingway called Bimini his summer home. Jimmy Buffett spent time here while writing his book, and Martin Luther King, Jr. even composed parts of his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech while sailing with local boat builder, Ansil, who still lives on the islands today.

Cat Island

Untainted and unspoiled, there is much to be discovered on Cat Island. Named after the infamous pirate, Arthur Catt, the island runs deep with history and culture. Its 150 square miles of natural landscape offer every traveler a rich Bahamian experience. You’ll find the plot of land where Sir Sidney Poitier’s boyhood home once stood. You’ll also discover the birthplace of The Bahamas’ indigenous rake and scrape music, along with numerous myths and folklore that still hold a place in Bahamian culture today. The island is also home to one of the best climates in The Bahamas. Its location near the Tropic of Cancer means temperatures range from the mid-60s in the short winters to the high-80s in the summer, which make it perfect for getting out and exploring Cat Island’s untouched landscape and rich history.

Ragged Island

Little is known about the early days of the Ragged Island chain other than the settlement of Great Ragged Island was named Duncan Town after its founder who developed the island’s salt industry. Ragged Island is believed to have been a pirate safe house at one point, with its rocks and caves offering great hideaways. Blackbeard's Bay and Blackbeard's Well signify that the pirate may have established his headquarters near the well because of its unique location. Today, just 72 people call Ragged Island home. Because the population is so small, the three religious denominations on the island get together at the same church each Sunday and celebrate as one community.

Rum Cay

In the early days, Rum Cay was home to Arawak Indians, but by the start of the 16th century, after the arrival of Christopher Columbus, a majority of the Indians had left the island. Evidence, such as cave drawings, bowls and utensils, suggest that a small group of them lived in Hartford Cave before departing. By 1901, Rum Cay had five distinct settlements, with a majority of residents calling Port Nelson home. Today, Port Nelson is the only inhabited village remaining on the island. Tourism plays a significant role to island residents, as many of them are employed by the marinas and restaurants that attract seafarers and other visitors.

San Salvador

Originally called Guanahani by the Lucayan Indians, the island was renamed San Salvador by Christopher Columbus, which means Holy Saviour. It’s actually the exposed peak of a submerged mountain that rises 15,000 feet from the ocean’s floor. The land is full of undulating hills, beautiful beaches, numerous salt water lagoons and amazing reefs that surround the greater part of the island. It has one of the most unique-looking landscapes in The Bahamas. Just over 1,000 people call San Salvador home. They’re descendants of slaves brought to the island by British Loyalists. Today, these San Salvadorans provide visitors with tourism activities such as fishing, diving, sailing and guided tours.

Grand Bahama Island

Full of history and charm, Grand Bahama Island is a complete vacation destination. Some of the island’s settlements, such as Pinder’s Point, Russell Town and William’s Town, are named after the former families who founded them. Today, these settlements serve as cultural hot spots for visitors. There are three distinct destinations on Grand Bahama Island—East End, Freeport/Lucaya and West End—each offering their own unique experience. And if you’re looking to tour some natural surroundings, feel free to explore the island’s three national parks, two of which are home to a large numbers of native birds. And, of course, no Bahamian island would be complete without miles of beautiful beaches—found on the south side of Grand Bahama Island.

Eleuthera & Harbour Island & Spanish Wells

Eleuthera is the fourth most populated island of The Bahamas, with approximately 11,000 residents. Most who live here either fish for bounty or farm the rolling acres of pineapple plantations. Eleuthera is an island of casual sophistication, housing isolated communities, well-developed resorts, rocky bluffs, low-lying wetlands and massive coral reefs that create magnificent backdrops. Harbour Island on the other hand was once the capital of The Bahamas. It was ranked as "The Best Island in the Caribbean" by Travel & Leisure magazine back in 2005, and boasts lush tropical greenery and magical pink sand beaches.

Long Island

Originally named “Yuma” by Arawak Indians, the island was renamed “Fernandina” by Christopher Columbus in 1492. However, Long Island earned it's current name because a seafarer felt it took too long to sail past the island. After all, it is 80 miles long, but no more than four miles wide at its broadest point. The Tropic of Cancer runs directly through the island, giving it two very different coastlines—the dramatic cliffs and caves of the east coast that front the crashing Atlantic waves, and the sandy edged lee side which slopes calmly into The Bahamas Bank. Here you’ll find Dean’s Blue Hole, historic twin churches built in the 1800s and one of the largest caves in The Bahamas.

Contributing Source: www.bahamas.com/explore-our-islands


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