Rolling in the Deep at Deep Water Cay

First we floated above a sand desert with sparse vegetation and sparser inhabitants. Suddenly the terrain turned to prairie and signs of life picked up. Then bam! I found myself above the most beautiful garden I had ever seen – bursting with color, waving hypnotically, casting a spell with natives ranging from purple infinitesimal to six-feet-wide gliding monstrosities.

It was not a dream. It seemed like a dream, but I was wide awake and quite wide-eyed behind my snorkel mask at a dive site known as Thrift Harbour at the eastern extremes of Grand Bahama Island.

Grand Bahama Island: You know it as home to Freeport and Lucaya, but this place couldn’t be further removed. Only thing in common? This incredible palette of gem-like blues and greens painting the pure, clear water.

Dive master Phillip from Deep Water Cay resort guided me on this snorkeling adventure that ended at one of the Bahamas’ famed blue holes. But guiding seemed superfluous to this drift dive where the current did all the guiding. Phillip merely pointed out the eagle rays, barracudas, cubera snappers, and other amazing sea life that inhabited this experience, which felt so much like swimming in one of the aquariums at Atlantis. But better, because these creatures were free.

Resorting to Deep Water Cay

Deep Water Cay occupies its own 2.5-mile island at the East End of GBI, just a conch shell’s throw from McLean’s Town. Conch is especially iconic here, home of October’s annual Conch Cracking Festival.

Bonefish is the other icon. Fishermen in these parts claim to have the best fishing and biggest bonefish of anywhere in the Bahamas. Heck, after a few Kaliks (the local beer), make that “best in the world.”

Kaliks go down smoothly at DWC’s beachfront tiki bar after a day on the water, whether it has been spent flats casting for bonefish, deep-sea fishing for mahi, scuba diving the shallow offshore reef, snorkeling and lunch at a deserted island, kayaking or paddleboarding among the mangroves, or simply lazing by the infinity pool that drops off the edge into a mirage of too-beautiful-to-believe water.

For most, the highlight of the day is fighting a 20-inch bonefish. For me, during my four-day stay, it was dinner. Executive Chef Alex has worked his way from native Bahamas to Nassau and Italy. He uses local catches – often provided by the guests – in inventive ways that meld Bahamian to new American styles. My first night in, a guest shared his mahi catch, which Chef Alex prepared simply roasted with herbs and potatoes. It changed my whole opinion about the fish I previously had turned up my nose at.

 All in a Day’s Play

At Deep Water Cay, the day starts with buffet hot breakfast followed by an almost mass exodus to the sea. Box lunches open in the boat or at “Lunch Beach” or another isolated beach on one of several uninhabited islands that punctuate in quick succession GBI’s East End like a Morse code.

The tiki bar awaits the tall tales and sea-driven thirst upon return. Deluxe munchies and happy hour cocktails happen around the infinity pool while guests watch slides of their day’s adventure, repair to the dining room for something enormously wonderful, then play billiards and other games in the posh lodge decorated with mounted fish and historic images from the lodge’s bygones picturing illustrious guests such as Curt Gowdy.

Legendary fishermen founded DWC as their playground in 1958 – Palm Beach guide Gil Drake Sr., and Field & Stream editor A.J. McClane. Modern-day celebs have included Tom Brokaw and Liam Neeson.

A 2011 renovation brought the historic property into the 21st century plushly. It reopened with a new look and determination to attract families, couples, scuba divers and snorkelers, kayakers and paddleboarders, as well as the fish-frenzied.

Accommodations range from cheerful guest rooms in the historic cottages to luxury three-bedroom rental homes with views of the reef-barricaded sea. Basically, anything you desire here is yours, except for televisions in the accommodations and other such bothersome conveniences.

Massage? Sure in your room or seaside. Conch salad for lunch? Absolutely, fresh from the resort’s conch pen. A shuttle to McLean’s Town for native dinner? What time would you like to leave? Charter a flight directly from South Florida to the cay? DWC has its own landing strip and customs office and will make arrangements.

Heck, our bonefishing guide was even willing to hook a bonefish for us to reel in so we could have our picture on the slideshow that night. Instead I hooked into three that never made it to the boat and a mammoth eagle ray that thankfully finally broke the line before it did my back.

I cared not. Gazing at the horizon — where the water softened to the same shade as the hazy sky so you couldn’t tell where one started and the other ended — catching bonefish seemed a waste of relaxation.

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5 Under-the-Radar Caribbean Islands to Visit Now

It’s that time of year for the island cure – an escape to somewhere sandy, sunny, and seaworthy: the Caribbean. But which island to pick out of the hundreds that punctuate the seas from the Bahamas to South America?

If you are looking to avoid the crowds and commercialism, forget the big-box islands this season. Under-the-radar islands may be a titch trickier to get to, but they make it worth the extra effort with unspoiled beaches, nature, and culture. Your likelihood of actually interacting with the islanders rises exponentially with the transportation difficulty factor.

This list starts with the least complicated escape routes while recommending how and where to meet the natives.

  1. Andros Island, Bahamas

Despite the fact it’s the largest of the Bahamas’ 700 major islands and cays, Andros remains one of the least explored, except for divers and bonefishermen in-the-know. You need not cast one line or blow one bubble, however, to enjoy the island – actually three islands – and its unique geographic, natural, and cultural features.

Not far offshore from Florida, Andros requires an easy puddlejumper connection from Nassau. Accommodations range from all-inclusive private island resort Kamalame Cay to the rustic and beachy Small Hope Bay Lodge diving mecca or the fishing obsessed lodges of Cargill Creek. Don’t miss the handicrafts at the Andros Batik Factory and basket-weaving Red Bays community. Hit the beach shacks of Nicholls Town and any of the island’s dazzling inland blue holes. But watch out for the legendary, mischievous chickcharnie.

  1. Middle/North Caicos

A 30-minute boat hop from more well-traveled Providenciales Island in the Turks & Caicos, the two connected islands demonstrate the flipside of “Provo” beach resorts and more Americanized style. Here you can experience old-island customs such as ripsaw music, dried conch and grits, and tightly weaved fenner grass baskets.

MUDJIN

Mudjin Harbour Beach

On the natural side of things, gaze upon the blur of pink from a hilltop overlooking Flamingo Pond, explore a bat cave (holy limestone, Robin!), and marvel at gorgeous cliff-lined Mudjin Harbour Beach. Have a bite to eat at the beach restaurant and bar or spend the night at Blue Horizons resort, where humpback whale-watchers come to stay in the winter. Stop in at Daniel’s Café By the Sea to see when the gregarious owners plan to serve dried conch and grits – once a staple but a rare restaurant find these days.

  1. Nevis

Arrival to the small, homey island of Nevis requires a flight to St. Kitts and a 45-minute ferry shuttle away from it all. It holds firm to its roots as a sugar-growing and fishing island. Most of the islanders work today at Four Seasons resort, which manages to honor old-island traditions despite its stature and size. (Ask about its summertime sea turtle-tracking adventure.)

LUNA

Other accommodations dream you right into the past at plantation manors such as Nisbet, Golden Rock, Hermitage, and Montpelier. For a true island experience, sip (though you’ll be tempted to gulp) a signature Killerbee rum punch at Sunshine’s Bar & Grill on the beach near Four Seasons.

  1. Dominica

Nature and a good distance from U.S. ports (with no direct flights) keep Dominica safe from the madding crowds. You may have heard it suffered hurricane damage this past summer, but the twisty roads are back to functional and the island is open to the business of sharing its dramatic natural features with eco-friendly visitors.

Besides its Morne Trois Pitons National Park, 115-mile Waitukubuli National Trail, hot springs, boiling lake, bubbly champagne reef snorkeling, and whale-watching to keep visitors fascinated, it claims a heritage rooted in the ancient civilization of Carib natives, now widely extinct throughout the Caribbean. Visitors can tour the Kalinago (as they’re known today in Dominica) territory and learn their culture. For an ecotourism lodging experience, book at Rosalie Bay Resort, where sea turtles come to nest.

  1. Carriacou

A short flight or 90-minute boat ride from sister island Grenada, Carriacou takes you back in time to  farming and fishing subsistence, an island where folks dry their corn and pigeon peas on their rooftops and rum shops number one for every 80 residents.

Most of the folks who visit the island spend bottom time on its superlative reefs or tanning time at Tyrell Bay Beach. With a long tradition of boat-building, its annual sailing regatta headlines the annual calendar. The island’s African ancestry becomes apparent during April’s Carriacou Maroon and String Band Music Festival.

Bahamas: Rolling in the Deep at Deep Water Cay

First we floated above a sand desert with sparse vegetation and sparser inhabitants. Suddenly the terrain turned to prairie, and signs of life picked up. Then bam! I found

Welcome!

Welcome!

myself above the most beautiful garden I had ever seen – bursting with color, waving hypnotically, casting a spell with natives ranging from purple infinitesimal to six-feet-wide gliding monstrosities.

It was not a dream. It seemed like a dream, but I was wide awake and quite wide-eyed behind my snorkel mask at a dive site known as Thrift Harbour at the eastern extremes of Grand Bahama Island.

Grand Bahama Island: You know it as home to Freeport and Lucaya, but this place couldn’t be further removed. Only thing in common? The incredible palette of gem-like blues and greens painting the pure, clear water.

Dive master Phillip from Deep Water Cay resort guided me on this snorkeling adventure that ended at one of the Bahamas’ famed blue holes. But guiding seemed superfluous to this drift dive where the current did all the guiding. Phillip merely pointed out the eagle rays, barracudas, cubera snappers, a constellation of sea stars, and other amazing sea life that inhabited this experience, which felt so much like swimming in one of the aquariums at Atlantis. But better, oh so much better.

Resorting to Deep Water Cay

Deep Water Cay occupies its own 2.5-mile island at the East End of GBI, just a conch shell’s throw from McLean’s Town.

Conch is especially iconic here, home of October’s annual Conch Cracking Festival.

Bonefish is the other icon. Fishermen in these parts claim it to have the best fishing and biggest bonefish of anywhere in the Bahamas. Heck, after a few Kaliks (the local beer), make that “best in the world.”

Kaliks go down smoothly at DWC’s beachfront tiki bar after a day on the water, whether it has been spent flats casting for bonefish, deep-sea fishing for mahi, scuba diving the shallow offshore reef, snorkeling and lunch at a deserted island, kayaking or paddleboarding among the mangroves, or simply lazing on the beach or by the infinity pool that drops off the edge into a mirage of too-beautiful-to-believe water.

For most guests, the highlight of the day is fighting a 20-inch bonefish. For me, during my four-day stay, it was dinner. Executive Chef Owen has worked his way from native Bahamas to Nassau and Italy. He uses local catches – often provided by guests – in inventive ways that meld Bahamian and new American styles. My first night in, a guest shared his mahi catch, which Chef Alex prepared simply roasted with herbs and potatoes. It changed my whole opinion about the fish I previously had turned up my nose at.

All in a Day’s Play

Your table awaits.

Your table awaits.

At Deep Water Cay, the day starts with hot buffet breakfast followed by an almost mass exodus to the sea.

Box lunches open in the boat or at “Lunch Beach” or another isolated beach on one of several uninhabited islands that punctuate in quick succession GBI’s East End like Morse code.

The tiki bar awaits tall tales and sea-driven thirst upon return. Deluxe munchies and happy hour cocktails happen around the infinity pool while guests watch slides of their day’s adventure, before repairing to the dining room for something enormously wonderful. They then play billiards and other games in the posh lodge decorated with mounted fish and historic images from the lodge’s bygones picturing illustrious guests such as Curt Gowdy.

Legendary fishermen founded DWC as their playground in 1958 – Palm Beach guide Gil Drake, Sr., and Field & Stream editor A.J. McClane. Modern-day celebs have included Tom Brokaw and Liam Neeson.

A 2011 renovation brought the historic property into the 21st century plushly. It reopened with a new look and determination to attract families, couples, scuba divers and snorkelers, kayakers and paddleboarders, as well as the fish-frenzied.

Accommodations range from cheerful guest rooms in the historic cottages to luxury three-bedroom rental homes with views of the reef-barricaded sea. Basically, anything you desire here is yours, except for televisions in the accommodations and other such bothersome conveniences.

Massage? Sure, in your room or seaside. Conch salad for lunch? Absolutely, fresh from the resort’s conch pen. A boat break at Sweeting’s Cay for Bahama Mamas? No problem. A shuttle to McLean’s Town for native dinner? What time would you like to leave? A charter flight directly from South Florida to the cay? DWC has its own landing strip and customs office and will make arrangements.

Heck, our bonefishing guide was even willing to hook a bonefish for us to reel in so we could have our picture on the slideshow that night. Instead I hooked into three that never made it to the boat and a mammoth eagle ray that thankfully finally broke the line before it did my back.

I cared not. Gazing at the horizon — where the water softened to the same shade as the hazy sky, so you couldn’t tell where one started and the other ended — catching bonefish seemed a waste of relaxation.

###

Charleston Foodie Fling

Tomato pie.

TOMATOPIE

Dixie Supply tomato pie

I had one singular foodie goal for our trip to Charleston, SC, for the holidays. On my last trip, more than two years ago, I’d successfully sated my shrimp ‘n’ grits cravings. I had eaten my fill of Lowcountry Boil and she crab soup. I had reveled in fine nouvelle Lowcountry cuisine at McCrady’s.All that feasting, alas, had left me with no spare appetite to fit in a wedge of tomato pie from Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe, an off-the-eaten path legend of Charleston’s famed dining scene. And so I dragged my relatives into a convenience store strip where a few tables outside in the parking lot accounts for its best in atmosphere.

Inside, slaloming through other packed and packed-close tables, we made our way to the line at the counter, where we perused a menu of Carolina specialties and more mainstream sandwiches – everything from fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese (a.k.a. Southern caviar) to turkey and brie on a croissant.

My tomato pie would come with sweet potato cornbread, Read more of this post

Bahamas Fishing Adventure

The ‘Reluctant Angler’ hits Bahamian waters

“Most people go a lifetime without catching a fish like that,” Capt. Mike Russell told me aboard the Chubasca III.

It surprised me, the rush of pride I felt there afloat in the 6,000-foot deep waters outside of Nassau Harbour, mugging for the camera with the 20-

Me and my mahi

pound mahi-mahi I had just reeled in. A Facebook moment to be sure.I had, up to that same moment, considered the sport of fishing, to paraphrase Mark Twain’s golfing analogy, as a good boat ride spoiled. The next day, after pulling in four bonefish and a small Nassau grouper off the sand flats in the Bahamas’ Out Islands, I started to “get” the whole attraction. Read more of this post