Waking up to the warm sunlight shining through the balcony window reminded me that I had a mission, to get extremely burnt. I jumped out of bed and headed to Grand Lucayan’s beach, where Christina already had a head start on the tanning.
We lounged on the beach chairs with a freshly brewed coffee in hand and not a cloud in the sky. When we got too hot from the sun, the refreshing water was just footsteps away. Shouldn’t all weekends be like this?
Curious plovers, seagulls, and men selling water activities wandered around us. We eventually shifted to the Serpentine Pool with in-pool access to the Hammerheads bar. One ice cold Rum Punch down and we were ready to continue exploring the resort.
We walked passed the tennis courts, lobby, and large convention center to the Infinity Pool. There were only a few people in this area, so it seemed like the whole pool was our private playground! We spent the rest of our morning swimming and watching sailboats go in and out of the bay.
Soon it was time to eat, so after a quick shower, we headed to the marketplace for brunch. We chose to eat at the After Deck, a Bahamian restaurant and dealing with our sugar craving with an ice cream dessert at Sweets from Heaven.
Lucayan National Park
Our main sight to visit today was Lucayan National Park, however getting there was a challenge. We wanted to rent scooters and take a 45 min ride in the sun, but we discovered that we needed to return the scooters by 5 pm and it was already past 2 pm.
Seems our options were limited, so we rented a car. We took a cab to the airport ($22) and picked up our gray Kia. Then we drove 30 minutes across long straight roads with hardly any cars, flanked by endless rows of topless trees burnt by forest fires. The park is one of major sightseeing points of the island and we were about to find out why.
In the parking lot the park ranger rested in a small hut with a plastic table out front. He came out when we approached his cabin and collected the entrance fees ($5) and gave a quick but helpful introduction of what to see.
We started with the caves, which belong to one of the longest underground cave systems in the world. At the first cave, Ben’s Cave, we walked down a rickety metallic staircase through the cave’s opening. The water was crystal clear, as if we were watching the fish swimming through a pane of glass. Then I noticed the huge group of bats chirping and fluttering about just a few feet away from me. You can organize to go scuba diving in the cave tunnels. That’s something I’ll have to leave to the next trip.
Apparently there were indigenous Lucayan used to live in this area and used the second cave as a burial place, hence the name Burial Mound. Their bones were discovered here in 1986. Reading the signs in the darkness of the cave gave me the creeps…
The whole hike around the caves only took 15 minutes or so. Next up was the “best beach in the Bahamas”. We walked through some mangroves and to a creek where we fish watched (if there is such a thing) before continuing to the beach. The opening on the dune through the lush vegetation was amazing. The whole stretch of beach was deserted and it felt like we just discovered a lost paradise. It was a sudden exhilaration to see that view and to know that we had it all to ourselves (though briefly).
The water was very shallow and calm, only a few inches most of the way until you go out deeper where the waves are breaking can you go for a swim. We spent the time admiring the beach, taking pictures, working on our tans, and examining the driftwood. We stayed until our skin felt a bit too warm for comfort.
The walk back we took the other route to complete the circle which led us through thick mangrove trees. The park was a great experience and completely worth getting the car just to see it.
We drove back and headed to the hotel to get cleaned up before going to dinner at the neighboring beach’s fish fry Tony Macaroni’s Conch Experience. Witnessing the conch tree and their usage of conchs for all the table decorations, I could see why their specialty was roast conch. We found one of the only seats left and placed our order. The open-air beach restaurant was really happening, with people chatting over drinks and those listening to the smooth jazz being played for the mixed crowd of tourists and locals. We ended up waiting over an hour for our food, but it was sure worth it. The roast conch and fish was simply astonishing. It is served with a single piece of bread and the fish meat melted in your mouth. We washed it all down with “gully wash” a rum cocktail of the house.
Our dinner conversation was with an American who moved to Freeport and gave us some insight into the way he lived out here. Notable advice included: All American’s are seen as ‘rich’ here. and Don’t try to have a one-nighter with a local girl. She’ll expect you to be serious. Hmm… I’ll keep that in mind.
As the sunset, we drove out to see downtown Freeport. As the second most populous city of the Bahamas, it turned out to be really quiet. The whole downtown looked like a small suburban town center, with Wendy’s, Burger King and other fast food chains as the only recognizable landmarks.
With a full day of traveling and exploring Atlantis tomorrow, we drove back to the hotel to pack up and get an early night’s sleep. We had a plane to catch in the morning!