Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bahamas 101: Recipe For Paradise


Flying to the Bahamas is the stuff of dreams and is within the reach of nearly any pilot and aircraft


Paradise Found

Our adventure is aboard Air Journey's Beechcraft E55 Baron. Air Journey specializes in putting together flying tours for pilots, and The Bahamas is one of its specialties. With me are P&P Editor Jessica Ambats and Air Journey's Guillaume Fabry, who has flown these islands many times.

We settle into a good routine, flying in the mornings and landing at each island close to midday. One of the many alluring things about these islands is the ridiculously good weather. August and September do produce strong tropical storms and even hurricanes, and the convective activity in the afternoons dictates that flying be done in the early hours, before the unstable moist air starts roiling.

Flying over the Atlantic, we learn how clouds create shadows on the water that mistakenly look like islands. Thunderstorms on the radar aren't as ominous as they seem to us California-based pilots, and NEXRAD and careful vigilance allow us to steer around the billowing "cue." Below us, the vast chain of islands creates a different swirl in the Jade canvas that surrounds it.

Harbour Island—part of Eleuthera—is an idyllic paradise. The "town" is charming—a loose collection of simple homes in ice-cream colors along a narrow road only accessible by golf carts. The beach surrounding the island is what you daydream about. There you'll find pale-pink coral sand, churned by the turquoise sea for thousands of years into a fine powder.

These islands were once part of the British West Indies and the great British Empire beyond that. Colonialism has remained strong here, and our marvelous hotel—Valentine's Resort (www.valentinesresort.com)—reflects that in its architecture and feel.

We continue to North Bimini, only 50 miles from the U.S. but a world apart. In the process, I get used to crossing large expanses of ocean, with the engine churning out its comforting bray. From the air, these islands offer up colors that not even Picasso or Pollack could fashion.

Bimini is more bohemian, with an older central town and a long history of pirates and expatriates that sought to disappear within its relaxed environs. Big-game fishing is the deal here, with Bimini serving as the launch point for trophy marlin, swordfish and others. Our hotel, the Bimini Big Game Club, is walking distance from some of the most postcard-Bahamian beaches imaginable. The northern part of the island caters to the yacht crowd, with the Bimini Bay Resort and Marina.

A mention needs to be made about the Bahamian people. They're among the warmest I've encountered in any country. There are various levels of acceptance of Americans around the world—from mere tolerance to genuine camaraderie—and the Bahamians win. They possess a certain spirituality about them, too: a reverence for the sea, for their islands and for their faith. They genuinely want you as a guest and exist with you, not just for you.




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