What comes to mind when you think of the Bahamas? Luxurious resorts? Stunning white beaches? Tropical drinks dressed with cute little umbrellas? Me too! Not sure about you, but I'm long overdue for this kind of pampering. And in embracing the philosophy that self-care rejuvenates the soul, I'm in search of the perfect place that will replenish mine! "Welcome to the Real Bahamas!" A number of locals greet me this way, but I'm really not sure what they mean.
I've just come from the country's capital, Nassau, and the adjacent Paradise Island. And if these two hot spots aren't truly Bahamian, then what is? Long Island, located in Bahamas Southern Out Islands, is as peaceful and secluded an oasis as you'll ever find. And here, overlooking one of the world's top 10 beaches, is Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort - my sanctuary for the next all too few days.
Immediately after checking in (and before unpacking), I make a beeline for this sandy playground - a stretch of silky champagne powder, that's trimmed by aquamarine surf.
I wade, ankle deep, into the tepid waters.
The warm breeze is like a caress and the sunshine soothes me blissfully to the core.
Rumour has it that this four-mile long shoreline is still undiscovered. So, is this the meaning of the "Real Bahamas," I wonder? Still unsure, I ask around.
"If you don't know by the time you leave, I'll fill you in," says a resort worker, in response to my question. She flashes me an impish, all-knowing grin before resuming her duties.
Though I'm still in the dark, over the next week in this Caribbean utopia, I'm pretty sure I discover the true meaning of paradise.
My ocean-side bungalow, just steps away from the tide-line, is decked out with all the comforts of home: a hair dryer that I forgot to pack, a fridge for chilling my favourite bevvies and a coffee maker that rounds off my breakfast to perfection.
From my private veranda, I'm privy to photo-perfect sunsets and the sweet scent of bougainvilleas. And each night, while swathed like a babe in my sleeping quarters, I'm lulled to sleep by the sound of lapping waves.
Daytime activity options are equally stress-free. Although I could explore the island on bike, hike through lush terrain, and even get culturally grounded when checking out the monument that pays tribute to Christopher Columbus, the beach keeps calling my name.
Some visitors choose to skim the Atlantic's surface on kayaks, catamarans and boogie boards, and others are lured to the many treasures that thrive far beneath-diving into Dean's Blue Hole, the deepest sinkhole on Earth, that plunges 200 metres (663 feet) to the ocean floor.
As for me, I'm quite content to swim languidly after rays (not the stinging kind), beach comb for samples of stunning sea glass and saunter the endless stretches of sand - topped off, on most afternoons, by sipping a fruity Bahama Mama.
Sounds like Eden? I'm pretty convinced it is! I conclude my week of luxury with a special seven-course dinner, a traditional Bahamian selection served at the resort clubhouse: coconut shrimp doused in an orange marmalade marinade, smooth and sinfully rich lobster bisque, pan-fried grouper, all complimented by coconut curry and a grilled lobster dressed with salsa-truly a Bahamian feast! With a newly-acquired "Buddha belly," I retire to my private balcony for one last gaze at the stars. They light up the heavens, casting a magical spell over this place I've now deemed to be an enchanted retreat.
The Bahamas is everything I dreamt it would be, but Long Island is even more so. It's a destination that boasts 80 miles of scenic shoreline, a place where island people greet newcomers like long lost relatives.
A commercial-free, slower-paced haven for people who are in search of a perfect refuge. Recreation, renewal and relaxation - add "real" to the mix and you have it: the Real Bahamas! Now no longer a secret to me.
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If you go Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort is located on one of the best beaches in the Bahamas.
. www.capesantamaria.com/Galliot Cay, Long Island Tel: 242-338-5273. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism www.bahamas.com/#/long Tel: 242-302-2000 Fax: 242-302-2098 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Long Island Tourist Office www.bahamas.com/#/long Tel: 242-338-8668 Fax: 242-338-8669. For car rentals and informative Long Island tours, the experienced Omar Daley provides enjoyable professional tours.
omardaley.com/index.html www.omardaley.com Cel: 1-242-357-1043
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