Accessible Paradise

Bahamas-Plate

Imagine waking up in your bed in New York City (or any town near a major airport on the eastern seaboard) to a cold, miserable rain. Your first inclination is to hit the snooze button and roll over, but then you remember that this day is different. This day, by 2:00 this very afternoon, you'll be casting to bonefish on the sun-soaked flats of a tropical island so desolate and remote you'll think you've travelled half way around the world for two days just to get there. But you didn't. You'll have arrived there in under 5 hours.

Amazingly, this is entirely possible, and for a lot less money that you probably think. The islands I'm referring to are known as the Bahamas' "Out Islands," among them Crooked Island, Acklins and Mayaguana, and I was fortunate to take part in a recent whirlwind tour that included stops on all three.

Bahamas-Plate

A direct flight from JFK to Nassau (round-trip for as low as $250) takes about 3 hours. A charter flight from Nassau to Crooked lasts only about an hour (currently this can cost as much as $150, but the Ministry of Tourism is working with the charter companies to get that figure down to $50-$75). After a quick lunch at Crooked Island Lodge, you'll be wading in the shin-deep waters that cover the expansive Bight of Acklins with an experienced, knowledgeable guide. With any luck you'll even bring a bonefish to hand. I didn't catch a fish my first afternoon in the Bahamas, nor did I catch a fish either of the following two days on Acklins and Mayaguana (frankly, I'm just not a good enough flyfisherman to make a 30-foot cast in 15-knot winds), but that was certainly not for a lack of fish or a horde of competing anglers.

This is some of the most pristine, unpressured fishing you will ever experience. Outside of the others in our travelling party, I didn't see another fishermen the entire trip. Tourists simply don't come here. Crooked (population: 550; area: 192 sqare miles), Acklins (400 people, 92 sq. mi.) and Mayaguana (300 people, 110 sq. mi.) are underfished and, in fact, underappreciated bonefishing destinations, especially when compared to other Bahamian islands like Andros, the Florida Keys, Mexico's Ascension Bay or half-way-round spots like the Seychelles and Christmas Island.

Bahamas-Fish

Don't expect a lot of amenities and posh accommodations here, but you won't be sleeping in a thatched hut, either. The lodging options are comfortable and provide everything you need and nothing you don't. Your luggage will comprise an 8-weight rod and saltwater reel loaded with floating line (flyfishing is the most popular method, but spin fishing is certainly acceptable); shrimp- and crab-pattern flies or hair jigs; light-weight, fast-drying clothing; wading boots or sandals; lots of sunscreen; bug spray; and a wide-brimmed hat. That's it.

Add to the islands' accessibility and their untouched beauty: a lack of a language barrier; no need for currency exchange (the Bahamian dollar is equal to the U.S. dollar, which is accepted everywhere); cold beer, dark rum and delicious food including fresh fish, conch, jerk chicken, plantains, beans & rice, mac & cheese and other starchy delights (a fellow traveler aptly referred to it at "soul food on steroids"); and genuinely warm, charming people. It's all just a few hours away…assuming you can lay off the snooze button.