Do you remember the first time you traveled to an ecosystem notably and vibrantly different from the one you grew up in? In my world, it was the early 90’s when my dad took us to The Bahamas. Growing up in a decaying steel town in northern West Virginia, the teal waters and tropical climate were something straight out of books like Island of the Blue Dolphins. The entire experience felt magical and while I can no longer elucidate most of the details of that trip, I know I was lucky to have the experience. I’ll never forget how it felt to see a part of the world so different from what I knew, to smell the scent of tropical flowers on the air, and to experience an island sunrise.
The entire experience is not lost to time. The island we stayed on was New Providence, which is where Nassau is. The hotel was the now defunct Carnival’s Crystal Palace which felt very much like a palace, long before the “poop cruise” tarnished Carnival’s reputation in my mind. There was also a boat trip to another, smaller island in the chain called Rose Island. Diligent labeling of old pictures tells me that the boat was the “Sea Island Adventure.” In regards to the island itself, if memory serves, no one appeared to actually live there. It seemed the sort of place that existed for tourists to pay to be taken to. As a tourist being taken there, I had no complaint. There was a pink stucco building, a quiet beach with hammocks, and not much else that I can recall. It was perfect.
Looking the island up now I see that Google Maps hilariously describes it as “Undeveloped Island with swimming pigs” so there’s that. I recall no swimming pigs in the 90’s.
We went back again some time later, this time staying at The Atlantis on the adjacent Paradise Island. I recall casinos, a water park, some food that I remember being particularly delicious and, my favorite, The Dig. The Dig was an underground aquarium designed to feel like tunnels. It was cool, serene, often dark, and where I spent most of my time. There were touch pools full of sad looking sea cucumbers, but those areas tended to be occupied by noisy toddlers and families, so I mostly wandered from bench to bench with my camera.
The water park was fun, as they tend to be. I mostly remember that one of the slides finished by taking you through the center of an aquarium, which was by far the best thing about it. Waterslides themselves can be found all over, but waterslides through aquariums were something I’d never experienced.
Ultimately though, the experience was all about the islands themselves. The beach, the palm trees, the breezes and sunrises and just the experience of being in a new environment with new people and learning firsthand how big and varied the world is. If you are fortunate enough to travel with your kids, you should. They won’t forget it.