June 3, 2017

Keeping the Peace on the Beach

I was away recently on a beautiful trip to the Bahamas. Of course, the famous pink sand beach is reason enough to go. But, having travelled to the island since 1983, I’ve noticed a few good and bad changes. And, when I say the Bahamas, I’m referring to Harbour Island….shhh!

I LOVE this place! That said, I’m not eager to share my discovery with too many people, fearful my island paradise might someday be transformed into a tourist Mecca.

Unlike its big sister, Nassau, I often wonder how this tiny island escaped high rises and casinos. Luckily, size has a lot to do with it, measuring only 3 miles long and half-mile wide. I suppose there’s only so much you can build, which is a good thing. Harbour Island’s historical society has worked relentlessly at imposing strict building codes, which means maintaining those lovely old conch-style cottages that dot the island like colourful confetti. Some older resorts have been beautifully restored to their former glory, keeping the integrity of the buildings and offering an island vibe without building up and staying within the property confines. With these improvements come jobs and opportunities for small businesses owned and operated by locals. As a result, the island has a sense of pride and purpose.

Did I mention it’s one of the most beautiful places to visit?

That said, I’ve seen the effects of progress on Nassau, which quite honestly is a huge disappointment. It’s okay if you need to overnight for a connection; otherwise, it’s a miss for me. I understand the economics, but I don’t know why they build resorts to ridiculous proportions on an island that could be more than just commercial development and a cash grab. It breaks my heart to see this happen.

Hey, don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their share of the pie, and I believe change is good. Although, I wonder where the responsibility lies with us as tourists. When you visit a foreign destination, wouldn’t you want to embrace the culture, the food, the architecture and the people? So why do we need a resort resembling a grotesque version of a sandcastle on a beach with casinos? I don’t get it. Nassau has turned into nothing more than a theme park. It saddens me to think that tourists are responsible for this and that we’re okay with it. In my opinion, it’s unacceptable.

Having said this, I’m not sure what the answer is. There were several conversations with taxi drivers and locals; most seemed okay with it. However, money is the driving force, but at what cost? Thousands of tourists on cruise ships arrive daily, embarking on Nassau; what are their expectations? Have we slumped to an all-time low? Bars and Casinos and somewhere to ditch the kids?

I am thrilled Harbour Island exists and has the right balance for its visitors. It happens to be one of my happy places. Of course, I wish I could visit more often. But, when I have had the opportunity, I’m always pleased, mostly relieved that it’s remained the same, if only with a few subtle improvements that benefit the island and its people. It’s pure bliss!

No matter where you travel, I think authenticity should come first. So enjoy the peace on the beach.


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