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The Other Side of Bimini

The westernmost island of the Bahamas, Bimini, lays just 53 miles east of Miami. Made up of actually three islands, North, South and East, the Lucayans were the first to settle there. Over the years the Bimini islands have undergone many changes, some by the forces of Mother Nature and others by the hands of man. At present day the two main islands seem to be more polarized than ever.

North Bimini, the largest of the three islands, is home to the capital of Alice Town. This island supports a variety of shops, restaurants, bars, single family homes and marinas. By far the largest development on North Bimini, Resorts World Bimini (former Bimini Bay Resort), continues to grow, including a casino, condominiums and most recently under construction a controversial dock that will allow cruise ships to tie up and unload scores of passengers. It’s fast becoming, as some say, “a little Nassau.” A view from the air resembles a track home subdivision and you can see silt from the dredging for the new dock billowing out into the water. Famed explorer and environmentalist, Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, called it a “catastrophe.”

The other end of the spectrum is on South Bimini; here you will find Bimini Sands. This resort is made up of condo villas that surround a protected marina. When the owners of the villas aren’t using them they are put into a rental pool that offer luxury accommodations in a family resort setting. Being that the villas at Bimini Sands are privately owned, each takes on the individual taste of the owner and they have varying interior décors. The Bimini Sands complex was started back in 1992 but was stopped before completion. In 1996, present owner, Frank Cooney and his Bahamian business partner took over the project with the vision of creating a five star resort nestled in lush native island landscaping. The entire Bimini Sands property (Bimini Sands Resort and Bimini Sands Beach Club) consists of 232 units, a marina with over 200 slips, an overflow marina with 55 slips, a dive shop, activity center, ships/convenience store, a bar and three restaurants.

An additional 89 acres remains undeveloped to maintain the islands natural beauty and includes a mile-long nature trail where you can take a self-guided tour. Signs along the trail point out plants and give a description of some of the wildlife you may encounter along the way. Be on the lookout for a Bimini Boa, they’re protected by Bahamian law. If it’s later in the evening be prepared to encounter another native resident, the mosquito, which isn’t protected so feel free to eradicate as many as you can. Transportation from one end of the property to the other is provided via “The Magic Bus” – you just have to experience it!

More than just a fishing destination, Bimini Sands has activities for the whole family. Snorkel and dive trips can be arranged to take you into the clearest water you have ever seen and for the more adventurous, a shark encounter dive can get you up close to these seemingly tamed predators. Other watersports available are windsurfing, paddle boarding and a kayak adventure that leads you through a series of shallow ponds, creeks and lagoons. For the kids, Bimini Sands has a Kid’s Club where your child can learn about the environment through a field trip filled with “hands on experiences.”

 

Recently I traveled to Bimini to attend the First Annual Guy Harvey Outpost – Beach Bash Bonfire and Tournament. Proceeds of the tournament weekend were slated for the conservation of the surrounding waters of Bimini. Legendary captain Bouncer Smith was on hand as emcee and to give out advice for fishing in the local waters. The weekend was filled with a series of activities leading up to the tournament.

On Friday everyone enjoyed a trip out to Honeymoon Harbor where we fed wild stingrays. Later that afternoon the captains meeting/cocktail party was held at the newly finished Bimini Sands Infinity pool complete with a pirates costume party and authentic Caribbean music provided by Mango Man, a native of Freeport, Bahamas. The evening ended with an amazing Burning Marlin Bonfire. A 30-foot long marlin was sculpted out of metal by artist Bobby Little and stuffed with driftwood, hay and charcoal. When set ablaze it was truly a spectacular site. Plans are to later submerge the marlin sculpture in shallow water, off the coast of Bimini, to create a reef habitat for some of the 250 species of tropical fish that call the clear warm waters home.

The tournament on Saturday was fun for all who participated. Being that it was mostly a fun event with the winnings consisting of trophies, small prizes and most of all bragging rights; the atmosphere was laid back and non-competitive, unless you include the story-telling and laughter. For official tournament results see: www.guyharveyoutpost.com.

This weekend was my first opportunity to sit down and talk with owner Frank Cooney and learn more about Bimini and its rich history. For years now the waters surrounding Bimini have been said to have mystical powers. Just off of the tip they call Paradise Point lies an underwater rock formation known as the Bimini Road. Some theorize that it’s part of the legendary ancient city of Atlantis that disappeared into the sea. Deep in the mangrove swamp on North Bimini is The Healing Hole, a pool at the end of a network of tunnels. During outgoing tides cool, mineral-laden fresh water is pumped into the pool loaded with natural lithium and sulfur. This pool has been said to have helped many people over the years with a variety of ailments. Ponce de Leon himself searched for Bimini’s famed Fountain of Youth but ended up landing in Florida instead. Nowadays it’s much easier to find with a sign marking the Fountain of Youth well alongside the road leading from the Bimini Airport to the resort.

After speaking with Frank for a short time you soon learn that his years in the islands have made him more of a believer than a skeptic. His two personal accounts of the unexplained involve a night fishing trip and a weekend where a group of spiritualist stayed on the island. The first story was where his boat was anchored on one side of the reef while fishing after dark. When he decided it was time to head home, he had somehow ended up on the opposite side of the reef with no recollection of how they got there. The second was one of a local captain that was hired to take a party of spiritualist out for a cruise. The spiritualist instructed the guide to head North and then stop at a spot offshore. Just then the water reportedly started to bubble up around them and a school of dolphin appeared that seemed to start communicating with the spiritualist. To this day that Bahamian captain will not venture out to that same area.

Whether you believe in the mysteries of the Bimini islands or not one thing that is indisputable, this area is an awesome fishery. The close proximity to deep water makes short runs for anglers wanting to do battle with blue water pelagics. This steep ledge is also a great place to use an electric reel setup for a little deep dropping. Captain Bouncer Smith took us out and in two quick drops to 1,200 feet we were able to invite four nice queen snapper to dinner. This same weekend four blue marlin were raised along with a sailfish. Closer to shore is a series of reefs that are loaded with snapper, grouper and a wide host of other stand-up tackle bruisers. The second day of our trip we were treated to a reef fishing excursion and caught a mixed bag of lane snapper, queen trigger fish and strawberry grouper. If stalking the shallow water ghost is more your style, Bimini has several bonefish guides that know the most productive flats. You can even wade the shore just off of the Shark Lab, where the bottom is firm, and cast a fly to schools of bones while fishing in quiet solitude.

The same cobalt blue waters and miles of reefs that lure anglers to Bimini also call out to divers. The Sapona is a snorkelers paradise. This concrete-hulled cargo ship was washed ashore by a hurricane in 1926 and offers refuge to thousands of tropical fish. For certified divers, Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center is located at the Beach Club and can take you on a diving excursion that you will never forget, especially if you opt for their hammerhead shark dive.

The marina at Bimini Sands recently won the Blue Flag Award for their efforts in being environmentally friendly. Overnight slips are available with 30 and 50 Amp services plus they carry gas and diesel fuel. Crossing in a private boat is easy and the marina staff is on hand to assist with docking or any other needs.

Several commercial carriers fly daily into South Bimini which has a 5,430 foot long asphalt runway that lies on a 9/27 heading. Runway lights and a beacon tower were just added for night-time service. This airport is also very friendly to general aviation private pilots. The process through customs and immigration was pleasant and speedy.

If you want to experience a truly authentic Bahamian vacation in a laid back, island style atmosphere, Bimini Sands has hassle-free all-inclusive vacation packages. You can choose from fly-fishing, diving, offshore fishing or any combination to make your stay memorable. For more information or to book your trip contact the staff at 242-347-3500, U.S. 954-615-1011 or see: www.biminisands.com