June 01, 2021
What you need to know before planning your Bahamas summer vacay
Walkers Cay hosting a sold-out fishing event. Bonefish aplenty in Stella Maris, Long Island. Green Turtle Club and Resort booked up for the weekend. Did we just get teleported back to 1999? No, it's 2021 and life is returning to normal in the post COVID, post hurricane, chain of islands.
Carl Allen, owner of Walkers Cay, said, “The Walker's Cay Blue Marlin Invitational, scheduled for May 26-29, was quickly sold out, and even had a waiting list, but I want you to know we are working as fast as possible to open the marina for all in the near future!”
For those more interested in stalking fish in less than a foot of water, particularly bonefish, Jill Smith, Manager of Stella Maris Resort, Long Island, said, “Our resort, Moonshine Beach Bar, pool and beach are open, but more importantly the fishing and diving has been great.”
Vida Hepburn, at Bootle Bay, in West End, Grand Bahama, said, “We're finally seeing Bootle back to normal. Finally! Since the hurricane we've updated our rooms, added an inground pool and are seeing boats finally coming back.”
Parts of Grand Bahama and the upper Abacos island chain are still rebuilding from the devastation brought by Hurricane Dorian which made landfall in Elbow Cay as a Cat 5 storm September 1, 2019. Green Turtle Club Resort & Marina's Claudia Sawyer told us that they are all but fully restored, with just three rooms left to bring back on line. She said that there's power, water and fuel at the docks. She said rooms are being booked, two grocery stores are open and life is returning to the island.
While much of the recovery discussed so far relates to storm damage, most recently it was the pandemic which devastated the island's tourist economy. But, that too, thankfully for all those in the Bahamas, seems to be fading into the wake.
Effective May 1, 2021, travelers to the Bahamas from outside the country will be exempted from COVID-19 test if they are fully vaccinated and have passed the two-week immunity period. No quarantine. However, if not fully vaccinated you'll need a negative PCR test within 5 days of arrival. Also you'll need a rapid antigen test on day 5 of your visit, available at GTC Clinic, if not fully vaccinated.
Cost of travel visa is $40 if you stay 4 nights, and $60 to stay longer than 4 nights. Children under 10 do not need testing and their travel visas are free.
The Bimini Big Game Club, like many of the island resorts, introduced additional best practices and guidelines focused on enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions, and workplace protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Eleuthera is another terrific destination, and John McCardy at Villa Allamanda hotel in Governour's Harbour, mid-island, says, “We have always remained open, never closed.” Local eateries including Rainbow Room, Sunset Inn and Buccaneer Club are up and running, too, McCardy said, as are local guides like Capt. Daniel Gierszewski (242-470-4645) and Capt. Paul Petty (242-557-7269).
The next step is getting your paperwork in order and booking your trip. Ready, set, GO.
But, first the paperwork: There is a convenient new source where you can easily get your travel paperwork handled in advance of your trip. (It's new to the Bahamas but familiar to many Floridians who buy fishing licenses at gooutdoorsflorida.com.)
Go Outdoors Bahamas is the authorized provider for fishing licenses and cruising permits by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation.
There are two ways to obtain a flats fishing license and/or cruising permit: filling out paperwork dockside upon arrival at Bahamas Customs and Immigration; or pre-registration online via authorized vendors. These online systems are the preferred and easiest way to clear customs.
For boaters: Be sure to complete the cruising permit pre-registration prior to arrival and bring printed copies of your completed forms with you to see Bahamas Customs and Immigration at their Port of Entry.
Through GoOutdoorsBahamas.com and the Go Outdoors Bahamas mobile app (iOS or Google Play), users can now purchase their required permits online. You no longer need to have exact change at the dock and fill out the long forms while waiting. Shorten your pit stop and go online.
Go Outdoors Bahamas was developed to simplify the permit process to better serve the Bahamas' thriving fishing and boating industries. All license funds go to the Bahamas Government, and when you round up your transaction, the donation is contributed directly to the Bahamas Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources to support fisheries management.
Buy an optional $5 collectible card where a portion of the proceeds go to further promoting Bahamas fishing opportunities.
Bahamas Fishing and Boating License Regulations:
- Non-residents flats fishers are required to purchase a flats fishing license, with or without the assistance of a Flats Fishing Guide. There are multiple flats fishing licenses available with different validation periods: 1-Day, 7-Day, 30-Day, and 1-Year.
- Captains sailing recreational vessels for pleasure without cargo must purchase a cruising permit and purchase a fishing permit as well as complete an inward declaration in order to sail from island to island within the Bahamas. There are cruising permits available for different vessel lengths in both 90 Day and 1 Year validation periods.
For more information about Go Outdoors Bahamas, visit www.GoOutdoorsBahamas.com