A Pilot’s Guide to Island-Hopping in the Bahamas

A Bahamas vacation guide

Island-hopping the Bahamas by plane

The unprecedented beauty of the Bahamas from above displays itself as you soar over the sparkling turquoise ocean. Island-hopping throughout the Bahamas by plane provides you with an unparalleled blend of picture-perfect scenes and convenience, with landing strips on almost all of the islands. Your tour is an exciting array of swimming pigs, pink sand beaches and exotic wildlife roaming the picturesque landscape.

The Bahamas is home to some of the Caribbean’s most stunning vistas. With over 700 islands to visit in this marvelous archipelago, your Bahamas vacation will be packed with things to do and sights to see. While many people spend their time in the Bahamas enjoying the comforts of Nassau on New Providence Island, the authentic Bahamian experience can be found in the string of islands known as the Out Islands. The Out Islands account for 84% of the Bahamas’ land mass. Fortunately, most of them are almost untouched, giving you the chance to explore the pure unspoiled natural beauty of the Bahamas.

Flying is the best way to travel across the Bahamas islands

Flying is the best way to travel across the Bahamas islands

I travel around the world as an Airline Pilot and not only do I fly the big jets but I have a passion for flying small planes too. For my epic journey across the Bahamas Islands I rented a plane and teamed up with another professional pilot to island hop the Bahamas Out Islands. But you certainly don’t have to be a pilot or have your own aircraft to island hop the Bahamas by plane. Small scheduled airlines fly throughout the Bahamas Islands and there are now operators providing Island Hopping Tours.

The Bahamas is also an exceptionally accessible destination. Flights to Bahamas from Florida take a little over an hour, and transport you to one of the world’s top vacation destinations. With a rich history and culture to discover, the Bahamas is not only be picturesque, but also immersive. Wildlife enthusiasts will have countless fascinating sites to discover, including the island of the swimming Exuma pigs. Vibrant festivals and luxurious resorts ensure that your Bahamas vacation is an exciting and extravagant event. Boaters and sportsmen can rest easy knowing that they will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy their passions in this paradisiacal setting.

When did we lose the romance of flying?

The romance of flight is something that is lost on most frequent flyers. The soulless monotony of the corporate world of flight fills the hearts of frequent flyers with dread. The endless lines, the crowds, the cramped cabins, and the bland view of boundless clouds. Humankind once dreamed of soaring over the Earth to experience the unprecedented freedom of flight. For many, flying has become just another means of transport that will get you from A to B. Fortunately, the splendor of the Bahamas’ landscape breathes wonder back into flight. The excitement and anticipation as you step onto the small aircraft is almost tangible. Peering out the window you see a magnificent string of islands surrounded by a crystalline turquoise ocean.

The stunning shades of blue only seen from above by plane

The stunning shades of blue only seen from above by plane

While many people choose to visit Nassau and explore the incredible Out Islands by boat on their Bahamas vacation, nothing can compare to the experience of discovering the beauty of the Bahamas from the skies. The Bahamas also happens to be one of the world’s most accessible archipelagos. Each island has an airstrip for takeoff and landing, allowing you to explore all the best that the Out Islands have to offer. So you will not only have access to just as many islands as anyone on a boat tour, but you can also island-hop in a fraction of the time. Coupling with the most important part of exploring the Out Islands from the skies is the picture-perfect scenery. There is simply no contest.

With a flying tour of the Bahamas’ Out Islands taking you to destinations such as Staniel Cay and the famed Exuma Pigs, there is no doubt that this is one of the best ways to enjoy your Bahamas vacation. Though there are many places to land in the Out Islands, allowing you to explore the area on foot, the archipelago’s most beautiful sight can only be appreciated from above. Schooner Cays is arguably one of the world’s most stunning landscapes. Long strings of shallow sand banks stretch out across the spectacular ocean. When viewing the Schooner Cays, it’s easy to understand why astronauts described the Bahamas as “the most beautiful place on Earth viewed from space.”

Flightseeing over the Schooner Cays

Flightseeing over the Schooner Cays

Flights to Bahamas are exceptionally cheap and quick from the US, being a little over an hour from Florida. You will also find the Bahamas to be incredibly convenient. English is the official language and US Dollars are accepted throughout the Bahamas Islands.

The beaches

If there’s one thing that the Bahamas is known for, it’s the spectacular beaches. Booking flights to Bahamas will bring you to some of the world’s most beautiful and unspoiled stretches of sand. Whether you view these pristine beaches from the skies, or you feel the warmth of the sand between your toes, their staggering beauty is unparalleled. Your Bahamas vacation would be incomplete without lying back on one of the many beaches and soaking up the rays of the Bahamian sun.

Have your own beach to yourself in the Bahamas

Have your own beach to yourself in the Bahamas

The dazzling white sand beaches of Staniel Cay and the Exuma Cays are excellent destinations to enjoy the Out Islands experience. Immaculate stretches of sand are fringed by lush green vegetation and an awe-inspiring turquoise ocean. Not only does Staniel Cay put some of the Bahamas’ most stunning beaches on display, but it also serves as an excellent hub to go and visit some of the Bahamas’ most popular attractions.

Though Staniel Cay may offer beautiful white sand beaches for you to enjoy, nothing beats the famous pink sand beaches of Harbour Island and Cat Island. A visit to the Pink Sands Beach on Harbour Island has become one of the most popular trips in the Bahamas. The reason for this becomes evident the moment you set foot on this glorious landscape. The shells of microscopic mollusks have washed up on the beach, mingling with the white sand. When wet, these shells emit a brilliant red color that combines with the white sand granules to display this brilliant pink hue. The same picturesque phenomenon takes place on Cat Islands shores. Adding this to the fact that your chances of seeing another person during your visit to Cat Island are almost zero, a visit here will be well-worth your time.

Whether you’re hoping to explore the beauty of these beaches from above, on foot, or on horseback in true Bahamian style, the choice is yours. There is nothing quite like basking in the warmth of the sun as you find yourself surrounded by one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes on your Bahamas vacation.

The wildlife

Wildlife enthusiasts will have an excellent time discovering all the exciting and exotic creatures that the Bahamas has to offer. While Nassau may be great for tourism, the authentic Bahamian experience can only be found in the Out Islands. This is also true for the exciting and unique wildlife in the Bahamas.

A visit to Staniel Cay will give wildlife enthusiasts access to the single most sought-after tour in the world: a trip to visit the Exuma Pigs. As your speedboat from Staniel Cay approaches the sparkling beach, dozens of Exuma Pigs will swim out to meet you. There is nothing quite like seeing an ordinary farm animal paddling through the clear turquoise waters of the Bahamas.

There are a number of different theories on how the Exuma Pigs came to call this island home. Some say that early European sailors dropped them off here, intending to come back and eat them, but never returned. Others suggest that the Exuma Pigs had been aboard a ship that sank in the area. However the Exuma Pigs came to call this island home, they are now one of the greatest attractions in the Bahamas.

The famous swimming pigs at Staniel Cay

The famous swimming pigs at Staniel Cay

After enjoying the unique experience of the Exuma Pigs, you can take a trip back in time with the Bahamian rock iguana. These prehistoric-looking beasts roam the shores of Bitter Guana Cay, not far from Staniel Cay. What makes this experience so special is that these iguanas don’t shy away from visitors. Since they don’t have any natural predators, they are often quite curious of people, allowing for some excellent photographs.

The Bahamas rock iguana at Bitter Guana Cay

The Bahamas rock iguana at Bitter Guana Cay

Islands such as Staniel Cay may offer a range of fascinating wildlife, but nothing compares to the life beneath the surface. Many people book flights to Bahamas each year just to spend their Bahamas vacations snorkelling or diving. There is an abundance of thriving marine life near each of the islands. If you’re lucky, you may even see the majestic sea turtle gliding through the crystalline water.

History and heritage

The Bahamas is an island nation steeped in a rich and vibrant history. Christopher Columbus made landfall in the Bahamas in the late 15th century on his journey to find the New World. Not only was Columbus the first European to discover the beauty of these islands, but he was also responsible for giving the Bahamas their name. He named the archipelago Baja Mar, which translates from Spanish to “shallow water.”

The landing site of Christopher Columbus on San Salvador

The landing site of Christopher Columbus on San Salvador

While Columbus’ voyage to the Bahamas was very momentous, he wouldn’t be the last historical figure to set foot on these islands. The Bahamas, and more specifically Nassau, would welcome the infamous pirate Blackbeard to its shores in the 18th century. Along with a group of pirates known as the Privateers Republic, Edward Teach (Blackbeard) made his menacing way into the Bahamian history books.

Battles for the control of Nassau ensued and eventually the British regained control of Nassau. Having driven Blackbeard and the Privateers Republic out of the Bahamas, they continued development. You can still explore streets of Nassau’s Old Town and view the resilient colonial architecture that is standing to this day. Flights to Bahamas will also give you the chance to visit Harbour Island and Dunmore Town, with quiet lanes lined on either side with colourful colonial buildings. The beauty of these structures is enhanced by the overflowing flowerbeds and spectacular views of the ocean.

New England colonial-style architecture of Dunmore Town on Harbour Island

New England colonial-style architecture of Dunmore Town on Harbour Island

Just as in any destination around the world with such a rich history, a vibrant culture has emerged in the Bahamas. Many of the locals are of West African descent, having been brought over to work in the plantations. While the past may be dark, the colorful annual celebration known as Junkanoo displays a united culture that is welcoming to all tourists. Booking flights to Bahamas will not only provide you with sensational views of the archipelago, but also a fascinating immersive experience in the authentic Bahamian culture.

James Bond in the Bahamas

Nothing says “James Bond” like a flight in a small aircraft over the glittering Bahamian landscape, or skimming along the water’s surface in a speedboat as you explore the untouched Out Islands. Almost any Bahamas vacation will have a James Bond undertone. Whether you’re exploring a deserted island, carving the water on a jetski, parasailing above a picturesque beach, or enjoying any number of exciting activities, you will be immersed in the luxurious and adventurous world of James Bond.

Staniel Cay is one of the very best destinations to experience the feeling of James Bond in the Bahamas. Not only will you have access to a number of excellent amenities that lend themselves to the spy lifestyle, btu you will also have the chance to attend the exciting Casino Royale evening at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. From exotic wildlife like the Exuma Pigs to sunken planewrecks that had once belonged to drug smugglers, Staniel Cay is a great window into the world of James Bond.

The underwater drug smugglers' plane wreck at Staniel Cay

The underwater drug smugglers’ plane wreck at Staniel Cay

In fact, the Bahamas is such a perfect setting for a James Bond story that several scenes have actually been filmed here. The 1965 Bond film Thunderball had scenes shot in a grotto nearby Staniel Cay, which has since become known as Thunderball Grotto. In 1977, Bond reappeared in The Spy Who Loved Me, which featured parts of Nassau. 1983 saw Sean Connery starring in Never Say Never Again, which had scenes both on dry land in Nassau as well as in the clear turquoise water. Daniel Craig picked up the Bond legacy in 2006 with Casino Royale. There is no doubt that the Bahamas should be the number-one destination for any Bond enthusiast.

As a self-confessed James Bond fan, I was amazed by what must be the largest James Bond car and vehicle collection at the Auto Museum in Miami. A huge warehouse dedicated to all things James Bond, from the Thunderball jetpack to the The World is Not Enough speedboat or the gyrocopter from You Only Live Twice, this is a top option if your flights to the Bahamas go via Miami. They literally have every vehicle from every James Bond film. I can’t recommend the Miami Auto Museum highly enough!

The golf

A Bahamas vacation would be incomplete without a round at one of the many available golf courses. People from around the world book flights to Bahamas to simply set foot on the sweeping green lawns of these golf courses. To feel the gentle ocean breeze as you practice your swing in this staggeringly beautiful setting is nothing short of paradise.

Emerald Bay Golf Course on Great Exuma

Emerald Bay Golf Course on Great Exuma

Though you do have a choice of courses to visit, the Sandals Resort course in Emerald Bay is almost certainly the best. Designed by the famous Australian golfer Greg Norman, this 18-hole course will put your golfing skills to the test. Not only will you enjoy an excellent round of golf, but you’ll also be able to appreciate the immense beauty of Emerald Bay between strokes. Nothing says “luxurious Bahamas vacation” like rolling over the green lawns in a golf buggy with picture-perfect views of one of the Bahamas’ best beaches.

Island-hopping by plane

Island-hopping the Bahamas by plane

Island-hopping the Bahamas by plane

There is so much more to a Bahamas vacation than the shores of Nassau and Paradise Island. Whether you’re visiting Staniel Cay and the Exuma Pigs or lounging on Pink Sands Beach on Harbour Island, your Bahamas vacation—shuold you extend it beyond the tourist hotspots—will not disappoint. View the stunning Schooner Cays and discover the true beauty of the Bahamas on an island hopping tour. It is here in the Bahamas that you will rediscover the unequivocal wonder of flight. The accessibility of the islands and the convenience of flights to Bahamas from Florida cannot be overstated. Not to mention the fact that there will be no language barrier when interacting with the locals.

Once you arrive in Nassau, you will be met with a range of different tour options, but none are comparable to the ultimate freedom of flight. To soar through the blue sky and over sun-soaked beaches and lush green islands is to experience the paragon of Bahamas vacations.


For more, take a look at Flying & Travel, where you’ll find Mark’s comprehensive Bahamas travel guide.

 

Pilot Mark

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About the Author

Pilot Mark
Mark is an airline pilot who is on a mission to inspire and inform you about his two passions: flying and travel. Having travelled across all seven continents, he is here to help you travel the world with inspiring destinations and expert flying and travel tips.

1 Comment on "A Pilot’s Guide to Island-Hopping in the Bahamas"

  1. I think the distraction of the beautiful view from the golf course will certainly cost me a few golf balls

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