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Nassau Memorial Day Trip Report - by Peter Katz

Online   Jun 09, 2021

Having missed out on going to Nassau, Bahamas in 2020 due to all the covid-19 issues, this year’s Scuba Shack group of 14 intrepid divers having weathered all the intricacies of the Bahamas health visa and request for covid testing prior to returning to the USA, arrived at the Lynden-Pindling airport in Nassau on May 26,2 021 ready for adventure. We were warmly greeted by the staff upon our arriving at Orange Hill Beach Inn. It was truly great to once again see their friendly faces. We were also pleased to notice may improvements done to the property over the past year. New balconies were installed along with new, quieter a/c units in the rooms. Fresh paint and well-manicured landscaping added to the feeling of freshness. Orange Hill maintained the required Bahamian covid protocols while still providing us with friendly service.

Our first dive day was rather interesting. We were the first dive group to return to Stuart Cove’s in over a year and it didn’t go quite as smoothly as we had grown to expect. A good part of the issue was due to Stuart having moved his operation from South Ocean to Coral Harbor just three weeks prior to our arrival. Needless to say, the renovations were moving along at island time and they were operating out of temporary structures rather than the final facilities. Also, impacting the venture was the lack of staff primarily caused by the government’s refusal to issue work permits to the foreign staff that makes up a large part of the personnel. Fortunately, Kara, Harris, Wendel (our boat captain), Travis (Stuart’s son), and Stuart himself worked tirelessly to iron out some of the wrinkles and with the addition of Shaq as our divemaster, our problems were solved and the remaining days were literally smooth sailing.

The weather gods were smiling on us as we had warm days, bright sunshine, and calm winds. We visited our favorite dive sites, the Bond Wrecks, Heineken Wall, a new wreck the Atlantic Breeze, and of course Southwest Reef to name a few. We saw the regular cast of underwater characters – reef sharks, nurse sharks, rays, goliath groupers, and even the invasive lionfish. Saturday was our Off Island Adventure with a trip to the Lost Blue Hole and Thunderball Reef. The spectacular diving was followed by a beach barbeque on Rose Island. Wendel backed the dive boat down to the beach so we practically stepped onto the island. To our great fortune we had a master barbeque chef in our group, none other than Garth Caruso of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in New York City. I don’t know if it was the gorgeous weather, the scenery, or what, but the food was outstanding. I had one of the best fresh fish sandwiches that I have ever tasted. We spent a delightful afternoon on Rose Island basking in the sun, lolling in the water, eating and perhaps imbibing a few Kalik beers. I have to say that the Off Island Adventure is perhaps the highlight of the trip.

We did manage to get to a few of Nassau’s choice dining establishments. We were happy to see that Cafe Johnny Canoe’s has reopened after a 13-year hiatus. Food and drink were typical of the original restaurant, especially the conch chowder and baby back ribs. Unfortunately, due to covid restrictions the band and the Junkanoo performers were unable to play but I was told once the restrictions are lifted, they plan on having them back. Dinner at Cafe Matisse was quite enjoyable albeit significantly slower than normal due to a lack of staffing (another unfortunate result of covid). Blue Sail, located on the water at Sandy Port, was our groups final dining out experience and was also delightful. Again, covid restrictions and lack of staffing were issues everyone had to deal with. Hopefully, by next May all these minor bumps will have been ironed out. Orange Hill provided us with a wonderful Sunday night dinner that was enjoyed by all.

We had to curtail the Sunday afternoon dives since we needed to be covid tested prior to returning to the USofA. I had made arrangements with Doctors Hospital for a team to come to Orange Hill to do the testing. They did not disappoint and were there promptly at 2:30pm and efficiently tested the group. We were all notified of our negative results within two hours or less, which allowed us to depart on the following day without incident.

In closing, I would have to say that despite some minor glitches and additional steps required for travel, the trip ran well, with everyone having an excellent time and really enjoying getting away to a tropical paradise after such a dismal year.

Watch the trip video on Scuba Shack TV.