I was really pleased to have the opportunity to be a Guest Blogger for The Adventure Travel Shop, it was one of my very first gigs, and I wrote about family holidays in the Bahamas at the Atlantis Resort.
We were attracted to Atlantis Resort in The Bahamas for our last family break because it seemed to offer an easy introduction to the Caribbean for our younger daughter. I was born in Puerto Rico, and much as I love returning to San Juan and travelling around St Kitts or Anguilla, the sea planes and boat trips are not always ideal for a two year old, or even for our older, and easily travel sick, six year old daughter.
We anticipated having to look outside the resort frequently for real discoveries, but Atlantis goes way over the top in its assault on the senses. The vast water park has some genuine thrills for older children including the 60 vertical drop of the Leap of Faith or, even more of an adrenalin high, a pitch dark plummet through The Abyss into a fish-filled subterranean cave.
A huge advantage of Atlantis Nassau is their realisation that toddlers are harder to cater for than pretty much any demographic. Consequently they've got a brilliantly well-stocked store on site, with generous amounts of paediatric medication and swim nappies, a doctor and nurse's station, as well as tot-friendly lazy river rides, and shallow, warm swimming pools. The brilliant adventure play area for smaller children comes with slides, spouts and an enormous bucket that periodically dumps water on hapless passing parents, to squeals of delight.
For older children, in addition to the dolphin swim (we were nagged into submission) there are sea lion encounters, snorkelling with sharks, stingray feeding and a rock-climbing wall. The staff are all notably well-trained and as attentive, as perhaps only those with a US-influenced awareness of litigation can be.
The real adventure, however, lies in the marine habitats and the ocean. Atlantis rescued 16 dolphins from a Mississippi Oceanarium in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which now appear to be living out a happy and safe retirement. There is a large, sheltered lake on within the resort for water sports but the snorkelling just off the beach is also excellent.
The Bahamas is famous for its sharks but so far, their breeding grounds in the mangroves and inlets have been disturbed far less than say, Brazil's infamous attack hotspot Recife, and the nation has no recorded fatal attacks. There are plenty of large captive sharks to admire in the extraordinary aquariums, as well as stunning manta and some particularly ill-favoured moray eels. I was intrigued by a story in the local paper about a Florida manatee, found lost and confused many miles from home in Nassau harbour with its calf. Both were carefully re-homed at a secret Atlantis marine facility on Paradise Island,which is not open to public view.
We didn't want to waste the chance to explore beyond Paradise Island too. Nassau's cruise ship port is unappealing but the fish market under the bridge is full of character and reassuringly good value after Paradise Island's inevitable assault on your purse. There are some atmospheric historic sites, notably Parliament Square, Christ Church Cathedral and the Graycliff Hotel. Only gaining its independence from Britain in 1973, The Bahamas retains many British touches like red post boxes and driving on the left. There is currently an enormous amount of foreign investment and development pouring into the area between Nassau and the international airport. It can only be hoped that the new resorts make the same attempt at giving something back to the marine environment and local economy, as Atlantis appears to do.