Sunday, May 28, 2006

Miami & The Bahamas: The Beaches

(This is the my 400th post!)

Although the women are always nice to watch, that was not the main reason we decided to go on the trip. The main reason was, of course, the sea. Miami has the infamous South Beach, and Bahamas are known as one of the most ideal locations in the world to swim and enjoy the sea. You see, Los Angeles has great huge beaches but not so nice waters; the pacific ocean is harsch and salty and most of the time it has big waves ;we were aiming for the nice calm seas. The day before we left LA, we promised with Stavros that we would swim at least once for every day of the trip. We kept our promise; let's see how and where.

We left LAX at 8am, and we were at Miami around 4pm. We headed straight for the beach (we didn't even checked into the hotel first; we pulled out our swimsuits from the luggage and changed clothes inside the car).

This is South Beach on a Friday afternoon. White sands, blue waters, people and hotels in the background. For the first time I saw a beach outside Greece that looked very much greek to me!

On the next day, Saturday, we went in the peak time: around 1pm or so. The beach this time was hugely crowded and we saw lots and lots of people (see also the previous post).

One of the most interesting sites was a bunch of people with beer cups drinking inside the sea (despite the fact it is forbidden!). Notice how the sea colors change with presence of a strong sun, compared to the previous day.

On the 3rd day (sunday), we didn't actually swim but we went to the Florida Keys (key = island in spanish). Close to the southest Key there is the 3rd largest coral reef in the world (κοραλλιογενής ύφαλος), after the ones in Australia and Beliz. I had booked in advance for a boat to take us for snorkeling in the reef, which lies about 7 miles in the middle of the ocean!

I don't have my own pictures from the sea; however the diving was beautiful. Like in the documentaries, where you see all kinds of colorful fish and plants moving around, we saw a beautiful assortment of fish and reefs. It wasn't as colorful as I was expecting because the sun was blocked by some clouds. However it was still highly enjoyable and a unique experience nevertheless. None of us had done snorkeling before, but other people on the boat had visited the other 2 large reefs of the world already.

Instead of nature pictures, here is our group after the dive:

On the way back, we enjoyed the sunset in the open sea. The Gulf of Mexico does weird things with the weather during the summer, hence the clouds we were seeing. It reminded me of the travels with the ships to the greek islands...

On the next day we travelled to the first island in the Bahamas. It was raining when we got there (yes! it rains a lot in the summer), so our first attempt to swim didn't look very exciting. It was a good feeling though to be in the sea while raining.

The seconf day in the Bahamas was the most important. We were to visit Cabbage Beach, by many the best beach in the Bahamas, around which most of the resorts and hotels are built.

That turned out to be a problem actually. Most entrances to the beach are through the resorts only; you can't use them (or these parts of the beach) unless you are a guest there. We found out that there was exactly one small path to the beach for the tourists; it took us a while but we managed to find it and started walking on it, and it didn't look encouraging:

Small, narrow walkway. We kept going though.

At that point I was thinking: This better turn out ot be great, exact opposite of the path to get there. Unlike many other cases, I don't believe that the journey matters more than the destination in our case!

OK, I can see the end of the path, despite the fact I cannot see the sea yet. Let's keeep moving...

There it is ... a few more steps...
By that time I was moving fast, together with Stavros, and others were left a bit behind us. I just couldn't wait!

Finally, this is the view we saw once we reached the edge:
The Bahamas are here! White sands, crystal clear blue waters... I can't wait to get in!

The view was stunning indeed.The colors of the waters were just amazing, inviting us to start swiming right away. I immediatelly dropped my stuff, took off my shirt and shoes, and run to the sea!

It felt nice... very nice. The waters were very warm, and you could see miles away inside the water. I swam and swam and swam until I couldn't swim anymore. At that point, we started the games:

We had also promised to do jet-skiing (my first time). The cost was $60 for 30minutes. Me and Stavros shared a 700cc Yamaha jet-ski, and the guy let us use it for 10 minutes extra, so I paid $30 for 40 minutes. Not bad at all. We went into open waters and the nearby islands (including the one owned by Eddie Murphy). Woa, that amazing! It was one of the best and most exciting feelings of my life... The guy could go fast, very fast. At many points we were just flying and the whole jet-ski was in the air after a big wave! The turns were awesome, and I also managed to throw us of the jet-ski once. That was the peak of the trip to my opinion. I want to enjoy it while it lasts...! It lasted for 40 minutes and I got a really but burning out of it, from which I haven't still recovered completely.

The final day we visited the second island in the Bahamas, Grand Bahama. I insisted going on a second less touristic island because to my mind this is the real trip, not the resort-oriented capital that we saw in the first island.

I wasn't wrong. Grand Bahama is 5 times larger, and instead of 1-2 it has about 10 excellent greek-quality+ beaches, We visited about 5 of them in the same day, starting with Xanadu Beach.

We got there at 10am, it was just us, the birds, the fish, and the fisherman. I loved the fact that for a long distance (about 50m) the sea was very swallow. This allowed the sun to amplify the beauties of the sands and the waters, creating nice exotic reflections:

Notice how very close to the beach, there are numerous trees that were torn off by last year's hurricanes. It was a weird feeling.

The other above average beach that we saw on that day was Pelican Point, which is also Stavro's favourite. Here is how it looks like:

From a photographer's point a view, I learned how big of a difference it makes to have something (like a tree, rock, or a person) in a picture where you need to photograph a beach. The second picture looks so much better and live that the first.

Anyway, on that beach I didn't swim. I just found a nearby abandoned hut, laid down and slept, while a warm breeze was playing music for my ears and I could also listen to the waves hitting the sand. I just laid down there for more that 1 hour, enjoying the quietness, and thinking about the people that live there permanently.

Let's conclude. I realized how lucky we are in greece ot have all these nice beaches. South Beach is equal to them, and the beaches in the Bahamas are superior to them, but not like a cultural shock or anything. For someone that comes from Canada or North Europe maybe he or she will be surprised to find such perfect sands and turquiz waters. For a greek it is also a big improvement, although not a life-altering one.

Anyways, the Caribbean lived true to its name by having some of the mist stunning swimming sites in the world. There are popular, crowded places as well as secluded beaches with just you and the sea. We had a taste of both, and it was a great experience. I think that for my next trip in search of the perfect beach, I will look somewhere in the indian ocean; for now, Cabbage Beach holds the gold medal!