Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Joe and Elaine Freeland of Locust Grove, Va. (authors); son Joe Freeland and his family, Elizabeth, Jordan and Julian Freeland, of Royersford, Pa.; and son Riley Freeland, along with his family, Angela, Chloe and Sean Freeland, of Corning, N.Y.
Where, when, why: The first time we visited Long Island, Bahamas, was 1985. We and our two young sons had a fabulous time vacationing for a week at the Stella Maris Resort Club, owned and managed by two German families. Our two-bedroom cottage, without locks, was located on the windward side of the island. Each day we rode on the resort’s long flatbed truck to delightful beaches and coral reefs along the shoreline, where the boys easily took to snorkeling. The truck reappeared at a set time to take us back to the cottage. We were introduced to new foods, such as mango, conch fritters and grouper.
In July 2015, 30 years later, we returned to the Stella Maris with our grown sons and their families for nine nights, hoping to have a similar experience. The Stella Maris is a plantation-style resort on a remote Bahamian island. Straddling the Tropic of Cancer, Long Island is perfect, with serene beaches of soft pink-and-white sand, peaceful turquoise water on the leeward side of the island, crashing surf against the coral and cliffs on the Atlantic side, brilliant coral reefs and interesting sea life. Missing are cruise ships, massive condo developments and side-by-side duty-free shops.
Highlights and high points: During our more recent stay, we had a cottage with four large bedrooms that accommodated the 10 of us well. Walking through the cottage to the patio, we saw “our” private freshwater pool on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic— the first of many breathtaking sights we would experience. Reached by a path and boardwalk, Erna’s Natural Pool, open to resort guests, is ocean-fed at the bottom of the cliff. With our snorkel masks, we watched small, colorful fish nibbling on bits of fresh conch. Most mornings, we boarded an ancient minivan with a water cooler and gear and were taken to our daily adventure of snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding or scuba diving. This was the offseason, and we savored being the only people on the beautiful Long Island beaches. One day, we rented a couple of vehicles and drove south on the island to Dean’s Blue Hole, the world’s deepest known saltwater blue hole. As Elizabeth and I anxiously watched, the eight others swam in the 660-foot-deep water.
Another day, we chartered a boat excursion to Sandy Cay in the Exumas, a picturesque, remote cay where a scene from a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie was shot. At high speed, we headed over water to the cay, with Capt. Docky making stops along the way for the crew to dive for conch. As we explored the sandy spits and eyed the Sandy Cay iguanas, Docky and his crew made a fresh conch salad that we enjoyed with lunch.
Cultural connection or disconnect: After each day of playing in the sun, our sons and their wives relaxed at the Moonshine Beach Bar and shared, among other things, recipes with the staff, management and other wonderful Long Islanders. Having included a ham and Costco lasagna and tortellini, as well as prepared beef brisket in our luggage, we fixed most of our meals in an effort to reduce costs. One evening, two resort employees delivered food sufficient for two meals. The food included traditional Bahamian fare — barbecue chicken, peas and rice, and fried conch — in addition to their macaroni and cheese and green salad. The weekly Rum Punch Party at the Big House included unlimited Planter’s Punch, conch fritters and live entertainment.
The only disappointment was that there was too much churn in the water for snorkeling on the windward side of the island. Additionally, the coral reefs have suffered from tropical storms and hurricanes. We have memories of interesting coral formations in the Atlantic waters and had hoped to share those sights. But we did have great snorkeling excursions in the leeward waters.
Biggest laugh or cry: Our last adventure took us over bumpy roads to the four miles of pristine and isolated Cape Santa Maria beaches. The apparent success of our holiday was cemented with a comment from one of the granddaughters: “This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.”
How unexpected: The flavor of the resort has remained relatively unchanged. What a surprise! Today, the resort is managed by the next generation of the German families. The island has remained unspoiled, friendly, quaint, unhurried, historically interesting and beautiful. Long Island also continues to be safe — there are still no keys or locks for the accommodations.
Fondest memento or memory: The greatest gift was having our family together, playing, having lots of fun and knowing that indeed experiences can be relived and shared.
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