2014 Caribbean Trip – Report #7 – St. François, Guadeloupe to KFXE
We flew from St. François, Guadeloupe to Isla Grande, Puerto Rico, for fuel at Isla Grande Flying School, then on to George Town, Great Exuma. The Exuma Beach Resort was welcoming, and has a wonderful location on the beach. We had a fabulous dinner and breakfast. We're now back in the States, flying to KFXE.
2014 Caribbean Trip – Report #6 – Canouan, St. Vincent & The Grenadines to St. François, Guadeloupe
We had a great time, although short, in Canouan. Flew to St. Vincent and we had a nice flight to St. Francois.
Arrived in St Francois in beautiful weather. Had a nice hotel and managed although English is not a prominate language. Had a delicious dinner at the nearby marina with 2 gentlemen from Aero-Club St. François Caraibes. We chatted with local pilots, had lunch, and played golf on a Robert Trent Jones course -- the airport is right in the middle of the course!
2014 Caribbean Trip – Report #5 – St. Kitts to St. Lucia to Canouan, St. Vincent & The Grenadines
Traveled from St. Kitts to St. Lucia, a beautifully lush, green island. We flew into George Charles airport, not the main International airport of Hewanorra, because it was closer to our hotel. Easy enough stop, but the parking is extremely limited and we were parked in front of a maintenance hangar on a very small ramp.
St. Kitts Marriott Resort.
Our 2-night stay at the Inn on the Bay, high above Marigot, was delightful. Wonderful views; however, it was off and on cloudy, rainy and quite windy.
Departed St. Lucia today for Canouan, Very friendly staff and got a room at the Tamarind at the last minute.
Canouan, St. Vincent & The Grenadines.2014 Caribbean Trip – Report #4 – Grand Case, St. Martin to St. Kitts to St. Lucia
Enjoyed our stay at Grand Case, one of our favorite French destinations, second only to St. Barths. We stayed at La Plantation and it was pleasant. Up on a little hill, a short walk to Orient Beach. Drove around to the Dutch side for some photos, had lunch in Marigot harbor, and did a little shopping. We had dinner in a small open-air restaurant on Grand Case beach. Great presentation, very good food, and about $100pp! Orient Beach used to be fun, but it has become overrun with people who come off the cruise ships to use the beach for the day. We did walk it and take some photos, but did not stick around.
Orient Beach, St. Martin. Hotel La Plantation, St. Martin.
Our flight to St. Kitts was very short, under 30 minutes, so we took took some photos along the way. Saba is very picturesque, too bad the runway is so short we can't land there. St. Kitts is a big airport and the Marriott St. Kitts is a large facility on the Atlantic side of the island -- it was really windy both days we were there. No rental cars available so we took a 3-hour taxi tour around the island. Not much happening except in the southern part of the island.
Over-flying Saba on our way to St. Kitts. F.D. Roosevelt, St. Eustatius.
Departed today for St. Lucia, about a 2-hour flight. Saw an Ameriflight plane on the ramp! And once again, no rental cars. Our hotel, rated #1 by Trip Advisor in St. Lucia, Inn on the Bay, was a 30-min cab ride away and the hotel sits on a steep hill overlooking Marigot Bay. It's quite pretty here and the Canadian couple that run it are very pleasant and friendly. They will be driving us the 1/2 mile down the steep hill into the harbor for dinner. The Moorings used to be located here, but they moved to a larger facility just north of the airport. There’s more action closer to the airport and it’s easier to get around there. It has been raining off and on since we got here, but the weather otherwise is fairly pleasant, not too hot or cold.
2014 Caribbean Trip – Report #3 – St. Thomas, USVI to Grand Case, St. Martin
Had a fun short stay in St.Thomas. There were several cruise ships in port when we arrived, but all departed early evening. We toured a bit of the island and had an early dinner in Red Hook at the marina where the ferries and boats depart to St. John. Our hotel, Windward Passage, was right in town. In the morning we walked around, saw some historic buildings buildings on tight streets and alleys, and found a cute place for breakfast.
We had a short 40- minute flight to Grand Case in St.Martin, one of our favorite French places, second only to St. Barths. Christian Fardel, our friend and handler at Grand Case, is great! He met us on the ramp, and helped us through Customs/Immigration on the way in. He also filed our outgoing flight plan and guided us through the steps to pay our fees and fly out. He is a local pilot and has a very nice pilot shop at Grand Case. If you need anything, he can and will help. Our hotel, La Plantation, is on a hill above Orient Beach and the beach is an easy walk. Had lunch in town – one street, a couple of blocks long, with lots of small restaurants and shops along the beach. We ate BBQ chicken & ribs on benches, very good. Met a nice couple from England at the bar and ate dinner at our hotel on the patio, fabulous evening, perfect weather.
Orient Bay, St. Martin.
Drove around most of the island yesterday, over to the Dutch side and back to the very crowded French town of Marigot. It was raining when we got there, but it didn't last long. Shopped a little, had lunch, back to our beach for a walk, then a swim in the pool at the hotel. We had dinner in Grand Case with our friend from the airport at a fancy little restaurant, that seemed reasonable, but ended up being very expensive!
We flew to St. Kitts today, so stay turned for more updates on the trip!
2014 Caribbean Trip – Report #2 – Providenciales, Turks & Caicos to St. Thomas, USVI
The beach at the Club Med was spectacular and we met a number of nice couples. The New Year's Eveparty was fun and we managed to dance the night away and caught the fireworks from our doorway before turning in.
The beautiful Grace Bay Beach. Providenciales Int'l, Turks & Caicos.
We departed Provo after they filed our Flight Plan with the tower, and we took off on a clear day with a nice breeze (which unfortunately was a head wind for awhile before becoming a 38 knot sidewind). We stayed low for a while to get a better view of the Islands, then climbed to 17,500 and arrived at St. Thomas almost 3 hours later. We had filed our eAPIS as required and also called in the 1-hour Customs notification. No one at Customs when we arrived, finally found someone, they seemed very confused and wanted us to see Agriculture first, but no one there. Finally two Customs officials arrived to check us through, along with a plane full from a commuter flight. Filled out a new Crew form we had never seen before, put our bags through the scanner, waited for a Customs guy to inspect the plane, and were able to reposition to St. Thomas Jet Center. The crew car was not available, got a rental car and off to our hotel. We drove to the other side of the island for a tour, and had an early dinner.
2014 Caribbean Trip – Report #1 – Ft. Lauderdale Int'l to Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
On Dec. 30, we got to FXE ahead of schedule, loaded the plane, fueled, and filed our International Flight Plan at Banyan Air Service. We took off in fog and clouds with the intent to fly under it until it lifted offshore. No such luck. Took off and clearance was only around 200 feet -- not nearly enough! So came right around and landed. Called on the radio for an instrument clearance from IFR to VFR on top, and then were told it was too busy to get us that clearance. So changed our International Flight Plan from VFR to IFR, and by the time we took off, we had about 600 feet before entering clouds for just a short while. We cancelled IFR after about 10 minutes when we had good visibility.
Getting ready to leave Banyan Air Service, FXE for Provo Int'l
The flight was beautiful as we flew down the Bahamas chain to Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos. Flight was about 2-1/2 hrs. The airport had lots of traffic so we had to do a few 360s before allowed to land -- finally made it.
Checked into the one hotel we found that was under $1,000 a night, the Turtle Cove Inn, a bargain at $157/night. Surprise! We didn't like it much! We then called Club Med and were excited to get their "last room", and a "Deluxe room" at that, for a total of $1150 for 2 nights, all-inclusive!
Very run down facility, all rooms are the same -- furnished in the 70s judging by the shabby orange interior, with small TV, no wifi, not enough towels, and no shampoo or conditioner. The deluxe room is supposed to include drinks in the mini fridge (there were 3 sodas), 2 bathrobes and slippers for our use (there is 1 in the closet) and a welcome gift, which was missing. And, we had to carry our own luggage.
Oh well, we are on a spectacular beach. New Years Eve was spent on the beautiful Grace Bay Beach and it was all worth it.
Jamaica with Don & Katherine
John & Betty,
Wanted to let you know I received the revised and condensed copy of the Bahamas Flying guide. What a great idea! This is really a great direction. It's easier to manage, easy to thumb-through, and easier to store! Superb idea!
We vacationed in Negril this year and it was spectacular and a complete de-compression for us that was much needed. We spent 8 days in Bloody Bay winding down and received exactly what we were after; R&R and absolutely no connection to work, crystal clear warm Caribbean water, strong and cold blended concoctions, thick island vibrations, met great new friends from Canada and the UK, and the native foods and rum that we sampled were incredible.
We definitely have our compass set on the Southern Bahamas for the Spring of 2014. There are still some spots we have not been and some islands we have not seen. I must say, Jamaica is an incredible place in the world, but our hearts are still in the Bahamas. Maybe it's because you can still find a mile long beach without another human being on it, maybe it's because the conch salad is second to none, maybe it's because the people in the out islands treat you like family, or maybe because it's just some of the most beautiful water you may ever see in the world!
Here's to safe flying, warm tropical waters, and boat drinks!
Don and Katherine
Island Hopping the Exumas with Sylvain
Trip Report from Don and Katherine Waters
Don & Katherine Waters visiting Cape Santa Maria
Long Island, Bahamas: April 5th - 11th, 2012
We arrived at Stella Maris, Long Island Bahamas airport to clear skies and warm temperatures. The cold front that was stationed over Nassau dispersed as soon as we flew over the Southern Exumas heading South. We made reservations at a private apartment rental in the Stella Maris area and used this as our home base for island excursions.
We toured the South island stopping at "Long Island Breeze" which sits on the Caribbean side of the island just as you enter the settlement of Salt Pond from the North. Long Island Breeze is a 3 year old small boutique resort / yacht club that caters to the boaters anchored in Thompson's Bay and Salt Pond. They have an ocean front pool, a large outside deck with bar and gazebo, and great 180 degree views of the bay from the second story restaurant patio and upper bar. There are 4 deluxe cottage rooms and 2 ocean front bungalows, all very nicely appointed with modern amenities and air conditioning. An artificial beach has been built in front of the bungalows complete with coconut palms and swaying hammocks. The dining room gets lively for dinner when the boaters come in from the bay on their dinghys and tie up for dinner. This is another very quiet place and centrally located if you are planning to attend the annual regatta or as a home base for island exploration.
Further to the South we visited Clarence Town and the beautiful beach at Galloway's. This is a classic Southern Bahamas powder white sand beach where you can lose yourself walking the deserted 3 miles of shoreline. This is one of the best swimming beaches on the island.
Some of the other great stops heading back to the North are Dean's Blue hole, Deadman's Cay airport Bar (spontaneous dance parties occur here while waiting for flights), Max's Conch Bar for the self acclaimed "Best Conch Salad" in the Bahamas, Chez Pierre Restaurant and beach front cottages. The Chef serves a gourmet dinner menu that is a mix of native dishes and French cuisine that is all made to order, Beach Bungalow Bar and Grill in Deals settlement for great rum punches and the "Fisherman's Platter" that is a combination of cracked conch, lobster, and grouper (enough for 4), and finally the landmark Stella Maris resort in Stella Maris. Stella Maris is a full service resort offering diving and snorkeling excursions daily, beach trips, bone fishing trips, you name it. They have 4 beach front villas that have anywhere from 2-3 bedrooms, and some with ocean front pools. They also have 1-2 bedroom cottages and "hotel rooms" which are single rooms in the large main building. The recently built Moonshine Beach Bar serves great food, great drinks, and great music on a large deck overlooking the Atlantic. Thursday is the weekly rum punch party at the resort upper bar complete with endless rum punch and a rake n scrape band – this is not to be missed!
Take a dive in the pool right on the beach at the Stella Maris Resort
Heading to the Northern end of Long Island we visited the Adderley plantation just outside Stella Maris. This was a very large plantation and many of the foundations are still standing. It's a hot 10-15 minute walk through some of the dried bone fishing flats, then up a hill into the bush but well worth it once you reach the top of the hill and experience the panoramic view and great breeze. Pushing further North we reached the beautiful Cape Santa Maria beach. This beach has been identified by Conde Nast as one of the 10 Best Beaches in the World! The water is mind blowing, tranquil and refreshing, and The Beach House Restaurant and Bar serves great food and even better tropical drinks.
The Cape Santa Maria Beach Front Villas are exquisite with amazing views of the beach and the bay, and every modern convenience you could ask for. They are steps from the powder white sand, and villa guests are provided with a private beach gazebo complete with lounge chairs and a fresh water shower.
Abaco, Bahamas: April 11th -15th, 2012
The weather was beautiful as we landed to the South at Marsh Harbour. The first thing we noticed as we unloaded the aircraft was the massive new international terminal under construction. Scheduled to open in 2013, this will certainly be a high end complex with modern facilities and a huge area for parking. We caught a cab and rode the short 10 minute ride to the "Lofty Fig" just across the street from the harbor on Bay street. "The Fig" was our base station for Abaco exploration and Sid could not have been more welcoming. The grounds are quaint, 8 cottages surrounding a central fresh water pool – you can't beat the location!
The Lofty Fig grounds
We began our journeys with a walk across the street and a stop at Dive Abaco to meet Captain Keith. Keith has been diving these islands since 1978 and no one knows the reefs and local marine life better than he. His dive shop has a wide array of equipment, books, and gifts. We scheduled for the morning 2 tank run out to the Fowl Cay Reef Preserve that lies between Man of War Cay and Scotland Cay just inside the outer barrier reef. It's a quick 30 minute boat ride and the conditions were phenomenal with the winds calm, calm clear water, and a small but lively group of divers and snorkelers from Denmark who were anxious to get in as soon as we arrived. Captain Keith provided a great briefing of the location, the marine life, the route we would take through the reefs, and what we can expect, which included two swim-through caverns, gorgeous coral overhangs and abundant fish. The diving was spectacular with visibility around 100 ft. This marine preserve is a must see and fortunately we caught a beautiful day with perfect diving conditions. Dive Abaco and Captain Keith provide a great trip with personalized service and quick access to some spectacular diving. If you find Captain Keith's boat sold out, there is another dive outfit "Above and Below Abaco" that is right next to "The Fig."
The next morning we loaded our backpacks with masks, snorkels, fins, towels, and snacks and headed out to the Crossing Beach public dock to catch the morning Albury Ferry to Elbow Cay and the famous Hope Town. The ride is quick 20 minutes across the bay into Hope Town. The vibe of Hope Town can be felt the moment you step off the boat. Golf carts preside, shallow one way streets lined with quaint colorful cottages and bungalows, dingy boats puttering to and fro through the vast armada of sailboats moored in this protected harbor. It is a sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle of Marsh Harbour and everyone here seems to know everyone here. This a very laid back island where bicycles are as numerous as golf carts and a smile and wave are expected when passing on the narrow streets. The famous red and white Hope Town Light House is visible from almost everywhere, and the most photographed place in the Out Islands.
We rented some bikes from a local gift shop – $15 for the entire day – and it was a great way to get around the island and get some exercise at the same time. First stop was the Hope Town Harbour Lodge just about 5 minutes down Front Street, which is the only street other than Back Street that runs in and out of the village of Hope Town proper. The lodge sits high on the hillside and has impressive views of both the harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. The grounds are thick with tropical foliage, inviting wicker patio furniture, and a large pool and outdoor bar that has a panoramic view of the Atlantic. This place was so inviting that we asked if there were any vacancies for the night, thinking we should take advantage of a stay in Hope Town. As expected they were sold out, but definitely on our list for next time!
Poolside at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge
We continued on with our beach cruiser tour to the South hitting some of the local restaurants and bars here and there for a cold Kalik. "On the Beach Bar and Grill" is a no shoes, no shirt, no problem hideaway off the main road as you head South. The beach view was amazing and the Kaliks were ice cold. Further on we hit the Abaco Inn "Tan Your Toes in the Abacos" and had a great time visiting the grounds and trying their special rum punch. This is another great hide away with secluded beachside cottages, a fresh water pool that overlooks the Atlantic and a great bar with views of both sides of the island. The signs for Hope Town Hideaways are everywhere and it seems that just about every vacation house on Elbow Cay to the South can be rented through this company. We made it to the Southern tip and the famed Tahiti Beach, which gains its name from the Polynesian type coco palms that stretch from the sand long and thin reaching towards the waters edge instead of straight up. There is great snorkeling, shelling, and overall mind meditation that occurs here as the contrast of water colors are mesmerizing. There is a small cut in the cays where the fresh Atlantic comes rushing in and washes across the shallow banks of the beach finally to fizzle out on one of the numerous sand bars that can stretch 500 ft out into the bay. This place was well worth the ride and a great place to spend the day swimming and sunning.
We caught a final rum punch at Captain Jack's while waiting for one of the last ferries back to Marsh Harbour. It was 5 o'clock and definitely quitting time on Elbow Cay as Captain Jacks is hit with a surge of fisherman, tourists, and other travelers who know that this is the spot to be for fish stories, ship stories, and drinking stories. The scene at Captain Jack's was wild and fun and a great send off spot for us to close out the day. We ended the night watching the sunset on the docks in Marsh Harbour. The traditional blowing of the conch shell by the cruisers and sailors filled the air just as the last trace of sunset glow disappeared on the horizon.
We woke to another beautiful day of clear skies and light winds. Today we only had to walk across the street to catch the Albury ferry to Great Guana Cay and a visit to Nippers Beach Bar and Grill. There are some newer establishments that have taken advantage of the Guana Cay infamy. "Grabbers Bed Bar and Grill" on Sunset beach has a fantastic beach facing the sheltered bay, hammocks between coconut trees, a fresh water pool complete with inflatable duck, and a great bar with good food right off the beach. The "Guana Grabber" is their specialty drink – you only need one! If you want to skip the crowds at Nippers this is a great alternative and unlike Nippers, you won't miss the return ferry because you can see the ferry dock from the bar.
Hammocks at Grabbers Bed Bar & Grill
Guana Cay runs at a very slow pace and the folks that live here are a great example of how to relax and unwind your mind. We met the "breakfast club" sitting at a palapa table just off the beach. This was 6 or 7 locals who just seemed to be sitting there staring at the ocean – because it is there. They all greeted us with smiles and nodes and then went back to watching the sea. It is a short lazy walk passed Milo's gift stand, past the Pirate Cove Tiki Bar, around the corner past the Fig tree, and up the hill to Nippers Beach Bar and Grill. So basically you pass 3 beach bars before you get to Nippers and you pass 3 bars on the way back to the ferry dock. Needless to say on a trip to Guana Cay, you need to leave your pretentions at the dock and commit to eating, drinking, and being merry . . . and not much else. We splashed in the Nippers pool, enjoyed a stroll on the beautiful beach, had an overwhelming large Bahamian lunch, and pretty much integrated with all the other Nipper-ees that were there for the same thing – eat, drink, and be merry!
We had an amazing trip across two islands and multiple cays. There is one thing that always comes to mind when the day to depart finally arrives. Of all the places in the world, for some reason, these out islands always deliver exactly what we are looking for on our vacation – white sand beaches, beautiful warm water, exceptionally friendly people, culture, fantastic diving, great tropical weather, and if you so chose to seek it out . . . isolation from the world you left behind.