When I was in elementary school I loved summer sessions: They were known as "enrichment courses," and they were fun. Then, when I was in high school, I hated them. They were known as "punishment for not paying attention during trigonometry," and they
Possibly I’m regressing, because I just got a memo themed around "summer school": educational vacations in the Bahamas, and it was pretty
appealing. Don’t get me wrong; when I travel, I love lying around on beach loungers,
drinking daiquiries and reading trashy novels. However, you can’t
really experience a destination from in front of the hotel pool. You
have to get out and learn local lessons, and have adventures with local
people, in order to get that "sense of place" that will stick in your
memory long after the summer tan has disappeared.
With that in mind, check out the summer course list in the Bahamas and
see if there’s an enrichment course that suits you. In case the isles
are too far away, I’ve listed a few alternative places to try each
Similar to windsurfing, this ocean sport takes place in the shallows.
While harnessed to a giant "kite," you stand on a kneeboard/surfboard
hybrid and coast along the surf. Advanced kite-surfers can jump, flip
or even "fly" many yards through the air.
With its good, steady winds and surreally blue shallow water, Exuma is
perfectly suited to kite-surfing, climate-wise. It’s not crowded, so
it’s a good place to learn. Exuma Kite-Surfing School teaches 3-day
quick courses or 5-day comprehensive ones.
Other places to kite-surf: Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Los Barriles, Baja del Sur, Mexico
This ocean sport has its fair share of fanatics, but if you haven’t
done it before, it can be intimidating. Between the breathing
apparatus, the wetsuit and the 100 pounds of equipment you drag along,
it feels very foreign at first. Therefore, experts recommend that
beginners do as much pre-trip training as possible. Classroom work,
video watching and pool practice can all take place at home, so when
you finally make it to your scuba destination, you’ll be ready to
explore the peaceful, remarkable underwater world.
Many areas in the Bahamas have great scuba diving, but the Abacos are
distinct because of their amazingly clear water and beautiful reef, as
well as their wreck and cave diving. Sea life near the reef is so
close to tame that some fish will swim right up to the diving
instructors and nuzzle for attention, just like pets on land.
Other places to dive: Cayman Islands; Kona, Hawaii.
Though it can be absolutely overrun with tourists touring high season,
Nassau actually has history and cultural heritage that lend it much
more character than you’d first think. The best time to see it is
during Junkanoo, but the second-best (and much easiest) is during the
Junkanoo summer festival. This happens weekly starting in June, on
Nassau, Exuma, the Abacos and Grand Bahama Island. With ‘Rush Out’
everybody comes running outside, making as much noise as possible.
There’s local music, a parade through the streets, and various other
Less frenetic cultural lessons include the "changing of the guard
ceremony" and Educulture’s narrated walking tours of colonial
architecture and historic sites. The islands are also promoting their "people-to-people experience," which gives visitors opportunity to
interact with Bahamian families.
Other cultural hot spots: Victoria, Canada; Savannah, Georgia.
People tend to compare bone fishing to hunting more than to regular
fishing — reason being, you have to first find, then stalk the fish.
Enticing the fish to take the bait is a strategy game, and once
snagged, a bonefish will put up more fight per pound than any other
fish. It’s all about the challenge, too, because bonefish are strictly
catch-and-release. According to those in the know, they’re not even
Bonefishing lodges in remote parts of Andros and Exuma host dedicated
fishermen for a week or more at a time. However, the largest bonefish
are caught right off Grand Bahama Island — the most developed Bahamian
island after Nassau, and one with a whole spectrum of lodging options.
It’s nice — though a bit surprising — to realize that bonefishing doesn’t
have to involve summertime sleepover camp if you don’t want it to.
Other places to bonefish: Caicos Banks, Turks & Caicos; Florida Keys, Florida.
Related Orbitz resources:
Lena Katz lives on the Left Coast and writes about tropical islands, beach clubs and food, but her heart belongs to NYC.