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Written by The Leap on 16 / 06 / 2015

Gap Year Advice

Upon reading the word ‘Bahamas’, you’ll inevitably conjure up images of crystal-blue waters and white-sand beaches, tropical wildlife and smiley faces. Which might make you think of it as the perfect holiday destination for honeymooners or families.

But whilst the country does a fine trade in attracting tourists that fit this mould, the islands that make up this amazing place offer so much more. Which is precisely why The Bahamas is a great place to travel on your gap year.

Whether you want to go wildlife spotting, try your hand at diving, or practice meditation - there’s an island that will be perfectly suited to you. Read on to find out which one it is.

Long Island for Fishers and Divers

Lovely Long Island is home to breathtaking cliffs, which tower over its eastern shore, tranquil beaches complete with pink sand and turquoise waters on its western shore and magnificent coral reefs all around. This island is undoubtedly one of the most scenic hideaways in the Bahamas and is a haven for fishermen and divers, who arrive with expectations of thrilling marine wildlife encounters.

At just 80 miles long and less than four miles wide, it may be small, but it’s home to the deepest blue hole in the world: Dean’s Blue Hole. As well as this, you’ll find historic twin churches built in the 1800s and seemingly endless caves, which have played a major role in the island's history.

Eleuthera for Natural Splendour

The island of Eleuthera boasts unspoiled and exotic beaches, most notably Surfer Beach to the north and Lighthouse Beach at the southern tip of the island, which provide the perfect remedy for weary travellers.

It is also home to the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, a 25-acre national park featuring hiking trails that lead to medical plants, cacti and a lookout tower with a view over the surrounding area and Atlantic Ocean.

Be sure to complete your trip here with a visit to the unique Glass Window Bridge, often referred to as ‘the narrowest place on earth’, from where you can see a phenomenal contrast between the dark blue Atlantic Ocean and the aquamarine Caribbean Sea.

Cat Island for Peace and Quiet

This untamed island is a lush sanctuary, making it the perfect place for those looking to get away from it all. There’s a medieval monastery at the top of Mt. Alvernia, a prime spot for meditation, from where you can look down on densely forested foothills and miles of deserted beach.

Those who wish to get some hiking in can explore the island’s rolling hills and lengthy nature trails, or walk along the eight-mile Pink Sand Beach, which offer every traveller a rich Bahamian experience.

The greatest thing about Cat Island though is its climate – located near the Tropic of Cancer, temperatures here range from the mid 60s in winter to high 80s in the summer, making it home to one of the best climates in the Bahamas.

Big Major Cay for Swimming Pigs

Yep, you read that right! The island of Big Major Cay, otherwise known as ‘Pig Island,’ is renowned for its cute little porcine swimmers, who spend their days lolling about on the beach and venturing into the waters to greet approaching boats, in the hope that there might be food on board.

How and why the pigs are there, nobody quite knows, but there are several different theories: some believe they survived a shipwreck; others claim that sailors left them there for a future meal, but never returned; many also think that the animals are descended from domesticated pigs that were kept at home on a nearby cay during the 90s, before being relocated to Big Major Cay.

Whatever the reason, the swimming pigs are now a major tourist attraction and a must-do when visiting the Bahamas.

Andros for Scuba Fanatics

Andros is the largest island in the Bahamas, with a population of 10,000 people, but it’s also the least explored. With the Andros Barrier Reef stretching across 140 miles of its east coast and masses of deep blue holes, i.e. underwater caves systems, it is one of the best places to go scuba diving.

Moreover, divers can put their skills to good use by carrying out The Leap’s 6-week volunteering program in Andros, whereby you’ll work in partnership with the Bahamas National Trust to help survey the underwater environment of the island’s coastline, with the aim of protecting it against unplanned tourism.

Great Abaco Island for Wildlife Lovers

Great Abaco Island is the second largest island in the Bahamas, after Andros. Home to wild horses, boars and the endangered Abaco parrots, this is the one to visit if you’re fanatical about our furry friends.

Seldom do people actually take the time to explore Great Abaco from top to bottom, but if you have the time, then I would strongly advise doing so, for you’ll be treated to a series of paradisical cays, the bustling capital of Marsh Harbour and the beautiful Pelican Cays National Park.

Great Abaco was once logged for its pine trees and those that travel by car will be able to access old logging trails that lead you to secluded beaches along the coast, where people make their living from the sea.

Anything to Add?

Have you been somewhere in The Bahamas that’s not listed on this post? Share your experiences with us in the comments box below!

Photo: Bahamas (Coco Cay) by Ricymar Photography licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

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