The semi-tropical archipelago of The Bahamas is comprised of 700 islands but only one of them is referred to as “Great”. The island? Great Exuma and it is great for good reason.
Running north to south parallel to the east coast of Florida, the Exuma cays are a natural wonder and an integral part of the Bahamian chain of low-lying coral islands whose meaning is derived from the Spanish words “baja mar” or shallow sea. Home to the world’s third longest barrier reef, The Bahamas is renowned for its turquoise waters, pristine white beaches and laid back friendly people.
There are 5,000 fortunate few that live on one of the many Exuma cays. Most live on Great Exuma in and around the town of Georgetown, the small commercial centre that serves the needs of most islanders and home to the island’s international airport.
For the avid golfer, there are three things that make Great Exuma the perfect golf getaway. The first is how easy it is to get there. Air Canada has regular direct flights from Toronto to Georgetown. In approximately four hours you can be on the beach or the first tee miles away from the frigid temperatures of a typical Canadian winter.
Second, there is really only one place to stay when visiting the island of Great Exuma – the decadent Sandals Emerald Bay Six Star Diamond resort. Arguably the finest hotel in The Bahamas, the property has won every service award imaginable and for good reason. From the moment you arrive you will feel like you belong as every staff member is thrilled to make your acquaintance and provide for your every need. After dining at one of the seven gourmet restaurants, there are plenty of activities to enjoy or you can simply relax by one of the hotel’s two pools or on the secluded white sand beach of Emerald Bay. As you gaze out to the sea from your beach-side hammock, you’ll likely hear yourself say, “I can’t believe the colour of the water. I’ve never seen blue like this before!” What you are seeing is “Exuma Blue”, a unique colour of blue that radiates from the shallow sandy waters unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else in the world.
Third is the golf course. Not just any golf course but the 7,001-yard Greg Norman designed Emerald Reef Golf Club. If golf is your passion, you’ve come to the right place. This is a true test that will likely compromise your handicap/stroke index. My advice – be sure to bring plenty of golf balls and leave your golf ego at home. Featuring six ocean side holes, Emerald Reef is as breathtaking as it is difficult. The back nine is especially impressive as the ocean holes of 11 through 16 will leave the most indelible impression. Fortunately for Sandals guests your golf is included depending on the vacation package you purchased. Be sure to take advantage of the golf clinics held every week by the resort’s affable head golf professional Kevin Mumford. Originally from Muskoka, Ontario, Mumford is widely regarded as one of the finest teaching professionals in The Bahamas and enjoys sharing his love and passion for the game with anyone interested in becoming the next Phil Mickelson or Paula Creamer.
While there are plenty of places in the world to spend a well earned vacation, there is no finer destination than the Bahamian island of Great Exuma where you can do as much or as little as you like. One thing is for certain, Great Exuma is a place you’ll want to return to. Don’t take my word for it; ask any one of the visitors who return annually and they’ll tell you exactly the same thing.
Direct flights from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport via Air Canada to Great Exuma
Sandals Emerald Bay, 1-800-SANDALS, www.sandals.com
Great Places to Eat:
All of the restaurants at Sandals Emerald Bay
Chat N’ Chill restaurant on Stocking Island
Santana’s Restaurant (Little Exuma)
Great Things to Do:
Spa Treatment at Sandals Red Lane Spa
Visit to Tropic of Cancer Beach
Visit to local grocery store in Georgetown
Off-Island Charter Boat adventure with 4 C’s Adventures and Exuma Water Tours, www.exumawatertours.com