We decided to end our 4xFour journey in the Caribbean. It probably isn’t the “stereotypical” place you’d end a four-month backpacking trip, but after being on the road for so long and visiting many places we really wanted some down-time to relax and soak up a few rays before heading back to England.
We chose to visit the islands of Bahamas and Jamaica and I make no apologies for admitting that we really did it in style – it is the Caribbean after all!
We visited Nassau; the mainland of the Bahamas and checked in to stay at the grand resort that is The Atlantis. The first thing that is striking is the scale of the resort - it is absolutely huge and you’d be forgiven for thinking that perhaps you were at the Luxor or Planet Hollywood hotels in Las Vegas – everything was big, big and well…big!
One of the main attractions of the Atlantis is the Digs - the world's largest open-air marine habitat. Hundreds of different aquatic species such as angelfish, sharks, manta rays (one of which is larger than ten feet), and various types of jellyfish are within the tanks and although aquatic centers is not something I’d usually be impressed by, you really can’t help but admire what they’ve achieved.
If you’re looking for somewhere to have some down-time, but you’re the type of person who can’t sit still for too long, then The Atlantis is for you – there’s several pools, poolside bars, snack huts, restaurants, games rooms, guided walks and of course a huge water park to keep you entertained during the day – for the night owls a vast array of bars, restaurants comedy clubs, nightclubs, cinemas and casinos are endless. One evening we decided to venture out of the resort and the Bahamas Tourist Board took us to a famous restaurant called the Poop Deck (don't let the name put you off) It was a fantastic seaside restaurant, overlooking the ocean... also check out the 'wall of fame' by the bar - stars from all over the world have dined at the Poop Deck so you never know who might be at the table next to you!
Other things to do in Nassau are to take a trip downtown to do a spot of shopping. Whilst you’re in this area you may wish to visit the Pirates of Nassau Museum, which gives the piratical history of the islands. Or perhaps you might like to visit the Graycliff hotel, restaurant and cigar factory where you can see how traditional practices of cigar making are still being used today. Or if like me, you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth then visit the Graycliff chocolatiers where you can have a tour through the factory, make your own truffles and of course sample some of the finest Bahamian chocolate!
Nassau was fab and we loved our stay at The Atlantis, but we were really looking forward to jumping on a small internal plane and heading out to the island of Great Exuma. We spent four nights at the stunning Grand Isle Resort and Spa where we enjoyed a one-bedroom villa overlooking the vast golf course. It was a beautiful resort and had all the charm of a small quaint resort, but had all the luxuries and amenities of a big one. We enjoyed a tasty meal at the recently renovated Palapa Grill and even tried their famous Exuma Blue cocktail, which had the desired effect! I fell in love with the Exumas and in my opinion it felt like we were in the real Bahamas.
There is so much to do on the island and although I’d have happily sat by the pool or nearby beach all day, there was simply so much to see and do that I had no choice but to get out and explore.
We decided to book a whole day tour with ‘Four C’ – an adventure tour company and I am so glad we did – I’d highly recommend them for many reasons, but not least value for money. In one day we did so much and saw and experienced so many things, they could have easily split the tour into three days, but they didn’t and with pennies tight, I was glad.
First up – swimming with pigs! Yes, you can swim with pigs. I promise it’s worth any reservations you might have about jumping in the ocean and swimming with giant wild pigs – but beware; they have teeth as sharp as razors!
In this one day we saw a sunken drug plane, fed the iguanas, admired Starfish Bay, swam with pigs, saw some sea turtles and starfish and swam in a cave that was full of the most colorful fish I had ever seen. It truly was a remarkable day and I loved every single second of it.
I fell in love with the Bahamas and it lived up to all my expectations and I genuinely would recommend it – not just to holiday makers and honeymooners, but also to backpackers and those looking for sun, sea, sand and some adventure! It honestly offers it all…
The last destination of our mammoth journey was to visit the beautiful country – Jamaica.
We decided that 4xFour had to really finish on a high and so booked in to stay at Sandals Grande Riviera, Ocho Rios…I did say we wanted to finish it with a bang!
The resort is a two hour taxi ride from Montego Bay airport, which I admit was quite tiresome, but it did give ample opportunity to gaze out at the Jamaican landscape. Once we arrived we checked straight into our room, which consisted of a small lounge, outside balcony, compact kitchenette (which was stocked with plenty of alcoholic beverages) and a reasonably sized bedroom and bathroom. We also had two butlers which was nice and something I’m not used too – they tended to our every need and after getting over the initial weird feeling of being looked after 24/7 we got used to it and loved it!
It was always our intention to relax and unwind when we got to Sandals and this is exactly what we did. There are 101 pools spanning the 100-acre seaside resort. The mountains are on one side and the sparkling Caribbean ocean is on the other – I could think of worse ways to spend my days!
After spending a few days doing absolutely nothing we decided we had better venture outside the confines of the resort and so enlisted the help of Sandals trusted tour provider – Island Routes. We booked a Dolphin Cove experience where we swam underwater with dolphins; zip lined across the lush green canopy of the rainforest at Mystic Mountain and experienced a true Jamaican sport - the Bobsled.
Up next was an excursion organized through the Sandals Foundation. The tour -‘The Reading Road Trip’, is an initiative supported by the charitable trust- the Sandals Foundation and is rolled out with participating adopted schools in Saint Lucia, Antigua, The Bahamas, Turks & Caicos and Jamaica. The Reading Road Trip gives guests the opportunity to engage small groups of school children in active reading strategies, benefiting over 400 students throughout the Caribbean. It was a real experience to visit the school and interact with the local children and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to see the ‘real’ Jamaica.
The country is beautiful and the people even more so and I can assure you, it will not disappoint.
A most fantastic end to an incredible four-month trip and now, as this is my last entry for Travel Dudes, would like to personally thank every single person, hotel, tour operator and provider who helped make 4xFour incredible. We had a blast and created memories that will last a lifetime.
Travel diary shared by Cheryl Gibbs