An unexpected paradise is found

A Memorable Place

August 27, 2006|By Evan Balkan

I admit it: when it comes to travel, I'm a snob. I'm only interested in the "real." I would rather eat guinea pig in a Mongolian yurt than sleep on a feather pillow in a $1,000-per-night luxury resort.

But with the summer rapidly dwindling, my wife Shelly and I were looking for a quick, easy and inexpensive escape. We settled on Grand Bahama Island. I resigned myself to the simple pleasures of frolicking in the ocean. I certainly didn't expect anything more.

Sure enough, by the end of the first day at our massive beachfront hotel, I was bored. Renting a minuscule Toyota, we set out in search of some real culture or undisturbed natural beauty.

We pulled into a tiny fishing village and I asked a local for some recommendations. Picking up on my obvious desperation, he leveled his eyes and whispered conspiratorially, giving me convoluted directions to "the most beautiful beach in the islands. Paradise on earth, man." After 45 minutes of searching, we spotted a whitewashed roadside cross. This, the man had told me, indicated the spot where we should park.

We headed down a tiny path and into the meager foliage struggling to grow in the unforgiving sandy soil.

Finally, the foliage broke and we emerged into the wide expanse of a mangrove honeycomb. The trail wound its way through, threatening to disappear altogether under water. We rounded a bend and came upon a scene that bore out the local's description -- "paradise on earth," indeed.

Hermit crabs clacked across bleached tree trunks. White puffs of cloud shifted lazily through an intense blue sky. Clean beige sand stretched for miles, scalloped by the tentative lap of small waves. Distant cays shimmered like gems on the horizon. Stripping off my shirt, I swam out to where I could no longer stand. I floated awhile, looking back at the short ribbon of green that framed the beach -- it seemed as if the world and all its attendant problems were contained behind that wall. For now, in such an extraordinarily beautiful place, everything was perfect.

No, I didn't get my cultural fill. But of all the Atlantic beaches I've seen, from Brazil's rugged and remote Jericoacoara, to the pink sandstone of Canada's Maritime Provinces, this isolated stretch of Grand Bahama Island was, without a doubt, the most exquisite patch of oceanfront I've ever had the privilege of seeing.

Snobbery, I suppose, can sometimes be a good thing.

Evan Balkan lives in Lutherville.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.