bimini_web.jpgBIMINI, BAHAMAS – A mere 50 miles off the coast of Miami lies the smallest island of the Bahamas, surrounded by what many proclaim to be the clearest waters in the world.

Staring down at least 100 feet into the water, one can see groups of small fish swimming along the sandy bottom, and brightly vivid reefs sashaying underneath the waves.

Seeking to boost the number of visitors to the island in tough economic times, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation recently invited the South Florida Times and other media on a press tour of the exotic locale.

Participating journalists had the opportunity to experience breathtaking beaches, world-class shopping, mouth-watering Bahamian cuisine, and an endless array of outdoor activities.

Bimini, known as the “The Big Game Fishing Capitol of the World,” has become home to the finest fishing in the Bahamas. It is no surprise that sportsmen and fishing enthusiasts are consistent visitors to the island all year round.

Harlem’s own congressman of the 1970s, and self-proclaimed fishing aficionado, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was a well-known resident of Bimini for some time.

From the local craft center to the exquisite Dolphin House built by local author and historian Ashley Saunders, the profound evidence of the island’s rich history and natural amenities are astonishing.

The Bimini Museum itself houses remarkable displays of Bimini residents from the past and present. It contains items such as a copy of the Bahamas Constitution, signed by Prime Minister Lynden Pindling; the immigration card of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who visited the island more than once; old photos, writings and artifacts that depict the island’s heritage; and displays of athletes who represented Bimini on the international level, such as William “Yama Bahama” Butler, a world-ranked middleweight contender who sparred with Muhammad Ali in the 1960s. 

The journey began in Alice Town,  North Bimini, which is the commercial and main tourist center. Because of the island’s modest size, the most common mode of transportation is a golf cart.

But don’t be apprehensive or alarmed, for the golf cart experience allows for up-close-and-personal Bimini native travel. En route, much of the streets were filled with school children dressed in uniform and locals setting up shop for the day. As the journey continued, the tour group was engulfed in the savoring aroma of baking bread and cake in the air, which followed them for miles.
When they arrived at their destination, the tour group members settled in and braced themselves for a historic journey like none other.


THE HISTORY

Nestled on the blue effervescing waters of North Bimini, one can gaze across the mile-long stretch of sea known as Bonefish Creek. Few may realize the immense history and African-American connection that the island of Bimini possesses in its rows and rows of green lush mangrove trees.

The group was whisked away on a small boat through the dense layers of greenery, leaving the point of embarkation further and further from sight. Leading this voyage was 76-year-old Ansil Saunders, a local boat builder and fifth-generation Bimini native.

Within minutes, the small boat in which the group was traveling came to a stop. As the boat rocked gently amid the waters, the most defining sound was the whispers of the wind, which caused the waters to briskly splash against the boat.  Saunders looked up into the cloudy skies and took a deep breath, as if he felt a strong presence in the air.

He called this spot the “Holy Grounds.” He said that where the group was sitting is the same exact spot where he brought Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964 to write his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

“I can recall King saying how peaceful it was here and how the air seemed so calm,” Saunders shared.

In 1968, King returned to Bimini to prepare for his sanitation workers’ rally speech, held in Memphis, Tenn., just three days before his assassination. It would be King’s final speech.

As Saunders fought back tears while continuing his story of Dr. King, he let out a sigh of hope, as he linked King’s life to the promise of the recent election of the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama.

“To me, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the prophecy, and Barack Obama is the fulfillment,” Saunders told the South Florida Times.


LOCAL TREASURES

If one seeks to find connectivity with nature, the earth and the seas, Bimini is an incredible place to visit. The Nature Trail, along with the local museums, represents small treasures scattered throughout the island.

There is also the famous Fountain of  Youth, an area within the island that many claim has given them a revival, due to the medicinal forces of the water.  It is said that this “Healing Hole” possesses the magical powers of rejuvenation and healing.

The Bimini Bay Resort and Marina in North Bimini and Bimini Sands Resort and Marina in South Bimini are both perfect resting spots for a calming, atmospheric trip, especially for family vacations.

Although much of the northern part of the island is in a developmental battle to preserve its natural resources and wildlife sea habitat, it still has not lost its land appreciation and aquatic delight.

To really get to the heart of the island, Big Johns Hotel, and Conch Shell Bar and Lounge,  provide that authentic charming island lifestyle. The scenic views beyond the horizons are breathtaking, and a sun-kissed orange and purple sunset awaits you at the end of each day.

Although small in size as just over a 9-mile stretch of land, Bimini has much to offer to the inquisitive traveler. One thing you can count on is the people of Bimini, also known as Biminites, who will forever reveal a huge sense of culture, heritage and humble pride for their island.

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IF YOU GO

To learn more about the Bahamas or to plan a trip there, log onto http://www.bahamas.com/.