The Sleeping Giant
Known as the bonefishing capital of the world and home to a number of blue holes, this is the largest in size, but least populated Bahamian island, just a few minutes flight from Nassau.
Except for Kamalame Cay, an islet off the north-east coast of Andros, conventional luxury has yet to touch the island with its magic-weaving wand. The magic of Andros is, however, potent in different ways: unexplored, and in parts even inaccessible, it teams with rare wild fowl, birds and orchids, and its coral reef is a diver’s paradise. The Andros Barrier Reef, measuring 190 miles long, is the world’s third-largest fringing barrier reef, and the third largest living organism on the planet.
The most important development since we last visited is the creation of The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) whose stated mission is to “revolutionize the agricultural and marine sectors in The Bahamas”. Not only does it provide agricultural qualifications, but it explores and promotes conservation, clean environment initiatives and management of marine resources.
A Mennonite farm has long been established on the island, but given that Andros remains the only island in the Bahamas with important fresh water resources and sufficient landmass, it is set to become fully self-sufficient in the near future.
The island is large enough to support 4 airports: San Andros in the north, Andros Town or Fresh Creek in the central and most populated part, and Mangrove Cay and Congo Town in the south. Several “bights” (water channels of sea water) split the landmass and the western part is a vast natural reserve.
The flight from New Providence to San Andros is a mere 6-7 minutes.
There is a small number of high end establishments that are not strictly speaking hotels: from Small Hope Bay Lodge in Fresh Creek to the self-contained Kamalame Cay, Flamingo Cay on the west coast and the ultra-eco Tiamo resort in the southern part of the Andros, these are family-developed and owned properties that cater to divers, fishing and shooting (wild fowl and boar) enthusiasts and lovers of personalised service and privacy.
These are a far cry from the garishness of Atlantis or Baha Mar in Paradise island and New Providence respectively.
The families who built them are reaping the benefits of being the first to “set up shop” there.
This has created something of an anomaly in Andros. Most of the land is either crown land (state-owned) or privately owned by a few perspicacious Androsian families who have invested with view to partition and sell lots. The property market is, therefore, quite restricted and prices often illogical. Trying to even visit a plot for sale is a challenge, and making an offer is an unnerving process.
This has inhibited growth and development on the island to a large extent and preserved it as the best-kept and possibly last remaining secret in the Bahamas.
There are a number of settlements, primarily around the main highway that runs all along the north part.
Nicholls Town is a small beach village with colourful wooden houses, many now converted into holiday homes.
You can have a meal at one of the numerous local food cafes serving steamed fish or conch in a spicy sauce. The coastline, some of it ravaged by recent hurricanes, is still beautiful precisely because it hasn’t seen the high rise development of Nassau. Most of it is covered with large pine forests.
The Middle part of Andros is serviced by Andros Town airport. The main settlement there is Fresh Creek.
We met with the Minister of agriculture and fisheries, Carlton Bowleg, because we knew he was a born and bred Androsian from the area of Mastic Point.
A personable and engaging man, he spoke about his passion for the island and its vast potential.
The Government, he assured me, would consider any investment projects in hospitality and manufacture.
The wealth of Andros, however, is in its natural resources and its ability to become totally self-sustainable in the way most cays are not. Combined with its spectacular nature, it is set to become another jewel in the Bahamian crown, so long its real estate market is unshackled.
Carlton Bowleg supports his native island in more ways than one. Every child on Andros has been, for the last decade, the lucky recipient of a Christmas gift, personally donated by him.
Our new friend, Glen…
Here is a great character I met briefly on my first day in Andros, but have since got to know better.
A former army man, Glen returned to his native island a few years ago and enjoys the laid back lifestyle: fishing, cooking, nature and, in the words of a song, “smoking big cigars”.
Glen is one of the funniest email correspondents I have ever had the pleasure to meet and a prodigious photographer of Andros scenery.
He has a painting and decorating business, but comes up with “Creative ways to make a substantial living”.
I wish I could tell you the above is my quote, but it’s not – it’s one of many things he says to make me guffaw with laughter, even when (or especially when) I am in the middle of some serious editorial work.
Glen has some interesting projects in the pipeline, one of which includes providing bio eggs for the community.
Andros wouldn’t be what it is without characters like Glen, although it has to be said, he is one of a kind.