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In an Abacos State of Mind

Diving for spiny lobsters, scoping blue holes and sipping on a smile

Roughly halfway through a Bahamian rhythmic massage, the masseuse hits pause on alternating between her stress-melting kneading and gentle drumming action. 

I’m about to nod off when all of the sudden a rapid cooling sensation crawls across my back and it’s goose bump city. I’ve only just arrived to The Abaco Club on Winding Bay, a lavish resort on Great Abaco Island, just a 30-minute drive from Marsh Harbor Airport and have made a beeline to the spa to get the vacation off to a relaxing start.

“Umm…what is that?” I wonder aloud, genuinely confused by the sudden cold front crawling across my skin. The feeling is very pleasant and refreshing but my curiosity is piqued. Was I just hit with a snowball? “It’s Biofreeze,” explains the masseuse, without missing a beat. 

Expecting the unexpected seems to be the norm in this Out Island paradise ­— like spying British Open winner Darren Clarke chipping in the practice area of the club’s links or catching two Abaco parrots nuzzle cheeks on a tree branch.

A sun-dappled northeastern outpost of the Bahamian archipelago, the Abacos are many miles removed from the bustle of Nassau. It’s very tempting to just stick to lazing away on the pristine white sands and dipping my toes in the gin clear waters right by my cabana. However, being a beach-potato can wait — the high seas beckon. 

Chasing Lobster

Jason, the boat captain on our charter expedition, tells everyone aboard to look out for the silvery glint of the lobster trap. Turns out, it’s more of a door on the ocean floor than a cage. Spiny lobsters seeking shelter from predators are drawn to huddle under them and hang out and hold crustacean coffee klatches. According to the GPS, we’re in spitting distance, but it still takes a while to spot the trap and to our collective chagrin the trap has been flipped and wasn’t turned back over. In lobster diving circles this faux pas is on par with leaving the toilet seat up in a shared bathroom.

The captain is peeved, and so am I. After all, I’d already unbuttoned my Hawaiian shirt and was itching to cool off by diving into the inviting sapphire blue waters and bringing a couple of lobsters back to the boat. 

We strike out on a couple more upturned traps before hitting pay dirt and find one that has been undisturbed. With a snorkel and fins, I jump in after Jason, who is armed with a simple blue pole spear tethered to his wrist with a lanyard. 

I act as Jason’s spotter as he slides the trap open. A trio of sea bugs, sporting spiky antennae, skedaddle. They have the determination of wide receivers running post routes. It’s really hard for the trap slider to pull double duty and also track the lobsters as they haul spine so I shadow the biggest one in the pack and point an outstretched arm at a critter the size of small cat. Jason follows in hot pursuit, hurls his spear, and…. bulls-eye!  It’s a direct hit.

As with darts or archery, lobster-spearing proficiency really boils down to mastering the coupled arts of aiming and firing. The ability to hold your breath for upwards of 20 seconds is also handy, otherwise you may be running out of air before you skewer your lunch.

Blue Holes

A simple ribbon and a small pile of rocks are the only roadside markers signaling a turnoff into a pine forest denoting one of the Abaco’s famous blue holes. While certification is required for cave diving, you can still explore stalactites and stalagmites in the open water areas.  

There are often tight fits that divers need to thread the needle to squeeze through, so claustrophobics may want to steer clear. But even if you don’t have any intent to plumb their glorious chambers, it’s still well worth scoping out the brilliant azul phenomenon that dot the island. Be sure to cool off with a refreshing swim around their ocular shaped surface — I did a cannonball into Sawmill Sink, a hole famous for the trove of phenomenal fossils discovered in its depths.
You can’t leave these islands without puckering up to at least one Abaco Smile, the local cocktail. Sipping on the sunny concoction, an umbrella drink mixed with coconut rum, light rum and triple sec, along with cranberry and pineapple juices will take you to your happy place.  

Book your Bahamian escape today! Call your local AAA Travel Agent at 800-398-0379 or go online at AAA.com.

(Photos: Abaco Club in Winding Bay and Mike Dojc)

(Go Magazine May/June 2018)
 

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