I like green a lot but if I was pressed to choose my favourite colour, it’d probably be blue. I go for navy, royal and I'm even partial to periwinkle, but my favourite colour blue is “Bimini Blue”, a hue I think I named, and an island I fell in love with, after a short visit there in 2012.
Bimini is the westernmost district of the Bahamas. There are three islands, North, South and East. I had the pleasure of soaking up the sun on the North Island in a place called Alice Town. North Bimini is only 80 kilometres east of Miami. It’s a spectacular sliver of sand at only 11 km long and 210 metres wide. Golf carts are the main mode of transportation and the pace is wonderfully laid back. Thankfully, there’s really nowhere to go.
Best known for its big game fishing, Bimini draws avid anglers from all over the world. Ernest Hemingway lived on the island for a couple of years from 1935 to 1937. It’s thought that his catch of a 500 pound marlin there, inspired him to write “The Old Man and the Sea”.
Bimini was also an inspirational place for Dr. Martin Luther King. The civil rights leader was on the the island in 1964 and is said to have worked on his Nobel Peace Prize speech during his visit.
I didn’t catch any fish and I surely didn’t write any acceptance speech for internationally recognized awards, but I felt inspiration in Bimini too. I’ve never seen sand as white and I’ve never slipped into a sea so blue. The colour was almost electric. Photos just don’t do it justice. You can wade out into the shallow turquoise tide for miles and miles and never see anything below you but your feet. And, at least while we were there, it seemed no one else’s feet ever crossed our path. When we snuck away from the main street, (there are only two), we felt like we were lounging on the beach of our very own private island.
Of course, you can only bask in the rays so long and there’s a lot to do out in that vast ocean of blue. If you like scuba diving and snorkelling, Bimini has a lot to offer. There are coral reefs teeming with colourful fish but my favourite underwater experience was diving on an old rusty relic called the SS Sapona. The cargo steamer ran aground during a hurricane in 1926.
According to Wikipedia, the wreck lies in about 15 feet of water and was used for target practice by the US Army Airforce and US Navy during WWII. The SS Sapona has become an artificial reef. Fish dart in and around the decaying ribs of the hull. On our dive, it wasn’t long before I realized the watery playground also attracts a variety of sharks and in particular the lemon shark. Bimini is home to the world famous Shark Lab where marine biologists study the habits of these fish and the conservation of the ocean’s ecosystems.
While the lemon sharks of Bimini seek out shrimp, lobsters and cray fish, locals favour a sea snail that lives in an attractive, high-spired shell. Conch fritters and salads are considered to be the main dishes of the Bahamas. We went to a place called Stuart’s Conch Salad Stand. It’s an old wooden, kind of rickety looking spot right on the beach. The evidence of this shabby shack's popularity with locals and tourists alike is piled high all around. There are conch shells everywhere you look! Local women spend their days chopping the tender meat into tiny bite sized pieces. They mix the conch with tomato, onion, peppers and splashes of orange and lime juice. This local delight is filling and refreshing and listening to the banter among the Bahamians at Stuart’s was better than a concert.
For dessert, I’d recommend another Bimini speciality if you’re lucky enough to score a loaf. Bimini bread is sweet and white and should be eaten with caution. Forget counting carbohydrates, when you bite into this delicious dough, you’ll only want more and more.
The bread was moreish and for me, Bimini was too. It’s such a charming, rustic island with people who seem happier than most. And why shouldn’t they be, they’re living simple lives on a quiet little piece of paradise. It's a place I travel back to in my mind when I’m feeling hurried or stressed. I’m warm and relaxed and surrounded by sand. And the view? Tranquil waves, an occasional lemon shark and a endless ocean of Bimini blue.