With all of the king-sized cruise ships, casino action and waterfront resorts on Grand Bahama Island, travelers might reasonably expect that a more ecologically-oriented getaway to this destination would be out of reach. Fortunately, this is not the case. With three national parks, an enormous underwater cave system and massive amounts of marine life, there's plenty to explore. Here's a list of ways you can do so affordably.
Birding: Grand Bahama Island has multiple species that avid, life-long birders are anxious to add to their observational bucket list. Consider checking out Lucayan National Park's hiking trails and elevated walkways to catch a close peek of whatever winged creature captures your attention. From there, head to the Garden of the Groves where you can receive guided birding tours and fun photo opportunities of the venue's labyrinth, wedding chapel, scenic seating areas and more. You can also grab an affordable café lunch here overlooking a waterfall and pond filled with fish and turtles. With appetizer and sandwich options priced as low as $7 and an entrance fee of $15, this attraction is an inexpensive way to wrap up a day of birding adventure. If you are traveling over the weekend, you can also take advantage of their Friday night, fixed-menu special which features a higher-end dining experience near the same waterfall with romantic and a chance to dress up a bit. Prices for this dinner option ring in at roughly $30.
Kayaking: If you prefer to stay closer to shore than a large speed boat adventure typically allows, then a kayaking experience may be just what the travel doctor ordered. Grand Bahama Nature Tours offers several for less than $90 each, including all equipment and a meal for your multi-hour excursion. Try your hand at paddling through mangrove forests, or heading out for a half-hour paddle from the island to reach Peterson Cay National Park, where great snorkeling is to be found. These make nice combo adventures for the day, and with each trip having a duration of between five and six hours, the resulting rate per hour for these tours makes them extremely affordable compared to traditional resort activities.
Diving: Many vacationers consider underwater the only way to go when it comes to full-on marine adventure. Grand Bahama Island's undersea exploration organization known as UNEXSO provides a variety of scuba diving options for divers at all levels of expertise. From refresher courses to wreck diving and up-close shark experiences to night scuba and cavern excursions, there's something for everyone. With tank rental options starting at $30 and per-person package rates available for less than $100, it's possible to incorporate a day of marine interaction while staying on budget. This same organization also offers dolphin encounters for travelers who prefer wildlife interaction without all of the technical equipment.
Theriault is the best-selling co-author of the book "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget," and founder of TrekHound.com, a website for independent travelers. She also founded TheLessonMachine.com, a website for teachers.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun