My Bimini experience started with me battling Miami traffic on a day threatening rain. By the time I walked through the doors of Miami Seaplane Base I was hot, frustrated and just dying to bite someone’s head off. That is when Captain Gomez, the base manager, stepped in with a warm smile and took my bags and ushered me into what used to be the Chalks terminal. Now the Miami Seaplane Base, it houses a small seaplane museum. Sitting down at the coffee bar, I noticed the bar was made with old instrument panels and that photos, model planes and plane parts added to the décor. As I waited for “my ride”, Captain Gomez filled me in about the history of the building and pointed out some key pieces in the room. Stepping into the plane, he waved, told me not to worry about my Jeep parked outside and with that, the door was shut and I was now in the hands of Tropic Ocean Airways.
Taking a deep breath and settling into my co pilot seat, I watched as the streets and buildings of Miami morphed into the crystal blue waters of the Bahamas. Settling down onto the water as softly as a leaf drifts down to the ground, Steve, my pilot, looked over at me, ”Good?” “Awesome,” I thought as I surveyed what would be my home for the next few days.
I was far from disappointed when I crossed the threshold of Bimini Big Game Club. Opened in 1936 and moved to its present location in 1954, the property has a Hemingwayesque feel about it. Walking the property, Guy Harvey and artist Wesley Carter’s paintings with their bright colors adds to the property’s charm. “Wanting to preserve the Bimini feel is very important to us,” said Michael Weber, general manager of the resort. Where you lay your head at night is completely up to you. The club houses 12 cottages, 35 huge standard rooms, 3 suites and 75 slips. To make things more convenient for boaters, there is a customs office on the property as well as a liquor store and rec room. Whether you choose to eat at the bar and grill that looks out over the marina and flats, sip one of Huey’s, the bar tender, famous frozen drinks in a hammock or lounge in one of the many Adirondack chairs, one thing is for sure, Miami is the furthermost thing from your mind. Actually, everything is the furthermost thing from your mind.
A wicker chair on my balcony caught my attention and as I eased myself into its downy cushion, I knew I was set for the evening. Book in hand, I settled in until a small pocket of music coming from the bar disturbed the stillness of the resort. Amid the faint glow of lights, I saw the silhouettes of families, fisherman and couples looking for an escape….and finding it.
Pulling a stool out from the bar I quickly started swaying to calypso music and put in an order for one of Huey’s famous drinks. There is plenty to order from the menu along with some newly appointed health conscious selections but the Spicy Island Shrimp and Out Island Chicken with basil/mango and pineapple salsa were my choice du jour.
I couldn’t believe I had overslept. When I awoke, nestled in a king sized bed with the fluffiest of comforters, it occurred to me I was in the Bahamas. My motto from that moment on became, “No problem, Mon.” Snorkeling was at 10:00 so lotion in hand, I found Bertrand. Bertrand heads up Bimini Quebec Watersports, which is a non-profit organization from Quebec that takes the money made in rentals and gives it back to the Biminite community in the form of painting their homes, construction of a park or roofing. He offers kayak, paddleboards and boat rentals. There is also snorkeling, dive tours on a 60’ glass bottom dive boat, sailboat cruise and a trip out to the Healing Hole (more on that in a bit).
My trip that day included skimming across the teal hued waters to Bimini Road, an underwater rock formation that resembles a lost road of Atlantis perhaps? Dipping under the water I lost all sense of time chasing fish and feeling the total silence of the ocean. Our next stop was the Sapona wreck. The Sapona is a concrete-hulled cargo steamer that ran aground in 1926. Swimming through its steel framework that looks like ribs, into the hull and then through a doorway into another compartment was eerie at best. I had the distinct sense of a sci fi movie and expected a shark to swim out from the wreckage at any given minute, but not an experience to be missed. Idling over the flats coming back into the marina, leaning over the bow of the boat, I could see conch, huge star fish, urchin and sand dollars amid the shifting shades of green and blue.
Once on shore, I walked up to the shark cage that is part of the Bimini Bull Run. I was unable to experience it first hand (Whew) because the bull sharks are mating and will return in early September. The Bull Run is the only dockside shark dive in operation and was rated #1 on its 20 Apex Encounters in Scuba Diving Magazine. The cage is a regular shark cage that is attached to the dock. Once inside, the bull sharks circle round as food is held out for them. Yet another integral part of the Bimini Experience.
Stopping to witness Ansil Saunders’ masterpieces is a must. Mr. Saunders greeted me at his workshop impeccably dressed in khakis, crisp navy shirt, canvas belt and topsiders. He showed me with tremendous pride the boat he is making from hand, a labor of love that takes 4 months to build. The wood was polished so brightly I could see my reflection and the blue paint mirrored the sea that gazed in through his back door, waiting for its newest arrival. He went down memory lane recounting how he had taken Martin Luther King, Jr fishing shortly before his death and showing me a book given to him by Mrs. King. A remarkable man with a remarkable spirit. Mr. Saunders is 81.
The next morning I was up bright and early to make my way through the mangroves with Bertrand to the Healing Hole. Legend has it that Hemingway himself would go there and comeback in better health. How this place was found in the first place is a mystery to me since it is a small pathway maneuverable only by kneeling on a kayak and pulling yourself along by the branches of the mangroves where a resident Lemon shark keeps watch at the entrance. Not to be daunted, we made our way through the underbrush and yes, my avid readers, I submerged myself in the murky water. Such the believer that I am, I filled my water bottle for a spritz of added healing at a later date.
Sadly, my time came to an end on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. As I saw the seaplane buzz by the resort, I gathered my suitcase and made my way to say my goodbyes. Buckling myself in and feeling the water beneath the plane, I realized just what a total experience this was, front start to finish.
As the saying goes, “All good things must end”, but the part that I add is “They can begin again.”
For more information, contact the Bimini Big Game Club at www.biggameclubbimini.com or call 800-867-4764
Tropic Ocean Airways 800-767-0897 www.flytropic.com