Visit San Salvador, Bahamas
San Salvador is one of most south-eastern islands of Bahamas and also one of the most distant ones from US East coast compared to many others. It's a small 12mile long and 5mile wide island located about 200 miles south east of Nassau on New Providence Island.
It's blessed with numerous pristine and secluded white sandy beaches with crystal clear Atlantic waters, many salt water lagoons, several monuments, artifacts and relics that depict the life of original Lucayan tribes who once lived here in the 1400s as well as snapshots of history over the centuries.
The island is best known for being the first host of Christopher Columbus who made his first landing here in the New World on October 12, 1492 during his transatlantic voyage. It is believed that he came ashore on this island at a place known as Long Bay.
When Columbus landed and met with the friendly Lucayan Indian tribes, the island was known as 'Guanahani' to the natives. Columbus renamed it to San Salvador meaning 'Holy Savior'. However later in 1680s the island was captured by a notorious pirate George Watling who named the island on his own name as 'Watling Island'. This name stayed until 1925 when it was renamed back to San Salvador.
Like most other islands in Bahamas, San Salvador too has gone through the historic phases of Spanish occupation, settlement of Loyalists of British Crown along with their black slaves who fled during American Revolutionary War, followed by occupation by pirates, and then eventually freedom to become part of independent Bahamas and development of tourism.
Today San Salvador is a district of Bahamas and has a resident population of only around 1,200. Cockburn town is the district headquarter and is a major settlement.
Map of San Salvador
So why should you visit San Salvador?
The island has miles of perfect and secluded beaches for those who want to spend some time on their own with nature. And there are numerous lagoons or lakes in the island with sparkling water. The Great Lake Preserve is a lake 10 mile long, 2 mile wide and extends almost across the entire island.
The east coast has many shallow barrier reefs full of wide range of marine life and ideal for snorkelers. Most of these reefs are located around the Graham's Harbor (a large lagoon).
The west side has deep waters with wall reefs and huge sharp drop offs, and large number of shipwrecks. San Salvador offers more than 50 scuba diving sites and is popular to divers exploring wrecks and underwater ruins. Divers can find many sting rays and sharks in 'Devils Claw' and 'Vickeys Reef' while 'French Bay' is well known for wonderful corals.
A tall white stone-made cross stands as a monument at Long Bay to signify the landfall of Christopher Columbus. It is a great tourist attraction and offers an excellent photographic opportunity. There are five such significant monuments in the island, one is underwater where it is believed that the sail ship 'Pinta' in which Columbus arrived had dropped its anchor.
Visit the 160ft tall kerosene operated 'Dixon Hill Lighthouse' built in 1887 and climb up the stairs to the top to soak in the views around. Visit the 'Great Research Center' (erstwhile Bahamian Field Station) which has been involved in deep research on marine ecology and archeology.
San Salvador has nice resorts, hotels, villas and even locals offering vacation rentals. It has an International airport. There are regular flights between Nassau and San Salvador, and there is a flight from Fort Lauderdale (Florida) as well. There are mailboat services from Nassau. Once in the island, you can avail taxis or rent a car to get around easily.
Rum Cay, another small island (only 30 sq. miles in area) is only 20 miles away from San Salvador to its south-west. This island was so named because of a cargo ship carrying crates of rum getting wrecked off a reef near the island. Rum Cay is known as 'The Sleeping Beauty' within Bahamas and has stretches of lovely secluded beaches, many historical ruins, and vibrant coral reefs & marine life offering a paradise to snorkelers and divers, as well as to fishermen.
Towards north you can find caves (like Hartford Cave) where the original Lucayan natives lived. You can see cave drawings, carvings, utensils and other artifacts.
Although there used to be several economic developments in the past including production of pineapple, salt, sisal etc, but all have ceased over time. Rum Cay today survives mainly on tourism. It has a population of around 55. Although there were earlier several settlements, practically all residents live in the sleepy village of Port Nelson these days. You can rent simple yet clean cottages here.
There are flight services between Fort Lauderdale (Florida) and Rum Cay, there is also a ferry service between San Salvador and Rum Cay.
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