Visit Cat Island, Bahamas
Cat Island is one of the very few islands of Bahamas which has remained virtually untouched from tourism. That's a great blessing in disguise for those who want to explore unspoiled virgin landscapes with miles of sandy beaches & coves with dramatic rocky cliffs, caves lasting from the days of the original Lucayan tribes who once lived here, miles of nature trails and of course true African-Bahamian culture with its trademark laid-back lifestyle. The island is sparsely populated.
There can not be more rustic and natural setting than this. It's also a great place for diving, snorkeling and fishing. And being located very close to the Tropic of Cancer line, the weather here remains perfect for year round vacationing (temperature varies from mid 60s in winter to high 80s in summer).
Cat Island is about 130miles south east of Nassau of New Providence Island and is centrally located amongst the island chain of Bahamas. It's 48 miles long having a fishhook shape while the widest part of the island is about 4 miles. The first settlement here took place in 1783 when the Loyalists of British Crown fled during the American Revolutionary War and settled here with their slaves.
The first settlers initially engaged in cotton plantations which subsequently failed ... you can still find ruins of such plantations scattered across the island. Later the slaves engaged in productions of peas, potatoes and even pineapples. Today many of them are deeply engaged in handcrafted straw-weaved items such as bags and baskets. You can buy such exquisite craft from a local store.
The name Cat Island originated from the notorious pirate Arthur Catt, who was a friend of the infamous pirate 'Blackbeard' and often came to this island to hide his loot.
There are several settlements in Cat Island. Arthur Town is located at the northern most part of the island. This is where Sir Sidney Poitier, Academy award winning actor once spent his childhood. You can still see the land here where his childhood home once stood. There is an airport at Arthur Town.
A single road (called Main Road) runs from Arthur Town in north all the way to Port Howe, a picturesque village in south. Most attractions including historical churches and caves are accessible from this road.
Map of Cat Island
New Bight is another settlement located towards the southern part of the island. Highest point of Bahamas - Mount Alverina (also known as Como Hills) is located here (altitude 206ft). You can hike up the rocky terrain to the top and get a 360 degree panoramic view around.
There is a small monastery located on top of Mt. Alverina known as 'The Hermitage' built in 1939. This monastery and the steps here were hand carved from the rocks by Father Jerome Hawkes who came here as an architect and a priest. There is an airport at New Bight as well.
At Port Howe located at the southern end of the island, you can see the Deveaux Mansion, a large two storied white building (now abandoned) that was awarded to Col. Andrew Deveaux for his role to recapture Nassau from the hands of Spanish.
There is a large and deep Blue Hole near the northern tip of the island close to Orange Creek at Dickies Road. The undercurrent at the bottom of the blue hole leads out to the ocean. The Dickies Road continues towards east and goes past the Griffin Bat Cave, a cave that was once used by the slaves as a hideout to escape the atrocities of their masters.
Mermaid Hole is a large 65ft wide lake located in Bain Town. Locals say that a Mermaid lives in the lake. The water of this 10ft deep lake flows through underground passages & caves.
Old Bight is another settlement located at the southern end of Cat Island. A wonderful Catholic church with exquisite engravings and sculptures is located here on top of a ridge by the Main Road and near the Great Lake. This church too was built by Father Jerome.
Cat Island is the place where the indigenous Rake & Scrape music of Bahamas first originated. It's an orchestra music which is produced using recycled items such as a straw, fishing line, a drum made of goat skin, a piece of wood etc. An annual festival is held here to celebrate Rake & Scrape music.
There are several nice hotels, lodges and resorts with villas in Cat Island. You have plenty of choices to stay either by the beach side or in lush landscapes.
There are regular flights from Nassau to the two airports (Arthur Town and New Bight). Charter services are also available. There is mail boat services from Nassau to various docks in Cat Island which run on a weekly basis.
Once in the island, you can hire a car to get around. There is no taxi or bus service here.
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