The Bahamas is an archipelago of around 700 islands and cays situated north of Cuba and southeast of Florida. They stretch across over 100,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean but have a land area of around 5,380 square miles (about 13,900 square kilometres) and only 29 of the larger islands have a population and infrastructure to support tourism.
Geographically the Bahamas are part of a chain of islands that include Cuba, Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The closest island to the US is Bimini which was regarded as home by writer Ernest Hemingway for many years. The capital city is Nassau which is located on New ProvidenceIsland which is the centre of the larger islands, and the second largest city is Freeport which is on Grand Bahama Island.
Population of the Bahamas
The population as at July 2009 was around 310,000 and it is estimated that almost 60% of the population live in New Providence, including Nassau. A total of 85% of the population live in urban areas and average life expectancy is 68.5 for men and 73.3 for women. 65% of the population are aged between 15 and 64 years of age. Residents of the Bahamas are known as Bahamians.
The Bahamas is an English speaking country and about 85% of the population are of African descent. Around 10-12% of the population are white and the second largest ethnic group are of European descent. Descendants of Greek labourers who arrived in the 1900s for the sponging industry account for less than 1% of the population but still retain their Greek culture.
The economy of the Bahamas is highly dependent on tourism but it is one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean area. The tourism industry accounts for around 60% of the countries GDP and also provides employment for over half of the country's labour force. Tourism drives much of the construction activities with construction of new hotels, resorts and residences. The global economic crisis has had some effect on the industry.
The second most important industry in the Bahamas is the financial services sector which includes offshore banking. The government provides incentives to encourage foreign financial business, and financial services and business services combined account for about 36% of GDP. Agriculture and manufacturing combined only contribute about 10% of GDP although the government has incentives to try and grow those sectors of the economy.
The climate of the Bahamas is tropical marine and is moderated by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream which keeps the winters mild. Cooling tradewinds keep the daytime temperature around 21-24Â°C (70-75Â°F) from September to May, with the rest of the year having warmer days of around 27-29Â°C (80-85Â°F). At night the temperature generally drops about 5Â°C (41Â°F) from the daytime temperature.
During summer and autumn hurricanes can pass near or sometimes through the islands and June to November is regarded as the hurricane season. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew hit the northern islands and in 1999 Hurricane Floyd hit many of the islands. The temperature in the Bahamas has never recorded a freeze but in January 1977 it was reported that snow was mixed with the rain in Freeport.
History of the Bahamas
Christopher Colombus landed in the Bahamas in 1492 and it was his first landfall in the New World. The island was inhabited by Arawakan Taino people or Lucayan Indians, and although the Spanish did not colonise the Bahamas they shipped the natives to Hispaniola where they used them as slaves. From 1513 to 1647 the islands were mostly deserted until British colonists came from Bermuda to settle on the island of Eleuthera.
The islands became a British colony in 1783 and when the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807 many African who had been liberated from slave ships were settled on the islands. Slavery was completely abolished in 1834 and the descendants of those original Africans are now the majority of the population. In 1973 the Bahamas gained independence from the UK.
Because of its proximity to Florida in the US, the country has become a major transshipment point for illegal drugs. Drug smuggling of cocaine and marijuana to the US and Europe has often been intercepted in the Bahamas, and its territory is also used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US, particularly from Haiti and Cuba.
Main Attractions of the Bahamas
The Bahamas has beautiful beaches, crystal clear water, good amenities and friendly people which make it an ideal holiday destination. It is sometimes referred to as the "sailing capital of the world" and yachting is a great way to discover some of the spectacular coves and beaches.
There are plenty of good quality hotels and a wide variety of water sports including scuba diving, snorkelling, cruise trips, sightseeing tours and sailing. There is an abundance of marine life including gamefish and over 50 international fishing records have been set in the Bahamas. You can also swim with dolphins and even feed sharks!
Bahamas vacation packages are the best way to discover the country. The islands offer casinos and nightclubs, straw markets (where you can have your hair braided), golf, duty-free shopping, gardens and National Parks where you can see endangered species like the Abaco Parrot and Bahamian Iguana. It is regarded as a wonderful place for a honeymoon but is also a great friendly place for those travelling as a family, in groups or alone.