Exploring Acklins and Crooked Islands – The Bahamas’ Hidden Paradise

JUAN MARTINEZ

March 6, 2023

Exploring Acklins and Crooked Islands – The Bahamas’ Hidden Paradise

If there is a place where it is possible to completely disconnect from the world, it must be Acklins and Crooked Islands in The Bahamas.

While some islands in The Bahamas are designed solely for tourism, others offer an escape from the crowds. Acklins and Crooked Islands, located in the southern part of the archipelago, are perfect examples of the Bahamas’ hidden gems.

Though Acklins and Crooked Islands are believed to be among the first islands that Columbus encountered and were popular hideouts for pirates during the 18th century, little information about these islands is actually available. Most guides rely on historical information found on the internet, and even the official website of www.bahamas.com has limited information about this remote paradise. Those who venture to these untouched islands do so based on recommendations from friends or simply for the thrill of exploring one of the most isolated places on earth.

Be connected at all times in the Bahamas.
I got a e-SIM with Airalo and bought a plan of 10 GB for my whole stay in the country.

A local fisherman handpicking conch in the Bahamas
A local fisherman handpicking conch in the Bahamas is very uncommon nowadays.

Understanding Acklins and Cooked Islands

Despite being two separate islands, Acklins Island and Crooked Island are often referred to as a pair due to their close proximity. Both islands offer the charm of being some of the most unexplored places on earth. Crooked Island claims to have the first post office of the Bahamas, while life in Acklins has remained largely unchanged since the 1950s, giving visitors a glimpse into a simpler way of life that has been lost in much of the modern world.

“If you want to meet some people, go to the airstrip in Acklins. That’s where everyone meets,” said Eric Wiberg, an American writer who has been travelling to the Bahamas since he was a child and visited Acklins in search of abandoned WWII planes.

During my stay in Acklins, I had the opportunity to meet Eric, who happened to be the only other traveller on the island at the time. We were both staying at the same pension and had to share the only car available for rent. As a historian with a focus on the Bahamas, Eric shared fascinating stories about Acklins’ history during the plantation period and how the island was strategically important for Nazi U-Boats during World War II. These were stories I couldn’t find on the internet, but hearing them firsthand from Eric and then later by family members of the people who lived them made my visit to Acklins all the more special.

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There are several abandoned vehicles all across Acklins
There are several abandoned vehicles all across Acklins – something that was quite unique and somehow gave more atmosphere to the island.

Times have changed, and despite today’s peacefulness, life in Acklins is just as dynamic as ever. Today, many locals still depend on stripping the bark of the cascarilla shrub to produce Campari liquor, while others live self-sufficiently on small plots of land. Still, some people like Patricka Ferguson and Felton Role have chosen to invest in tourism to bring more vitality to Acklins.

Patricka returned from Nassau to establish a tourism company, Yahaka Island Tours, while Felton owns Salina Point Bonefish Lodge, one of Acklins’ few lodges. Both Patricka and Felton offered me a glimpse into the islands’ secrets and greeted me with open arms and smiles.

Patricka in Acklins was my tour guide
Patricka was my tour guide in Acklins. She showed me the “must-see” places and took me to her favourite spots.

What to see and do

If you’re searching for a luxurious getaway with lavish resorts and extravagant parties, Acklins and Crooked Islands may not be your ideal destination. On the other hand, if you’re looking to escape from the stress of everyday life and immerse yourself in pristine nature, then these islands are perfect. Acklins is a paradise for those who want to spend their days lounging on the beach, reading a book, and enjoying the peace and quiet. With some saying that many visitors end up staying longer than they planned and finding inspiration for their next great novel.

But Acklins isn’t just about relaxation and tranquility. It’s also one of the best spots in the world for sport fishing. According to Felton, most of his guests are fishermen who come from across the world to Acklins to fish for bonefish and deep-sea fish. “With its clear waters and abundant marine life, it’s easy to get lost in the thrill of the catch and stay longer than planned”, he told me.

Taking a swim at the blue hole of central Acklins
Taking a swim at the blue hole of central Acklins

For those who prefer more traditional sightseeing activities, island hopping and snorkelling are some of the must-do experiences in Acklins. During my visit, I had the chance to explore Fish Cay, North Cay, and Long Cay, three idyllic islands located west of Acklins. These little islands are perfect for spotting wildlife, enjoying a BBQ, and dipping in the shallow waters. Here, I encountered flamingos and iguanas at the beach and sharks and stingrays while snorkelling in the ocean.

Back on the main island, a visit to Anita’s Garden is a must. Anita Collie Verdecia has created an extraordinary garden-art exhibition for the past few years. At her home, you can learn more about the cascarilla shrub, sip local teas, and wander around her collection of peculiar items from the past decades, including parts of a whale skeleton that she found on Acklins’ shores.

Read more: How to Plan an Island Hopping Trip in the Caribbean

Jumbey hole in Acklins
The Jumbey hole in Acklins is one of its tourist hotspots.

INSIDE INFO: If you’re interested in exploring Acklins further, Yahaka Island Tours is the only tour company on the island, and Patricka is an expert on all things related to Acklins and Crooked Islands. You can visit their website to schedule a tour or to learn more about the island’s cultural sites, such as the Castle Island Lighthouse, the Jumbey hole, and the blue hole located in the heart of Acklins.

Read more: Which are the best things locals do in Nassau

Anita is trying to promote tourism in Acklins
Anita is trying to promote tourism in Acklins. Today she directs some of the National Geographic expeditions that come to this part of the Bahamas.

Other places to visit in Acklins

  • The flamingo lakes at the southern part of the island.
  • Find abandoned airplanes at the salt flats of Acklins.
  • See the abandoned cotton plantations at Binnacle Hill.
  • Visit the northern east coastline and witness the trash left by cruise ships – Due to Acklins location, all the trash from the cruise ships lands at the east coast of Acklins. This is one of the saddest places to visit, as the amount of trash to see is unthinkable.
  • Jump on the ferry to Crooked Island.
  • Find your own private beach for a day at the ocean.

Where to stay

Booking accommodation in Acklins can be challenging since most lodges cannot be booked online. To find a place to stay, I had to contact each lodge individually to check their availability. Here are some of the lodges you can find in Acklins:

  • Salina Point Angling Adventures – +13608468957
  • Salina Point Bonefish Lodge – +12425359510
  • Ivels Bed and Breakfast – +12423443199
  • Acklins Island Lodge – +12424675443
  • Grey’s Point Bonefish Inn – +12423443210
  • Chester’s Bonefishing Lodge – available on Booking.com

INSIDE INFO:

Don’t have a Bahamian number? Don’t worry. Text these numbers on WhatsApp. Most Bahamians use WhatsApp as a business platform and texting them here for infos is quite common.

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Kayaking at Salina Point Bonefish Lodge
Every morning, I was able to go ocean kayaking from my accomdodation at Kayaking at Salina Point Bonefish Lodge

NOTE: Before booking any accommodation online, it’s a good idea to call the lodge and inquire about their prices. You might get a better deal if you ask beforehand. Most lodges offer meals included in the price, so take advantage of this option as getting fresh products on the island can be challenging. Due to Acklins’ isolated location, everything has to be pre-ordered in advance.

But don’t worry; you can always find a fresh conch salad along the road, especially in the northern part of the island.

Read more: The Art of slow travelling in the Bahamas

A conch man selling fresh conch salat in northern Acklins
A conch man selling fresh conch salat in northern Acklins

Acklins and Crooked Islands’ Basics

To fully enjoy your trip to Acklins, planning ahead is essential. Due to limited flights and lodging options, booking early is necessary. Most lodges are only open when visitors are expected, and car rentals and restaurant orders must be arranged in advance as there are no ATMs on the island.

Acklins’ remote location and lack of modern amenities are part of its charm, offering a true escape from the stresses of daily life. It’s a unique opportunity to disconnect from the outside world and immerse yourself in the islands’ natural beauty.

If you’re willing to trade convenience for seclusion, Acklins is the perfect destination. The experience will stay with you forever, leaving you refreshed, relaxed, and renewed.

Read more: How to travel the Bahamas using mailboats

Spotting sharks along the coast
Have you ever spotted a shark from the beach?

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