Around five million people visit The Bahamas every year on a cruise and, in many cases, go no further than the capital. Paradise Island soaks up many others into all-inclusive mega resorts such as Atlantis.
Atlantis is a short taxi ride across the two-kilometer-long bridge to Paradise Island. It holds one of the largest aquariums in the world, depicting the Lost City of Atlantis through which swim over 50,000 fish. I am fascinated by the sharks and other predators cruising lazily above us spectators in our glass tunnel. Their squalid tanks seem a poor home for these amazing creatures. More emerald and ruby stores share territory with ice cream shops and bars whose terraces are filled with visitors sipping multicolored cocktails and watching the crowds go by.
Millionaire spotting is a popular way to pass the time. At the marina full of luxurious yachts of varying sizes, I watch a large group, all dressed in spotless white, board one of the bigger boats. No doubt the casino hopes to win some of their money on its blinging slot machines, and blackjack, roulette, poker and baccarat tables.
I wonder if any of the casino owners are descendants of the pirates who once infested these waters, separating the wealthy from their wealth in less obvious ways. The Bahamas takes its name from the Spanish words “baja mar” – meaning “shallow water" and almost impossible to pronounce for English speakers – which were given to it by Columbus in 1492. The reefs and shoals around the islands, not to mention their strategic location, made them a perfect refuge for brigands and privateers flying the black flag. Numerous Spanish galleons laden with gold and precious stones passed through these waters, and legend says some of their treasure is still buried on the islands.
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