For spring break this year I wanted to find a nice place to go bonefishing that the whole family would enjoy. After all, it’s not every year a 7-year-old girl makes a New Year’s resolution to go to the Bahamas and catch a bonefish. The unanimous recommendation from the current and former editors of Garden and Gun magazine was Kamalame Cay on the island of Andros. Interestingly, in all my research on hotels, I’d never come across it.
The website was good, not great. Without the recommendation, I probably never would have tried it. The island isn’t easy to get to, either (though it was surprisingly quick). But we took the risk and were off on an adventure—happy that we were one flight farther than all the spring breakers on the plane to Nassau.
The drive from the airport to the cay was not promising. Driving on the left or right is optional and random, depending on potholes. No fancy houses. No gorgeous vegetation. Plenty of hurricane-ravaged homes and trash. But my heart was open…
I’m learning to be more of an adventurous traveler as I age. As an independent woman, I don’t need to compromise with anyone. Consider, yes; compromise, no! It’s enough of a challenge finding a place that I will like and that I think a 7-year-old, a 16-year-old, and my oldest daughter and her husband will enjoy. Gluten-free food options required. High expectations, but still, open to adventure.
So I was particularly open to an island adventure. And I found that when you get to Kamalame Cay, something happens. The sweet, salty scent of the air seeps into your brain, and life starts to slow down. Crystal-clear water is the only landscaping you need here. This is no Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons…it’s BETTER. It’s real. It’s a place where hammocks are actually used. A lot. And the staff all have unique, quirky, and friendly personalities.
The food is pretty awesome, too. How awesome? We ate every meal for six days at the same table and never got tired of it. I’ve been to so many Caribbean hotels where the menu is “Italian” or “Pan-Asian” and you have to go searching the beach shacks for the real island food. This was real island food, every day. We ate peas and rice. Cracked conch and conch salad. Grilled snapper and french fries with sides of garlicky green beans and corn. Simple food. The kind of food you need after a day of fishing!
And yes, we bonefished! We didn’t catch any (although the girls did catch other fish, which they were pleased with). But the thrill of the hunt, the quiet patience, casting a rod while balancing on the front deck of a tiny boat, the pleasure of going fast and slow, and being out on the beautiful water for five hours without a single complaint were priceless! At one point we were going around 50 knots (fast) and two giant white egrets took off and flew right with us, their gorgeous wings spread out wide, diving and swooping. Amazing.
That night, with faces rosy from the sun, we sat with two groups of bone fishermen. The sun set while we drank club sodas and shared fishing stories. As the candles and lanterns glowed and the music played, we found things in common with people who seemed very different from us. At one point my oldest daughter and I looked at each other and said it was like a Garden and Gun story come to life!
There was no TV, barely any Internet, no casino or nightlife. No shopping. No worries. Instead, there was plenty of swimming, kayaking, napping, laughing, reading, dreaming, and just plain resting in the warm sun.
There were the simple joys of nature. Of hanging out with Pops at the dock while he pointed out seahorses. Of waiting for the boat that sometimes came on time and sometimes didn’t. Watching the staff laugh at us in amazement as we kayaked back and forth to our house between meals, butts wet but hearts happy. Miss Avon shouting “Miss Maria!!!” at the top of her lungs when she saw me hours after giving me a truly awesome massage (one where, facedown, you can look through a window in the floor to the sea below). Seeing Sean, our bonefishing guide on a hot empty street as he stopped his truck in the middle of the road to give us directions.
Samson, Lona, Rhonda, Vicky, Avon, Colette, Pops, and the rest of the lovely souls of Andros—they’ve got it good there on their island. After going to the Caribbean dozens of times, I finally feel like I’ve been to a real island. And I have the mosquito bites to prove it.
The evening before leaving, my teenager and I sat out by the beach to look at the stars. On the horizon was the eerie glow of Nassau—a 15-minute flight and a world away. It’s a rare vacation that makes every single family member happy. But this was a vacation like that.
The lesson here is don’t be afraid to go one step farther, find someplace you’ve never been before, and get as close to nature and as close to local as possible. It takes the meaning of rest and relaxation—and vacation—to a whole new level.
That last night, Eve and I both saw a shooting star out of the corner of our eyes. I don’t know what she wished for, but I do know that wishes can come true.