As vacation rental property owners we feel a responsibility to ensure that our guests get the maximum pleasure from their vacation. But we have to draw a fine line as on-site owners between respecting our guests privacy and helping them get the most from their valued time.
When a guest arrives we are well aware that it can be overwhelming after an all day travel experience to be in a new country, a new island, new accommodation. where to go?, what to do?, what not to do?
The answer is a “Welcome to Harbour View” book. It’s there in the lounge for them to read and benefit, as and when they are relaxed; in their own time. So when they arrive we only have to greet them and point out a few basics, such as operation of the air conditioning. How to contact us if they have a question, or are looking for local knowledge.
The Welcome book is divided into chapters.
The first chapter relates to a few house facts. Such as; our internet details. We are on a well so we appreciate guests being frugal with water. That we recommend they use bottled water (where to get it, where to get bottles refilled) for drinking.
The second chapter is about traveling. Guests are advised to rent a car in advance of their arrival. So we remind that we drive on the left. That they should put our phone number into their mobile phone or take one of our business cards so they can contact us if they experience a problem. Similarly they are encouraged to take the welcome book with them.
The third chapter is a comprehensive list of the many beaches that they can visit. Each beach is shown on a map with the distance from our house. So that if they set the mileometer to zero when they leave the home, their beach destination is known to be “x” kilometers away. The beach is described by size, whether there are shells, shade or which is best protected from winds.
The fourth chapter is a comprehensive list of restaurants. Again we give directions, show each on a map, and give the distance. We also enclose a menu in order that they can get some idea of the range of costs and whether they have specialities… asian food….. Bahamian fare. And most important, the contact phone number and which days they might close. There is nothing worse than getting all dressed up and driving 20 minutes to find some restaurant is closed.
The fifth chapter is a list of special excursions that are available. These range from fishing guides (bone fishing is very popular in Exuma), scuba trips, ATV guided tours, kiteboarding lessons, and of course the most popular at present is the “swimming pigs” trip. This is an all day boat trip through several of the nearby tropical islands with stops to see, feed and swim with wild pigs on a deserted island, see and feed wild Iguanas found only in Exuma, to swim with (or not) nurse sharks, and to swim and explore Thunderball Cave, made famous in two James Bond films. An exciting and a trip to remember. Well our book tells you who runs the trip, who to contact, how much it costs, and where to go on the big day.
So what have I learned from writing this story? That I can improve my welcome book.
I can add photos. I can make my welcome book more interesting to my valued guests.
In fact I think I will devote some time to making my book, not just factual and informative, but make it a coffee table book and find out how much it would cost to print and present to our guests as a thank you for staying with us. If the improved version sits on their coffee table it could be talking point with friends and, who knows , maybe a new enquiry??
One of the leading providers of adventure trips in Exuma is Out Island Explorers. A family run business headed by Tamara and Dallas, with help from their photogenic boys, Joss and Emit.
Whether your interest is kayaking, sailing, fishing or snorkeling, Out Island have you covered.
Their kayak trips range from a daily rental trip in company with others, with a variety of start points so you can explore different areas of the famous blue waters. Next on their agenda are trips over several days. These usually follow a route through the Exuma Cays with camping each night. The most exciting trip is probably through the worlds first marine park at Waderick Wells Cay, where because of the no fishing rules, the many species of fish, turtles and lobsters are among the largest and more plentiful you are likely to see.
Out Island Explorers also run sailing trips. Their fleet of 21ft shallow draft boats can sail the leeward waters of the islands which are sheltered from the Atlantic resulting in sailing in calm seas enabling you to see through the shallow waters.
The fleet is accompanied by the Out Island staff, with camping at night and camp fire meals. Trips vary from two or three days to an extended trip to Staniel Cay with a flight back to Exuma.
Dallas and Tamara also have a 30ft power boat and will take you for a half or full day charter for either snorkeling, fishing, or a trip to an offshore island, aptly names Sandy Cay, which was the setting for many scenes in “Pirates of the Caribbean”
In addition Out Island Explorers also have a Hobie Cat for rent by the day, or the week.
So, contact Dallas and Tamara for full details and make your Exuma vacation that much more memorable while you stay at Harbour View.
Planning your Exuma Trip? Wondering what to expect, how to get there, what to take, how to get around.
Planning a trip to a new destination is a mixture of excitement and concern. Let me share my twenty years of experience of The Bahamas and Exuma in particular, with you, and answer the many questions that are buzzing through your brain like bees round a honey pot. Maybe checking through our list will calm your nerves, let you relax and enjoy this new adventure.
Exuma, The Island
Exuma is part of The Bahamas, located south east of Florida, and is a tropical island some 80 miles long by between 1 and 5 miles wide with the deep Atlantic Ocean on the eastern shore and the shallow sheltered water on its western coast. Famous for its blue warm waters and its friendly locals.
The climate of the islands is tropical with air temperatures varying from 70 degrees in January to 90 degrees in August with only 20 inches of rain per year.
Exuma is subject to hurricanes. The highest risk is in September and October and rather than risk cancellations many properties close at those times. If you are traveling during those months you should give thought to taking out an insurance policy against having to cancel. In fact you should consider whether to insure your trip, whenever you are traveling, to cover those unforeseen circumstances, like medical emergencies.
Planning your Accommodation
So planning your Exuma trip begins with choosing your accommodation. You have a choice of staying at an all inclusive resort (adults only), hotels or rental accommodation. Resorts include Sandals, Lumina Point, St Frances Resort, all of which have their own websites. Then hotels range from Peace and Plenty, Beach Resort, Hideaways and Augusta Bay. Then there are many rental properties in Exuma and if you choose from the selection listed on the three major listing sites you will be paying a premium of around 20% extra. My advise would be check the newer websites that do not charge a commission, such as Houfy.com and VacationSoup.com or contact me for advise.
Planning your Flight to Exuma
Planning how to get to Exuma involves choosing the flight as there are no ferries that can get you there. So you have your accommodation sorted, now to flights. Your destination is Exuma International (GGT) and we have direct flights arriving from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, Toronto, Charlotte and Nassau. For more information on flights with contact details go to our website links page.
You must also provide evidence that you have a return ticket to your country of residence.
Getting Around in Exuma
So you have your flight sorted and you know where you are staying. Next step in planning your Exuma trip is deciding how you are going to get around and explore the islands many beaches and oceanside bars and restaurants and shops. There is no public transport in Exuma, you have the option of renting a car or relying on taxis. My advise is rent a car. I know its another expense but when you rent a car you can go where you want when you want. Sudden decision to go to a restaurant? if you have a car… off you go. No car then wait for half an hour while a taxi drives from the airport. Finished your meal? Wait another thirty minutes for a taxi and be faced with a hefty bill. So rent a car. For a list of providers and contact details again go to http://harborviewexuma.com./links
Planning Ahead for the Trip
So now the dates are getting closer and its time to turn to the next part of our planned trip to Exuma. We need passports for everyone, are they up to date? Do they all have at least six month between the trip and when our passports expire?
If traveling on a US, Canadian or EU passport do not need a visa to visit The Bahamas.
If you are planning on bringing a drones to get those fabulous aerial shots, be aware that you need a license. for full details go the government website . If you do not have the license then your drone will be held at customs and you can only retrieve it as you leave.
The Bahamian Currency
Note that the currency in The Bahamas is the Bahamian dollar but you do not want to get Bahamian currency for your trip, get US dollars. The Bahamian dollar is pegged to the US dollar so the rate of exchange is 1:1. When you pay for goods in Exuma you can pay in US dollars or Bahamian dollars, or a mixture of both, and any change may well be a mixture of both. Just ensure that when you leave Exuma you change any Bahamian bills you may have back to US currency.
Some shops and restaurants take credit cards. Some charge a fee for the use of credit card. Some places do not take cards, so have the cash available. There are ATMs around the island.
Packing for your Trip to Exuma
So now your vacation dates are close and you are getting ready to pack. The climate in Exuma is tropical and dress is casual. So pack cotton and light weight linen clothes. For men shorts are OK day and evening, lightweight long pants if you are more comfortable. The most important item is swimwear, pack plenty, you will probably spend most of your time in swimwear. Ladies take some wraps to wear over swimwear when in town or traveling, locals will not be comfortable seeing you in a bikini shopping, take wraps. Another useful item is a lightweight windproof jacket so if you go on the famous swimming pigs trip, when you get out of the water and back in the boat, you will not feel cold when the boat speeds up and you are still wet. Pack hats for sun protection, flip flops and water shoes so you can walk across rocks at the waters edge.
If you are traveling with a partner and taking two pieces of luggage then a wise precaution would be to pack half of your clothes and half of your partners clothes in one bag and the other half in the second bag. Then if one of the bags gets delayed or lost, you both still have some clothes to wear. Whereas if you pack all yours in one bag and that bag goes missing then you will be a bit stinky by the end of the trip !
If you are traveling in the cooler months like November through February, a thin wetsuit or shortie would be good for swimming.
Next part of planning your Exuma trip are items other than clothes that you should consider. Are you taking your laptop? Your I Pad? or other electronics, if so don’t forget your charger or USB plugs. The electronics in The Bahamas is 120 volt and the plugs are the same as in the US. So if traveling from Europe you will need to bring a converter plug.
Have you checked if a hair dryer is provided at your room?
Now some advise when traveling. Don’t have labels on your luggage with your home address. It has been known for thieves to spend time at airports noting the addresses on luggage then robbing the home knowing that the owners are away on vacation. Any external labels should only have your name and cell phone number. The full address should be inside the luggage.
Ladies do not take your best jewelry. It not worth the risk of losing expensive earrings on the beach. Similarly check that your wedding ring is not loose, loosing that when swimming could be a disaster. Your on vacation so use fashion jewelry.
Don’t forget that you cannot have liquids in your hand luggage, those must go in your check-in luggage.
Medicines. Packing for your trip it is easy to forget to get sufficient medication and remember to pack it. Bring your prescriptions with you. We do have a hospital and a pharmacy on island, so if you run out of your prescription medicine you could get refills.
Cell Phones in Exuma
If your cell phone does not work in Exuma you could call in at Bahamas Telephone office in George Town and purchase a local SIM card and have them fit it. Dont forget to keep the original card somewhere safe to replace it in your phone when you head home. Lastly don’t forget the charger.
Your drone will be held by customs if you do not have a license to import it. See notes above and in the government website
Importing Items into Exuma
There are some items that cannot be imported into any Bahamian island, and these restrictions may effect you if you are stay at a self catering address. No fresh fruit or vegetables. If you are bringing in meat or cheese make sure it is in its original packaging. You are allowed to import up to $100 worth of goods.
Exporting items from Exuma
If you are thinking that at the end of your trip you would like to take back some fish or lobsters then be aware there are limits to the size of catch you can export. They are: 6 pelargic fish such as mahi mahi, wahoo, king fish or tuna. 6 lobsters (during lobster season) and a maximum of 20lbs of other fish.
I trust that this information helps you have a smooth and trouble free holiday on our tropical island and that one thing you definitely take home are fond memories.