Harbor View Vacation Rental in Exuma

New Peace and Plenty Beach Bar

Peace & Plenty Beach Bar

A lot has been happening in Exuma this summer, especially at the Peace and Plenty Hotel.  Peace and Plenty Hotel is the oldest hotel in Exuma. Originally it was a customs house, then it was converted to a home for the Minns family.  Then the Minns sold to Stan Benjamin who with the help of his sons, converted the property into the hotel so many have come to enjoy.

Peace & Plenty Beach Bar

It was about two years ago that the hotel changed hands. The new owners updated the property and have built a great reputation for hospitality and cuisine.

Then this summer we heard that Peace and Plenty had taken over the luxury resort on Stocking Island known as Lumina Point.  Currently closed for hurricane season and therefore receiving a new coat of paint and some modification ready for another busy season.

Peace & Plenty Beach Bar

But it doesn’t stop there !  Now P&P have taken over the eco friendly resort of Higgins Landing, again on Stocking Island.  While the cottages are being renovated, the new P&P Beach Bar has been constructed.  With a fully stocked bar  in the capable hands of Wizard, and the BBQ ably controlled by Jerome, and the whole enterprise managed by Greg.   So  great burgers and generous drinks at reasonable prices, What more could you want?  How about the softest, safest white sand beach you could imagine with sunbeds and umbrellas and rental paddleboards to explore.  All this in the protected calm waters of Elizabeth Harbour.

Peace & Plenty Beach Bar

Take the water taxi or rent a boat from Minns Water Sports and have a fun day out, Sun, Sand, Music ( a little on the load side for my tastes, but I’m an old fart!).

So welcome to the Peace and Plenty Beach Bar, keep the Kaliks cold, the burgers hot and the beach pristine.  Good Luck Guys!   May you prosper and grow like Dora-Lee from years ago

Planning your Vacation…Book Direct & Save

Harbour View Exuma

Book Direct

Book Direct is simply cutting out the middlemen fees. Simple.

  • You, the guest, save money when you Book Direct
  • The Hospitality Owner saves money
  • You get better, local (not overseas) customer service
  • The Owner gets better information
  • You get personalized ideas and help with your vacation, plus support local businesses.
  • The Owners get to share their pride in their community with visitors

Hotel vs Vacation Rental? Still Book Direct?

Sometimes a hotel is the perfect way to go. Like a quick one night stopover on your way to somewhere else. But when you are coming to the Grand Circle to do the Parks and explore the endless red rock trails and all that Southwestern Utah has to offer, you are gonna need a few days.We are all about the beauty of the Vacation Rental experience.But even Hotels now are educating travelers to Book Direct. From small boutique hotels to large chains like Hilton and Marriot, from Vacation Rental owners to B&B associations, hospitality owners and managers are educating travelers about Book Direct.The Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals has asked travelers to Join The Movement

Hoteliers have joined forces with Vacation Rental owners for #BookDirectDay the first part of every February to help spread awareness through social media. Not just that one day, but every day.We understand when putting considerable $$ down on a vacation we all need assurances. Especially in this day of scammers everywhere we turn. I’m sure you have seen them on social media and the news. We all have cause for concern. So how do you plan your next vacation?


Booking Your Vacation

Most travel accommodation bookings happen in one of two ways.

– You the Traver, look online. The first 2-3 pages of Google will be one of the big OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) and their paid ads, such as VRBO, Airbnb, Homeaway, etc. You find a great place to stay and book through that middleman platform.

OR

– You do a little more research and find a great place to stay and book directly with the owner of that VR (or Vacation Rental) Property. (Go to the bottom of this page to find ideas on how to do that “little more research”!)

Let’s talk about those two differences –


Why Book Direct?

 Pricing and Payments –  Let’s get the biggie$ out the door first!

Pricing

Straight up – the best price will always be when you book direct – no service fees or commission added on for the middle man!

So here is the deal on why the price varies – Airbnb and VRBO/Homeaway charges each guest a variable service fee on each booking.

  • – As owners, we can not even tell you what that service fee is going to be. They do not show us. All we know is they have “Algorithms” that determine your fee according to “the current dynamics”

logo From Airbnb Help Page: “This fee is typically under 13% of the booking subtotal. The fee varies based on a variety of booking factors and is displayed to guests during checkout before they book a reservation.”

Great. So most folks can plan on somewhere under 13% in extra service fees from Airbnb…..?

As an owner, I also pay Airbnb an additional 3-5%.

In December 2016, VRBO and HomeAway were both purchased by Expedia for 4 BILLION dollars.Now, Expedia needs to earn back that money. Open your wallet, that commission is coming from you.Prior to 2017 Owners paid a flat rate to Vrbo for listing on their site. Now owners pay a flat rate or a Pay-Per-Booking rate AND our guests get to pay a fee. Don’t know how much.logo From the Vrbo help page “How is the fee calculated? The service fee is a percentage of the total amount of the reservation, excluding taxes and refundable fees. The percentage rate may change from time to time. Generally, the higher the reservation amount, the lower the percentage of service fee.”

Great. So most folks can plan on between 6-12% in extra service fees from Vrbo…..?

As an owner, I also pay Vrbo an additional 8-9%.

Booking.com has no traveler fees, Yay! Oh wait, Booking.com charges owners a 15% commission. I promise you are paying that. Owners must add that commission to your price or they are not going to stay in business.

As an owner, I pay Booking.com 15%


Payments

– The large, OTAs will tell you that theirs is the ONLY safe way to rent a Vacation Rental.

Please rest assured, all of our Credit Card processing is safe and secure, done by Stripe or PayPal. You enter the info and submit on our easy, professional reservation software. We never see your number and only use the most secure portals.Would you rather send a check or Venmo and get a 3% discount? We can do that!Want to split your booking in two separate payments? We can do that.We have even been known to take cash at the door (gasp 😀). Whatever makes you the most comfortable. (After your initial deposit to secure your dates)

  • Owners do not receive your OTA payment until the day after you check in with Airbnb, and VRBO has recently changed to 3-7 days after you check-in instead of “at time of payment”!? (I promise this has owners on edge, yikes! What are they doing with your/my money all that time?)

Extra Fees

Most homeowners will try really hard to keep all those add-ons to a minimum. There are a few we may not have control over. Taxes or HOA resort fees are a couple. We may have some say over cleaning fees and pet fees, but for us remote hosts, we are in the hands of those good housekeepers that we want to keep.

  •   – The price advertised on the OTAs is SELDOM the price you end up with. And we owners have no control over that! They love to give you an “average” price that often includes high season and low season rates. Plus those ambiguous “Service” fees that mysteriously go up and down….
  •   – Most Short Term Vacation Rentals will charge a separate cleaning fee. Why do they do that and Hotels do not? Argh, a pain point for all of us!

Cleaning fees

Hoteliers have many rooms to keep up so can keep a full-time staff and often pay housekeeping extremely low wages and roll it into their rates. Vacation Rentals have far fewer turnovers, yet still need to keep good, reliable housekeepers.

Housekeepers in our area get $25 hr. for VRs. How long do you think it takes to REALLY clean a two-bedroom, two-bath house? I have done it many times and I promise it is NOT happening in less than four hours! My housekeeper and I pride ourselves on “Super Clean” and our reviews show it.

Can I negotiate?

If someone were to ask to negotiate the cleaning fee – as I recently saw recommended in a Washington Post article – I would just ask them which toilet they prefer not cleaned or which floor they would rather not have mopped or which sheets they don’t want washed…? It really does take that long. But still, I know how we all HATE added cleaning fees. I tried rolling it into the rate for a while, but it put my rate so much higher than all the other area properties I was not even in the competition. So I met guests halfway! My cleaner charges $100 for a turnover, I charge guests half and I pay half. Because I really do want you to have “all the way” clean! And a reasonable rate.

If you find a VR with no cleaning fee, then the owner is doing it themselves and not getting reimbursed, or have rolled into their nightly cost.

did you know  – Our tax rate includes sales tax and TRT or transient room tax. Taxes for the city, county and state. Ugh. Death and taxes…… What more can I say. The “added fee” that none of us can do anything about.


Communication

OTAs insist on all communication through their site, for your safety. I think it’s to make sure they don’t lose any of their cut of the proceeds. How does talking to me make you less safe??

What it does do, is keep me from calling you to let you know there is a real person here.It keeps you from calling me to see what are the best tours in our area, or what’s my favorite hiking trail. Communication is essential for your perfect vacation!

  • did you knowIf you send me your phone number or email address the OTA will redact/remove the number or email from the note you wrote.
  • did you know  – If you contact me on an OTA, I am bound to book you on the OTA. And I am fine with that. That is the bargain I have made with the OTA for advertising on their site. We made a deal. So please do not email me from their platform and ask to Book Direct once you see the fees. I cannot do that. I will get kicked off the platform🙁.

Guarantees

Some good, some bad, just educate yourself on possible scenarios. Admittedly, there are some bad owners out there. Just remember there are two sides to every story. (Spoiler: Most of those 5-star reviews, are for great hosts with lovely homes, not the VRBO corporation 😀)

My Guarantees

  • did you know – If you have a problem or a question with the home or area, It is myself, my husband or our housekeeper that will help you with every question and make sure you have everything you need. It will never be someone in a call center on the other side of the world, it will not even be someone in a nice corporate office (even if they did know the best restaurants in Exuma, and they don’t. )

  • did you know we have a basic Short term Rental agreement we both sign. You promise to treat my home nice and I promise to have everything nice as promised.
  • did you know – I will ask for a copy of your photo ID at the time you sign the rental agreement. That way I’m guaranteed you are who you say you are. And you are guaranteed someone didn’t just take your credit card and try and go on vacation with it!
  • did you know My home is not “an Airbnb” or “a VRBO”. Even if I do advertise on their site. (But sometimes they like to act like they own it, when they dictate who I may or may not rent to and under what conditions…..sheesh. I wish they would pay their share of the mortgage then….. Sorry, I digress.)

So how do you know if WE are Guaranteed owners with your best interests at heart!?

Good question. Here are some ideas – 

  • Go to  https://www.visitsouthernutah.com/ The Kane county tourism website, you will find The Western Star Bungalow and The Star Garage Studio in their listings. Call and ask to speak to Josie if you would like to ask questions about us. 1-800-SEE-KANE

  • Call Kanab city offices 435-644-2534 ask them if John and Sherene McClellan have a current business license for My Star Vacation rentals.
  • Go into Honeys Marketplace (largest grocery store) in Kanab, Ask for Susan Honey the owner, ask her about The Western Star Bungalow or The Star Garage Studio. 260 E 300 S, Kanab
  • Call me, Sherene McClellan at 435-262-6119 or
  • My husband John McClellan at 435-262-1000

We would love to answer ANY questions you might have.


Help me find a “Book Direct” property. Or, how to do that “little more research” we talked about!

teach me

  • Look for LOCAL area rental sites. Search for “whatever my destination is”, “vacation rentals” or “Book direct”. Scroll down past the OTA paid ads.
  • Search on Fee Free sites such as VacationSoup.com or Houfy.com
  • Find a place you like on an OTA, then search the name of the property or owner in search engines and social media. Savvy owners can leave you clues, but direct info is banned from the listing sites. (I had a guest recently follow my breadcrumbs to my website and saved $500 on her family’s stay!)
  • Search Local area Tourist information sites
  • I have a small list of other trusted great owners from around the world. Might spark your next great adventure! https://mystarvr.com/stays-around-the-world/

So here is a break down of “Booking your Vacation Rental Direct” Pros – 

  • Cheaper, it really is
  • More space than a hotel room for your group
  • Kitchens for meal prep if you want
  • Real owners, no middle man
  • Localized knowledge. We can recommend some AWESOME places
  • Flexible payments
  • Direct communication
  • Some of the nicest properties are not on the OTAs (Some of the great experienced hosts are fed up with OTA greed. Some of us little guys just can’t make it alone quite yet…)

You cannot replace an Owners passion with the Corporate process.

Personal passion vs corporate processCheers and Good luck when planning your next vacation, wherever you might stay! -Sherene and John

Don: “This report is so thorough and accurate that I left the dedication to Sherene and John who own “The Western Star Bungalow” intact.  The same comments and money saving advise applies equally to our rental Harbour View in Exuma.  So whether you want a vacation in Utah or Exuma or wherever, talk direct to the knowledgable, local owners to get peace of mind and savings….Book Direct and Save”

Shark Attacks in The Bahamas

nurse sharks

Should a restaurant feed sharks?

How can a restaurant pull in more clients?  One way a beachside restaurant can increase its clientele is to provide some attraction other than the quality of their food.

In the case of a beachside restaurant on a tropical island one easy way is to dump the food scraps into the ocean at the same time each day and watch as a group of sharks (what is the collective name for a group of sharks?) have a feeding frenzy. Then spread the word that you can watch a shark frenzy here.

This idea works, as Exuma has experienced on at least two ongoing restaurants.

When Gail and I bought a parcel of land in the Hartswell area we thought we had gone to heaven without dying !  We had amazing views over what was a deserted island which was to become a National Park. We could swim and sail our Hobie Cat  in calm waters. 

Lemon Shark

Then a nearby restaurant, the Bonefish Lodge which as the name suggests, was a popular haunt of the fishing fraternity, decided that they needed to increase their restaurant trade. after some deliberation they decided to add shark feeding to their menu. For only a matter of days they chummed the Ocean waters adjacent to their verandah before the nocturnal visitors would arrive for their evening meal.

It worked !  Their customer numbers increased and they enjoyed a good meal and an entertaining half hour watching the terrors of the seas bare their teeth.

What was good news for the restaurant was scary news for us local residents.  We feared that the sharks would associate humans with food.  That they would use that association to chomp down on a swimmer.

Eventually the restaurant changed owners and the feeding was discontinued.

Many years later, one of Exuma’s most popular beachside eateries was faced with the problem of what to do with their increasing volume of food waste, when we only get one bin collection per week.  Since its biodegradable, it could be dumped into the ocean.  Plus if it is done daily towards the end of their opening hours, it would pull in more clients.  Problem solved !  No more smelly waste sitting in a bin in the direct sun, attracting flies, wild dogs and other undesirables.  And increasing their profits. Win Win.

The good news is that the restaurant have rethought this practice, and shark feeding has stopped.

After 20 years of living on this beautiful island, swimming frequently and not expiring a problem, I believe that sharks get a bum rap.

lemon shark

I acknowledge that there are (and always will be) cases of sharks attacking people but considering the number of people swimming on a daily basis, and the number of sharks there are in the ocean, the risk of being attacked is infinitesimal.  I suggest that coastal  sharks see swimmers frequently but do not attack.  Ask yourself why would an intelligent creature attack a larger creature when they have the option of feeding on smaller prey that cannot defend themselves.

Just about every shark attack you hear of, involves the shark biting a limb then releasing their grip. Unfortunately that can often cause severe blood loss. Often the victim is a surfer with an arm or leg dangling in the water,  or someone spear fishing with a speared fish struggling and attracting the shark.

So, take precautions such as:  don’t wear shiny jewelry, if you are spear fishing and see a shark dump anything you may have caught, if you see a shark get out of the water but do not panic, exit in a calm and smooth manner. Enjoy your time at the beach.

Exuma Weather in July

Girl on a Beach

So what weather can you expect on your July vacation in Exuma?

As the calendar moves from June to July we are into the height of summer and also statistically, we are in hurricane season.  In the 20 plus years we have lived in Exuma I do not recall experiencing a hurricane in July, that problem is usually threatening in September.

Girl at Sunset

So back to the weather. Our temperature statistically shows highs of 87 degrees F ( 30 C) during the day and 78 degrees F (26 C) at night.  But, as a believer in global warming, and someone who has just experienced one of the hottest Junes on record, I suggest that you can add a couple of degrees to have us hovering around 90 F.

Swim Time

While June is statistically one of our wettest months, July offers us up to one inch of rain for the month.

Humidity has by now soared into the high nineties with a 13 knot breeze providing a little cooling effect.

Now to the good news !  The Ocean has really warmed and is now a toasty 84 F (29 C) degrees, Yippee !  So no excuses for missing that dip.

So July is on our doorstep, it’s going to be hot and humid, so keep hydrated,  loads of water,  loads of sunscreen.

So why not picnic on a soft sand Exuma beach, choose one with shade and exposure to the East to get that cooling breeze, and spend your day in and out of the Ocean till you become all wrinkly !…. Enjoy

The Bahamas National Trust

Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park

Ilya Tolstoy was the grandson of the famous Russian playwright. Ilya was a naturalist and he visited and fell in love with the islands of The Bahamas back in the 1950s.

He became very concerned that irreparable damage could be done to the ecology and natural beauty of the islands by  developers.  So Ilya got together a group of conservationists including The Audoban Society, the US parks service, and Miami University. The group produced a report which was presented to The Bahamian Government.

The year was 1959 and after much debate the government decided to establish the first Land and Sea Park in the World.

The responsibility for managing this unique undertaking  was put in the hands of The Bahamas National Trust and the area was named The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.

This is the 60th year that the Bahamas National Trust has managed this, and other younger parks, including The Moriah Harbour Cay National Park which we see daily and visit often from our home in Hartswell to appreciate the natural unspoiled beauty of this pristine setting.

Moriah Harbour Cay National Park
Moriah Harbour Cay National Park

Rare Animals in Exuma

Exuma Iguanas

We have seven species of Bahamian Rock Iguanas in The Bahamas. In the Exuma chain of islands we have one species that is protected and endangered with around only 5000 animals remaining.

These brown bodied creatures grow to between 2.5 to 3 feet long. They are plant eaters and their diet includes the manchineel plant which is toxic to humans. They get their moisture from the plants they eat and it is believed they do not need water to survive.

The female lays between three and a dozen eggs at around 6 years old, which she buries in the sand. After 3 months the babies hatch and dig their way to the surface. They have a ridge along their spine which is used to dissipate excess heat.

If attacked they can disconnect their tale, which will regrow.  Iguanas have a life span of around 40 years.

These friendly creatures can be seen if you take the all day excursion known as the swimming pigs trip.

Exceptional Place and Hosts !

Exuma Sailing Regatta

Harbor View is a magical place and as nice and peaceful as its owners.
The balcony view is GRANDIOSE, probably one of the most beautiful on the island.
And when we add to that the perfect location of the house … (in the southern part of the island which appeared to us wilder and calmer than the northern part … even if the whole island is very calm in general)
I thank again Gail & Don for their warm welcome, their very good advice to make our stay perfect… and help received after the puncture of my car tire the day of my arrival!
Thank you for everything and don’t hesitate to go to Harbor View … It’s Paradise!

Exploring the Ocean around Exuma

Launching the sub into the Tongue of the Ocean

This is the third in a series of articles about Exploring the Ocean around Exuma:-

Attaching a modified speargun to the front of the Nadir and travelling down to 800 meters (2624 feet), the scientists hoped to tag a Bahamian sixgill in the safest, most humane way possible.

Although their efforts were unsuccessful, they came close. “The shark came right in front of the sub, but it was just a little too high up,” Talwar said. “Just putting in the legwork was great. It’s never been done on a sub before at those depths.”

Another key objective during August’s mission was to sample the water at 200-800 meters (656-2,624 feet) to test for environmental DNA (eDNA). “When an animal swims around, it leaves little pieces of DNA behind in the water,” Talwar said. “We are trying to see if environmental DNA can reveal the abundance of certain species.”

The team had specially adapted bottles attached to the front of the sub that collected water. The water was then run through filters in the lab and the results cross-referenced with footage the team took from the site to see if the species caught on camera are the same as those identified from the DNA.

Sharks

“We put a lot of effort into figuring out where to site protected areas, but a lot of that effort goes into shallow-water areas,” Talwar said, adding that he wanted to see more of a focus on deep-water habitats.

“We want to highlight that there is ecological value down there that is not recognized,” he said. “Going down and shining a light on everything that is often forgotten or not considered was really amazing. Now when we go out to dive, I can look into the deep blue water and know exactly what’s down there.”

Cape Eleuthera Institute Research Associate Brendan Talwar inspects the Deep Rover sub

This the third and final part of the story exploring the depths of the Ocean than borders the islands of Exuma.  The story was first published in Mongabay by Catherine Morris

Exuma’s Valued Souvenirs

Sandpiper Exuma

In previous stories I told you about “free” souvenirs you can take home as mementos of your vacation in Exuma, such as shells and sand dollars, then I told you about “low cost” souvenirs such as straw goods and shell jewelry. This time we move up on the cost scale to see what memory joggers you can purchase for a larger investment.

Exuma’s quality souvenirs immediately make me think of the Sandpiper store in George Town. This popular store, run by Diane Minns and her daughter Jessica, is very tastefully laid out with a vast selection of items to treasure and remind you of your Exuma vacation.

From quality dresses, tops and swim wear, all for tropical climes, in beautiful colors, to silver and shell jewelry  made by local artisans.  from unusual figurines made from wire and epoxy (doesn’t sound very nice but when you see it I think you will be impressed !).

One department is devoted to pottery made by Jessica, this talented lady has cups and bowls and vases. Another is devoted to book and maps, mostly related to The Bahamas.

My favorite area is partly devoted to ceramic tiles with local Bahamian character cottages and scenes of old. Then I can spend ages browsing through the selection of prints from old photographs of Bahama times gone by.

Do Not leave Exuma without a visit to Sandpiper.

Ceramic tiles in Sandpiper
Ceramic tiles in Sandpiper
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