Our guide is Brendan Stevens. He has a nice smell of warm sand about him and his smile is like a benediction. Captain Brendan is a star of the archipelago, a charismatic leader in the depths of the sea, the joker of the abysses. He has the good looks of a god and you’ll find his photo everywhere on the tourist leaflets. We take to the sea. The sky is grey but Brendan is laughing. He was born here so the choppy waters don’t frighten him! He puts on some reggae music to calm the atmosphere and turns up the volume – “Every little thing’s gonna be alright” sings Bob Marley, who used to live in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. These days Marley’s house has been transformed into an unremarkable, and horribly expensive, hotel. Suddenly everything stops: the sea, the sky, the boat. The sun comes out in full and shines above our boat, the water is crystal clear. With our flippers, masks and snorkels, we’re ready to take the plunge.
So many fish have turned out for us! It’s as if we’d promised them a prime time television slot or they had already heard we were coming. There are all kinds of fish – blue, yellow, red speckled ones, cute mini ones that resemble escapees from a Walt Disney cartoon, Nemo’s friends and Polochon’s cousins. Rayfish bury themselves in the sand like FBI moles that have infiltrated the depths. We’re delighted. The fish swim snobbishly past us, passing only centimetres from our flippers and with an air of the untouchable, they make their way along before doubling back from where they came, disappearing behind rocks before out they come out again. There’s no stress for these fish!
Suddenly a shadow makes directly for the depths, armed with a harpoon. I scarcely have the time to recognise Brendan before he resurfaces and bursts out laughing with two huge, wriggling crayfish at the end of the blade. It’s time for lunch. The press report calls it a “100% Robinson Crusoe style picnic with the incontestable Brendan Stevens.” This may not sound very reassuring but what they should have said is the unquestionable talent of “Chef Stevens” who is worth every bit of his three (sea) stars! He’s brought vegetables, condiments, fine herbs and white butter and, with the boat moored to an improbable pontoon for a desert island, he cooks up ten sublime braised crayfish as well as a grouper fish, a famous element in Bahamian cooking. Its a unique culinary experience. We eat the crayfish with our hands, our teeth can’t wait to get into its delicate, firm flesh and our feet bathe in the water. Two curious rays approach, attracted by the stirring up of the water, so we share our meal, simply by placing a little fish on our open hands as if for a horse. The ray comes forward and with one suck it’s all eaten. The rays obligingly slide up against our legs to thank us. It’s a wonderfully sensual caress, an exchange between man and his environment... until Odile and Laurence, our two mermaids on the expedition, come running out of the water. Visitors had arrived – two sturdy looking but placid sharks had come to barge in on the rays’ meal!
Brendan has already climbed back aboard the vessel and is waving his big arms around like a dancer - it’s time to leave now for Hope Town. To motivate his crew he takes out a jerry can of punch. But that’s another story entirely…
A valid passport with 6 months remaining and a return ticket (no visa required for British citizens staying less than 3 months.)
To find out more : www.bahamas.com