Viva Varun: On Harbour Island!


Answer to “Where am I?”: Harbour Island – The Bahamas

Congratulations to Feroz, Elle and Ted for guessing correctly!

“The name’s Bond, James Bond” is arguably the most famous introduction in cinematic history. The catchphrase was used onscreen by successive Bonds to seduce women and scare villains from “Dr. No” in 1962 until it was retired in 2008, the year when “Quantum of Solace” was released. Of the twenty-four Bond outings (that includes the 1967 Bond spoof “Casino Royale” and “Never Say Never Again”), our hero has visited the Bahamas five times. The islands were used as a glamorous backdrop on “Thunderball” (1965), “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977), “Never Say Never Again” (1983), “Licence to Kill” (1989) and “Casino Royale” (2006).

Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, wrote his spy novels between 1953 and 1966, when the Bahamas was very much part of the British Empire. The Bahamas gained independence from the British in 1973, but is still part of the Commonwealth. The two main industries for the islands are banking and tourism. The Bahamas is the third richest country in the Americas after the USA and Canada. I am not wealthy enough to warrant visiting the Bahamas for my banking needs, but the islands do offer some wonderful luxury hotels and resorts.

After 24 hours of disappointments in the capital city Nassau regarding the airport, hotel, weather and cuisine, I was so pleased to be transported by ferry to Harbour Island, a three-hour journey away. It was a real hell to heaven voyage. I left Nassau in a monsoon, heavy rains and gusting wind, and arrived to a hot, calm and sunny Harbour Island. Measuring just 5.6 kilometres by less than one, the island is just a smudge on the world map, but with some of the most beautiful beaches and clearest seas on Earth, it has become a favourite for discerning travellers.

Most people would settle for fine, white sand on their holiday beaches, but after spending a few days with fine, pink sand between my toes, my bar has been raised. Over the centuries, red coral has mixed with the white sand to produce this amazing pink landscape. I remember visiting Punalu’u Beach on the Big Island in Hawaii and being amazed by the black sand there; the pink sand had the same effect.

Harbour Island is just a short hop from nearby Eleuthera, where the Bahamas story first started. This island is 180 kilometres long and just one wide. To the east of it is the dark blue and sometimes ferocious Atlantic Ocean; to the west, the calm Great Bahama Sound, which boasts every shade of turquoise in the spectrum. Eleuthera was originally inhabited by Arawak Indians who were enslaved by the Spanish and forced to work in the mines of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The Indians were wiped out by the 1550s. In 1648, Captain Sayles and his Puritan brothers and sisters from Bermuda ran aground on the Devil’s Backbone reef. They all escaped with their lives and made Preacher’s Cave their first home. They were known as the Eleutherian Adventurers, the name Eleuthera being derived from the Greek word meaning freedom.

From Eleuthera, explorers populated the neighbouring islands; Harbour Island – still known by the locals as Briland – is one such. I spent over a week on the island: eating conch, snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming in the bathwater-hot sea, drinking Kalik beer and fishing. I tried to keep myself busy, but found it hard as tropical island life (and varying internet signal) forced me to slow down to an almost halt.

I think next time Mr. Bond visits the Bahamas, he should head out to Harbour Island. He would be transformed from the dark, athletic super-spy into the soft, fun-loving civil servant he really wants to be. Harbour Island has that effect.

Oh and by the way, “The name’s Sharma, Varun Sharma”. Who am I kidding?

-Varun Sharma

Varun Sharma is the host of Inside Luxury Travel – a television show that focuses on high-end travel. The show airs in over 160 countries, in 18 languages and is beamed into 390 million homes worldwide. He has now stayed in over 500 luxury hotels & resorts … and has in the past year flown in a fighter jet, gone diving – without a cage – in Tiger Shark infested-waters, had dinner with a dingo and has cooked with over 50 Michelin-starred chefs! He likes nothing better than playing a round of golf with his pooch Gemima by his side, cigar in mouth and flask of single malt Scottish whisky to hand!