We may be budget travelers, but we ARE in Nassau, home to one of the most expensive hotels in the world, so obviously we decided it was entirely necessary to at least go check it out. We did so later in the day because the aquarium is free after 6 and… well, we are budget travelers after all. We started our day downtown though so we were met with the decision to either walk to and across the bridge or to take the public transportation. Whelp…we’re cheap so we decided to immerse ourselves in the full (free) experience of walking. There is no public bus which goes across the bridge to paradise island, but there is a ferry you can take across for $8USD round trip. That being said….the walk across the bridge takes like five minutes tops, it’s super short and gives you some pretty cool views of downtown and Paradise Island/Atlantis, so why the heck not?
I’ll give you a reason…the walk from downtown TO the bridge itself is sketchyyyyyy! Or, as my lovely Dutch friend, Joelle, would say…”it’s quite dodgy.”
Side note, downtown Nassau is not a scary place to be at all. Every single person I’ve met is amazing, nice, lovely, welcoming, helpful, happy, ugh seriously I love the locals, there’s nothing to fear as long as you’re not stupid. However, there is about a ten block stretch of pretty desolate, abandoned real estate between downtown and the bridges, which we somewhat accidentally ventured into, not realizing JUST how far we had to go. Now luckily it was the middle of the day, it was somewhat dodgy, but there was no point during which I felt unsafe. This was mostly to do with the company I held in the form of a Kiwi Jedi master whom I had befriended from the hostel by the name of Ricki. Also, we were in a small group of 3 and I had my trusty pocket knife on me, which, while probably not actually super useful in a fight seeing as how it is quite literally smaller than my palm (and I have child hands), I feel it helps me exert a sort of confidence that says “she might be a little more trouble than she’s worth.” No matter how much I personally think I’m worth, I can be pretty annoying, it’s all part of my charm. Moving on.
We made it through the dead zone and started our way up and over the bridge, and wow it has some seriously steep grade to it. Like I said, it’s not a long bridge by any means, but wow, the lazy ass in me looked at it and groaned;
spoiler alert though, it wasn’t as steep as it looked once on it and I did have someone ask if I was from heaven. Personally, after this particular experience, I believe the best way to exert yourself is to have someone standing by to compliment you while you do so, though I can’t promise that guy will always be there, ready and willing to sling compliments at every stray tourist wandering by.
Fun fact, since we walked across we didn’t have to pay the toll to get on to the island, so there’s a win for us and our budgets. Now, I would have been insanely lost the entire time we were on Paradise Island, but I was lucky enough to have met a lovely lady by the name of Joelle (previously named Dutch friend from the hostel). She actually works on a charter catamaran (Joelle, is this accurate information? I’m second guessing my memory) in the Bahamas, going between Nassau and the Exumas. Side story…the boat was recently damaged and is currently in Florida being repaired, and while that is happening, Joelle was staying in Nassau awaiting her visa for the US. This means that we basically had our very own tour guide/keep us from getting lost on Paradise Island person, and man did she do a great job. Not only did she give us a little shortcut through an insanely expensive marina with tons of crazy yachts, she also got us straight to the aquarium. While Ricki and I wandered, eyes wide, trying to take in the sights and sounds of the casino and high end stores, Joelle casually glided through without a second thought. What an angel.
We got through the casino and straight to the aquarium and it was only 5:30 so we were pretty stoked we had made it through whatever checkpoint it is that they apparently have. Either we looked like we belonged (which we didn’t) or Ricki and I looked lost enough that they figured we wouldn’t even find the aquarium before 6. Well, if you were betting on the latter, yes we were indeed lost enough that we had some embarrassing difficulties. So we walk in and we can see the aquarium on the level below us.
We look around, and decide to wander along the pathway in front of us, because we’re sheeple (sheep people, keep up). We find some doors to outside, so we go; we were now on the walkways along the top of the aquarium, outside. Very cool, the coolest.
We had fish swimming up and arguing with each other about being fed first, because apparently when a human appears there, they expect food. We had none so they quickly got bored of us and swam off. Then we saw the coolest thing of all, the manta ray. Holy cow! It was huge! But we could only barely see it from the top with the sun reflecting off the water! As it swam though we proceeded to follow it with childlike excitement and curiosity. Literally. Here’s how it went…*peer over the edge, see the manta ray* “WHOAAAAAAA!” *pointing* manta ray swims out of view, *we scurry over to the railing one over from us, peer over the edge, see the manta ray* “WHOAAAAAA!” *pointing* manta ray swims out of view, *we scurry over to the railing another one over from us, peer over the edge, see the manta ray* “WHOAAAAAAAAA!” *pointing*. And you get the gist, just repeat about ten to fifteen times and you’ll be able to picture the childlike scene that was happening. Anyway, we grew tired of seeing this all from above, we wanted to be inside, one level down, seeing this right in front of us! But where were the stairs!?! This place was so confusing!
We found an elevator, but we needed a room key to use it, we kept moving and eventually made our way back inside. We ended up back where we started, so confused, staring at all of the people downstairs going into the aquarium, such joy on their faces and such despair on ours. What could we do? We were losing hope, the world was getting dark and sad, we turned around to look away from the joy we were being deprived of, and alas! Stairs! That was embarrassing, by this point we had spent a solid 30minutes trying to find out how to get downstairs and by the time we were joyously standing at the entrance to the aquarium, it was indeed 6 o’clock and turns out the workers at Atlantis just must have known we were too lost to make it there any time before 6. And if I’m being entirely honest, we even kind of only ended up going inside accidentally because we were, once again, running after the manta rays from panel to panel; it’s almost as if they happily led us into the actual aquarium because they knew how confused we were.
Anyway, this place is flipping awesome! There were all sorts of specific tanks for different fish, my ultimate favorite being the jelly fish,
but then there was also the main big aquarium where there were a ton of schools of fish and of course the two huge manta rays.
So here’s some numbers from the google machine for you…straight from the Atlantis website, “Atlantis, Paradise Island is home to the largest open-air marine habitat in the world… encompassing 14 lagoons, eight million gallons of ocean water and more than 50,000 aquatic animals representing over 250 marine species.” We apparently were at The Dig lagoon, I could attempt to put into words what this consisted of, but how’s a little more direct quoting instead…”Reflecting the tunnels and thoroughfares of the lost continent, The Dig at Atlantis Paradise Island features over 100 venomous Indo-Pacific Ocean Lionfish, 500 piranhas, iridescent jellyfish, and six-foot Moray Eels.
Special environments hold nine species of enormous groupers,
while smaller separate “Jewel Habitats” are home to multitudes of brilliantly-colored tropical fish.”
I am almost positive I saw a sign somewhere saying that a lot of the marine life housed in Atlantis were unable to live in the wild, so this is a sort of “sanctuary,” I don’t know if that’s legit, but I’d like to believe so. Anyway here’s some more photos to break up the text! Yay!
We spent about 45 minutes in the aquarium and made it out in a completely different part of the resort, where, we were, once again, lost.
In the meantime though, we saw another few pools or lagoons with black tipped sharks, more rays, and another with turtles!
We were supposed to be meeting a few other girls from the hostel though so we had to find our way back to the start in order for me to get WiFi back (Atlantis complimentary…useful as long as you’re only trying to use it in one specific place and never move from that general area of the massive resort). We finally found our way, once again due to the amazing Joelle, and we found out the girls were at Margaritaville. THE Margaritaville, unfortunately I spent no more than 5 minutes there, so I don’t have much to say, besides that they have a bar in the pool and I wanted nothing more than to have a drink in it….obviously I didn’t though, so this will not be a story about that. Anyway we all headed back to Atlantis as a group so that Sherri and Jen (two lovely Canadians from the hostel) could experience the true magic. Believe it or not, it took us even longer to go through the aquarium the second time; Sherri and Jen got to experience running from pane to pane after the manta rays just like we had, and, just for fun, we did it all over again along with them and we all took some selfies.
This time, when we finally made it out, we spent some time taking at look at the pool and fountains where the aquarium let us out.
They were, of course, beautiful, and I wanted to go swimming in that pool so bad I almost risked getting kicked out to do so even though I had absolutely no legitimate swimwear with me.
Alas, however, this story does not end that way; instead we made our way slowly back through the resort and casino, where Sherri and Jen gambled $1 each,
and out into marina village, full of insanely overpriced shops. If you ever do stay at Atlantis, please take a day to venture off of paradise island, it is not that scary to do so, I promise, and spend your money at the stores downtown instead. You can get the exact same stuff for almost half the price, AND you get to actually experience the local life a LITTLE more than just staying in your resort…as nice and all-inclusive as it may be.
Before grabbing a taxi and making our way back to the hostel, we decided to grab a quick drink at an awesome little open air bar called Green Parrot.
This place was a killer end to the night, there was live music with a quick interruption from a group of people dressed traditionally playing some (I’m assuming) “local” music.
The drinks weren’t cheap, but they were significantly cheaper than in marina village or in Atlantis, and it was a cool little vibe. Go there if you can, very cool little place; I know Margaritaville is like important and stuff, but this place was better. We finally decided to leave and wandered out in search of a taxi. Here’s the thing, the aquarium may be free after 6, but the public busses stop at 6, so it’s kind of a catch 22. And, good thing for y’all to know about taxis in Nassau, there is no meter. You “barter” with the taxi driver upon getting in to the taxi and come up with a price. That’s where it got a little dicey for us this time…our taxi driver picked us up literally in the middle of a round about, he was driving through it and saw us and stopped in the middle of it. So, that meant that he was rushing us into the taxi and was attempting to ignore our attempts to get a price as he was trying to get out of the middle of the round about; the problem was that it was now dark out and he was driving us onto the bridge and straight into the super dodgy part of town on the other side of the bridge. This was a problem because we were asking him to either give us a price that we could agree on, or to let us out, obviously we didn’t want to be let out in the scary part of town though. So we proceeded to awkwardly and somewhat aggressively yell at him about the price. He tried to say $50 and we told him to let us out, but he wouldn’t, so we finally got him to agree on $30, perfect. It was a little awkward at that point though as he turned the music up super loud and him and his friend started talking about ditching us in an alley because they were sure we had money and could pay more than that…so yeah that was fun.
Atlantis itself was awesome to see, but personally I wouldn’t pay $40 to go see the aquarium during the day. There are a bunch of different packages you can do if you’re not staying at Atlantis, but want to do the aqua park or the aquarium or anything, they start at somewhere around $40 and end up close to $300-$400 whether it’s just the aquarium or swimming with turtles or sharks or rays or dolphins. Otherwise, it’s ALMOST worth it to stay at Atlantis for a few days to get the opportunity to do some of the activities. Two girls who were staying at the hostel did 3 nights at Atlantis in order to be able to do the activities there and they spent $900 for the two of them for 3 nights. Very expensive, yes, but if it’s something that’s important to you personally, it sounds like it can be worth it, they seemed to have an awesome time during their three days and they said that, even though all they ate was cold pizza the whole time they were there (in order to at least save money on food), it was awesome. So really, you choose! Either pay for cheaper accommodation and pay for passes to Atlantis, or pay for Atlantis and get the all inclusive….or just do like us budget travelers and go sneak in on the cheap.
Oh, in case anyone’s wondering….I saw a cat while I was in marina village.
That is all.