After arriving at Tiamo, I freshened up, and by 6 p.m. I was standing on the porch in my best version of fancy — a scooped summer top paired with a flowered skort, which looks like a miniskirt but has a hidden pair of shorts underneath. I was relieved to see the Tiamo attire that Miller and especially Wring had chosen. Miller wore a pressed shirt and slacks and Wring had on white cropped pants and a silky red tank matched with a scarf.
In the dining area, we were met by an elegant Frenchman named Wilfred Vincent, Tiamo’s general manager. As the sun set, he guided us through several secluded bungalows, each with its own unique interior design that would have impressed Martha Stewart
We sat down to cocktails next to the infinity pool and listened to Vincent make a presentation about the amenities of the lodge. The bar was the focal point, and above it hung an incredible contemporary chandelier that must have been a nightmare to import and install. It was gorgeous, and the multicourse meal was delicious. While some of the men in our group anxiously scanned the waterfront for fish movement, I made mental notes of the guests.
Everyone was part of a couple and some looked to be on honeymoons. All the gals seemed to be enjoying themselves and were comfortable in their surroundings. Tiamo, which means “I love you” in Italian, had a much different vibe than any other fishing lodge I had been to. Most importantly, it was completely absent of groups of noisy, half-drunk men in casting shirts monopolizing the bar.
When it came time to leave Tiamo, admittedly I was a little sad, but it was a beautiful slick-calm evening to travel by boat with new friends. All the phosphorescent sea creatures lit up in our wake. We were jolted away from our Tiamo afterglow as hull met sand. The boat was high and dry, and the captain dispatched a less glamorous flat-bottom boat to get us back to our van, which was located just a few hundred yards away.
Back at Swains Cay, despite being exhausted, I could not sleep. My mind was crunching everything I had experienced in the past 24 hours. I had survived my three least favorite situations in one day. At the same time, Miller and Wring had done a great job of presenting the extremes of available amenities on Andros. My first Bahamas bonefish experience was at the Andros Island Bonefish Club almost 20 years ago, so I wanted to compare the two trips before my memories were fogged by new island experiences.
My first Bahamas trip was like winning the lottery. I was a guest of Lefty Kreh at the Andros Island Bonefish Club. For an entire week, I was poled around by the legendary Capts. Rupert and Dennis Leadon while Kreh cracked jokes.
The Bahamas has changed drastically since my first experience. It is still a world-class flats-fishing destination, but it’s not just for hard-core eat, sleep and fish anglers. The best changes benefit couples, families, the adventurous and the budget-conscious.
The focus of our trip was to visit spots that were more couples-friendly. On Andros, Tiamo and Swains Cay represented the extremes. Tiamo was fabulous and, yes, expensive. On the flip side, Swains Cay was comfortable and accessible to the community and had Wi-Fi. I would be happy there for a week, but it is not a spot for a “high maintenance” gal. We did not visit Stella Maris Resort on Andros, but it has a great reputation for pampering the women. We did, however, make a stop at the Grand Isle Resort on Exuma, which was the stop that blew my mind the most. Staying there was fabulous and way beyond my budget; it was also a long drive from the flats. With just a few hours left before heading home, Wring and Miller surprised us with an English breakfast at the quirky new CarriEarl Boutique Hotel on the Berry Islands. This was a definite couples spot, with a quiet romantic feel.
While the Grand Isle Resort completely blew me away, I have to say my favorite place that we visited was Green Turtle Club and Marina on Abaco. This marina and hotel was not a swanky or exclusive retreat, which is why I liked it. It was easy to walk or to jump into a golf cart and cruise the welcoming community. All my fishing, diving and sailing girlfriends who have visited Green Turtle absolutely love it. It’s awfully tough to not like Abaco in general — no matter if you are a man or a woman.
It was really gratifying to finally make it back to the Bahamas and find it better than what I fondly remembered. I kept searching for the isolated, windblown feeling that I recollected so strongly, but never found it. Instead, Wring and Miller exposed me to an incredible diversity in accommodations and island character, which is one of the most charming aspects of the islands. They also made me think about what makes a good trip beyond the flats.