In the Bahamas, a hard-hit island beckons tourists back
Caribbean / 11 November 2019, 6:00pm / Andrea Sachs
Tip Burrows dropped a low-grade expletive when she saw the beach by Banana Bay Restaurant, on the south side of Grand Bahama Island.
"Holy (bad word)!" said the islander, peering into a freshly carved trench. "That wasn't here before."
Nearly two months after Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas, Tip, who runs the Humane Society of Grand Bahama, was still discovering new evidence of destruction.
On this mid-October afternoon, she had unearthed an inlet on Fortune Beach. As if that weren't alarming enough, the storm surge that had swept away a section of the beach had not come from the ocean lapping at Fortune's feet. It had traversed the island from the north and pushed the sand out to sea like a scene from an eco-horror film.
"We lost two feet of beach," said Danilo Rulli, the restaurant's owner, "but it will slowly come back."
And so will the Bahamas, at possibly an even faster clip than Mother Nature.
To be sure, Dorian was devastating. The strongest storm ever to strike the Bahamas caused at least 65 deaths and damaged or destroyed more than 13 000 homes on Grand Bahama Island and the Abaco Islands, both in the upper reaches of the 500-mile-long archipelago. Economic loss could rise to $7-billion, more than half of the country's gross national product.
But the Bahamas are moving forward - rebuilding homes, reopening businesses, and restoring the spirit of the islands and its people.
"We'll be back bigger and better than before," exclaimed a resident who lives in the East End, the hardest-hit area on Grand Bahama Island.
The Bahamas can soon breathe a tiny sigh of relief. Hurricane season ends November 30, and the tourism high season, which runs from mid-December to mid-April, is just around the bend.
While recovery efforts proceed, the country has started singing a refrain common among destinations rebounding from a natural disaster: If you want to help, come visit.
Money spent on a vacation is a direct deposit to the country's economy. Plus, you can show the islanders that the world cares, that you care. Is a trip to a hurricane-ravaged destination easy? Not always. Is it gratifying? Absolutely.
If you go...
WHERE TO STAY
- Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line
1 E. 11th St., Riviera Beach, Fla.
WHERE TO VOLUNTEER
- Humane Society of Grand Bahama
Coral Road, Grand Bahama Island
Volunteers can help socialize the animals, which entails playing with cats, dogs and two rescue piglets. The center also allows visitors to sign out a dog for a beach trip or other excursion.
- World Central Kitchen
Off Sea Horse Road, Freeport
Volunteers can help assemble the free daily meals prepared by the nonprofit created by Washington chef José Andrés. The facility welcomes helpers - spooners, packers, loaders - from about 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sign up at wck.org/volunteer.