Shore excursions for families can be difficult to choose. Many excursions have minimum age limits and may not be condicive to families with varying abilities. We browsed the many shore excursion choices while planning our Freeport, Grand Bahama Island port stop while on a family cruise aboard the Carnival Fantasy. One option that caught our eye was the Freeport Kayak and Nature Experience as it included everything we wanted in an experience – adventure, nature, swimming, beach, lunch, and lessons in geology and natural history. The pricing for this tour begins at $100 per person and is not suitable for younger children due to the activity and length of the tour (6 hours).
It begins with a 20 minute bus ride to the tour company’s base area at Port Lucaya where passengers are divided into smaller groups of 6-8. The small groups depart in vans for another 30 minute narrated ride that introduces the group to the history of the area and a bit of what will be included during the experience. There is a last minute restroom break before arriving at the kayak launch point. I highly suggest all members of the party take advantage of this stop.
Kayak through Mangroves – Lather on the sunscreen before loading your gear into the waterproof bags provided by the tour company. Be sure to have a bottle of water handy for your trip which last about 1.5 hours. The kayaks are open cockpit and seat two. Don’t worry if this is your first kayak experience as the waters are very calm on this tour. We did go through a few narrow areas and no one turned over their kayaks or had any major issues. My husband made the comment that if a honeymooning couple can survive a two person kayak experience, then their marriage can survive anything. My daughter and husband shared a kayak while my son and I were in another. Fortunately, my son and I managed to supress the urge to throw each other out of the vessel, even though we both wanted to control the kayak!
Beach Break for Lunch – After the kayak portion of the experience, we pulled ourselves across the creek Tom Sawyer style on a wooden, rope-pulled ferry (which the kids enjoyed). It was a short walk through a pathway that led to a gorgeous beach called Gold Rock Beach. Gold Rock Beach is part of Lucayan National Park and both Disney productions of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End used this beach for filming. Lunch was picnic style sandwiches but my kids were more worried about running down to the beach and playing in the water. There were less than 10 people on this stunning stretch of sand and I’ll admit that I hurried to finish my own lunch so that I could get into the water myself. We had a little over an hour in the water, giving the kids plenty of time to make sand turtles and relax in the water.
Nature Tour – Our beach time ended and headed back into the wooded area to observe the natural plants and local birds. We saw an iguana and stopped near the mangroves to feed the fish. The water was so clear that we could identify the various types of fish that inhabit the creek area. Our guide, Ben, was super-knowlegeable and entertaining. He gave us a history of the island and incorporated it into our walk. I don’t think the kids even realized they were being educated because they enjoyed the experience.
Natural Geology – An exciting part of our experience included sea cave exploration. Lucayan National Park is home to one of the largest underwater cave systems in the world and is also one of the most environmentally distinct. We first went into Ben’s Cave, which is the largest of the caves in this system. Our guide, Ben Rose, is a cave diver and also whom the cave is named after.We did spent longer than planned at this cave to watch two divers descend into the water but we also learned about the blind Remipedia (discovered in the late1970s but have been around for millions of years). Plus, seeing all the bats hanging around was cool. The next cave was Burial Mound Cave, named because of the skeletal remains of indigenous Lucayans found on the floor area in a second chamber of this cave. It was a relaxing end to a long day of exploring.
Our ride back to the Carnival Fantasy was quiet as all of us were wiped out from the sun and fun. Fortunately, guide/driver Ben stayed alert and we arrived at the port with a bit of time left to shop and enjoy the local brew – Sands Beer.
If You Go – Remember that there is a minimum age limit and this is an all day tour. Take advantage of that last-minte restroom break and be sure to bring along a big bottle of water. The tour information states that closed-toe shoes are recommended. I wore tennis shoes and wish I would’ve worn sandals. You’ll want to bring a beach towel, sunscreen, and even bug spray along.
Budget Alternative – Not everyone can afford a $100 tour per person in their party or there may be little ones who can’t go on this tour. This experience was well worth the price, but an affordable option is to rent a car and bring along a picnic lunch to Gold Rock Beach. The Lollipop Road offers their experience on this affordable travel option, along with tips to help you plan the best time to visit.
Disclaimer: This experience was provided courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines.