The remaining days of our Bahamas vacation were a mostly spent at the Atlantis water park. All of the slides were now open! That's good because by now, all of the cruise ships (up to 5 at a time) have been returning to Nassau after Irene altered their schedules. This meant a large influx of visitors, and having more rides open reduces the lines. However, the best line reducer is a cloudburst!
We experienced the cloudburst that never ended at Atlantis. A squall passed through so we sought shelter under the aquarium viewing area of the Leap of Faith slide. But then it rained. And rained. We kept holding out for a clearing that never came, at least not for 2 hours. By the time we waited it out, the park was virtually empty. A little rain, at 85 degrees, isn't going to keep a few Seattle people from enjoying the water park! When it actually did stop raining, we had the whole place to ourselves for a short time!
We finally had a beach day. We asked several locals which beach they'd recommend to avoid tourists, and they kept looking at us as if we were crazy. Either no such thing exists on the island of New Providence, or they weren't about to divulge to some random tourists they're favorite beach! We figured it was probably a little of both. We settled on Cable Beach and found that it was mostly locals and found our own stretch of sand and even some shade to enjoy.
We half expected the beach to be littered with debris from Irene, but the sand was clear, there was little sign of Irene at all. The water was a little cloudy, but there were a few fishes to see while snorkeling. We also found a number of sunken fishing boats to explore just off shore. A local pointed out a sea turtle, but we were unable to find it, unfortunately.
On a trip marked by several meteorological highlights, another high point came on Saturday night, when a cloud cell passed to the north of the island.
As the sun was setting we could see the flashes from our room. I packed up my gear and booked it to the beach to get photos. Had I known how long the storm would last, I wouldn't have had to run. The lightning was occuring almost every 2-3 seconds, cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground. One thunderhead started to shrink but as soon as it did, another grew beside it and continued the display. Three or four cycles like this occured. The storm also slowly moved toward the island as the evening progressed. I ran out of batteries and returned to the room, at which point we went for a walk to watch it some more.
With fresh batteries we set out to walk around the marina to see if it was possible to get photos of the lightning behind the Atlantis hotel, and it actually worked out pretty well. I also took a few photos of the lightning behind the moored M/V Relentless, a 140 foot yacht that had docked that day. I actually ended up sending one of the ships' engineers some of the photos to show to the owners in case they wanted a copy.
Soon the rain came and we retreated back to our hotel. I could have watched the storm for another 3 hours. It was just amazing. Here's some video of the storm showing just how frequent the lightning really was:
With the water park fully open we took advantage of Monday to see the rest of the water park. We also got in some last minute shopping downtown. The world famous Straw Market was essentially destroyed by hurricane Irene. Sadly, had Irene arrived a month later, their goods would have been safely protected in the new market building currently under construction. The large canvas tent they were in did not stand up to Irene in the least.
With the water park conquered and our shopping done, we were ready to head home.
The flight from Nassau (NAS) to Baltimore (BWI) was the emptiest flight I can remember being on. There were maybe 30 people on the plane plane, which was an Airtran 737-700. The BWI to SEA leg was oversold and filled to the brim, which is typical style these days.