Columbus Isle/San Salvador 2016

June 2 to 9 2016    

Let me explain the title of this article. San Salvador is the actual name of the island we visited in the Bahamas but because this is believed to be the island where Columbus first landed in the New World it is also called Columbus Isle.

I had never heard of Columbus Isle Bahamas until last year. We were at Sharky’s beach bar at Club Med in Turks and Caicos. The manager of Seafari (the dive shops for Club Med) for Columbus Isle was at the bar and we started talking to him. He told us that we could see hammerhead sharks and more reef sharks if we dive at Columbus Isle. We saw sharks almot every dive in the Bahamas..Right at that moment we knew we would be going to Columbus Isle in the near future.

We met Doug and Stephanie at Sharkies in Turks and Caicos too. We ended up diving together and having a cocktail or two. We kept in touch and decided to go on a dive vacation at Columbus Isle to see the sharks.

American is the only major airline to fly into Columbus Isle. It has a direct flight from Miami into Columbus Isle twice a week.

It would have been cheaper for us to use frequent flier miles on Delta to get into Miami and then take the American flight to San Salvador.The problem is if the Delta flight was delayed or canceled it would be half a week before we could get another flight into Columbus Isle, if that flight had space.

If the entire flight was on American they would have to figure a way to get us to Columbus Isle or refund our flight and vacation. I am glad we booked the entire flight on American. It came in handy for the return.

Our flight out of Minneapolis was at an impossibly early 5:30 am.  We were up late the night before packing so we had very little sleep when we boarded the plane.

We had hours to kill once we landed in Miami. It was 10 am and we were hungry because we had already been up for hours without breakfast. We tried to find someplace that served breakfast but most restaurants in MIA stopped breakfast at 10 am.

We did find a Cuban restaurant that still had their breakfast sign out. We tried to order but they had stopped breakfast but they didn't take the sign in. We actually speak a little Spanish but we had a hard time conversing with the person behind the counter so we just ordered coffee and a pastry.

We caught up with Doug and Stephanie at the gate. They had driven from Los Alamos to Orlando earlier in the week to visit Doug’s mother. They drove down from Orlando that morning.

It was a short flight to the island. We deplaned on the tarmac and walked to customs and immigration. We walked past a covered, cordoned off area where the departing patrons were waiting to board our plane. They were in a good mood and waved and cheered as we walked by.

We gathered our luggage and went to clear customs. The only question the customs  official  asked was if we had dive gear. If you said yes they went through your luggage and if you said no they would let you go through without opening your bags. Almost all of us were divers.

Once outside they loaded us in a small bus without air conditioning and we baked in the bus for about fifteen minutes waiting for the bus to fill up.

Some of the people on the bus had been to this Club Med before and they joked about it being only a two minute walk to the resort from the airport.

Once the sweltering bus was full we left. We departed the airport and drove two minutes to Club Med. We should have just walked.Check in was fast and then they took us directly to our room.

The resort had suffered a direct hit from a hurricane the previous fall. So I wasn’t sure what shape the resort would be in. I was pleasantly surprised. All of the buildings had been repaired and freshly painted. Unfortunately the best restaurant at the resort was still closed for repairs.

Club Med Rooms
 

We were impressed with the resort. It was much nicer that Turks and Caicos. My only complaint was that the buildings were really spread out so it was a long walk from our room to the restaurant. It was so long that if I forgot to apply bug spray before dinner I would swat mosquitos rather than take the long hike to the room.

The interior of the rooms were much nicer and larger than Turks and Caicos. The photo doesn't do the room justice. We unpacked went to the dive shop to book diving and then met Stephanie and Doug for dinner.

  Our Room

The food in Turks and Caicos was decent for an all inclusive but the food here was much better. They had ceviche, lamb, prime rib and other great food.

Our first night we had drinks and dinner then crashed. We had very little sleep the night before so we were both dragging.

We had to be at the dive shop by 8 am so we got up early, had breakfast and then took the long walk to the dive shop.

The only thing east of San Salvador is the Atlantic Ocean and the water drops off quickly as you motor away from the island.

Our first dive was the Great Cut. The Great Cut is an underwater canyon. You drop into the canyon at about forty feet and come out at more than one hundred. It was a nice dive and we saw a shark at the end. The second dive was also good and we saw two sharks.

Shark  

We had a late lunch, hung out at the pool and took a nap. We went to the beach bar and had drinks before dinner.

We got up early so we had enough time to eat before we boardrd the dive boat.There is no sleeping in when you dive. I had an omelet from the omelet bar. That is always the best option at an all inclusive.

We had two great dives. We saw two sharks on each dives.  On the second dive we did two consecutive swim throughs. I was the last one  in the line of divers. When I came out of the second swim through I looked up to my right and  saw the rest of the divers ascending the reef. I glanced to my left and a reef shark was swimming parallel to me about ten feet to my left.

The video below is a compilation of all of our dives in San Salvador.

We had some apres dive drinks at the beach bar followed by dinner.We went to the show after dinner. The show at Club Med Turks and Caicos was good, I thought it was put on by professional performers but then I noticed that the female lead was the lifeguard and some of the other performers were waiters and waitresses.

This show wasn't nearly as good. The performers in this show should not quit their day job.

The following day we took a day off diving to go on the lobster cruise. We went on the cruise with Stephanie, Doug and two couples from Italy. The Italians were newlyweds.

This was the best tour I have ever taken. The food, the drinks, the company and the ocean view from the island were all fantastic. I would do it again.

The van picked us up at the resort at 9 am. We got a brief tour of the island before the van dropped us off at the lagoon where we took a pontoon through the mangroves to reach the private islands where our lobster dinner would be served.

We saw several large rays and large nurse sharks on our way through the mangroves. We on the windward side of the island and hiked up a hill to get a view of the Atlantic. We hiked back down and went snorkeling in the pristine waters around the island.  
Nurse Shark
Nurse Shark

After we finished snorkeling we went to a beautiful sandy stretch of beach where sat a small shack where the food was prepared.

Lobster Shack
Lobster Shack

Once we got off the pontoon we were greeted by a woman who handed us conch shells full of rum punch. It tasted amazing.

After several rum punches we sat down for our dinner.  They started with lobster tails followed by beef shiskabobs then more lobster tails.

The alcohol flowed  through during dinner. I started with some wine with the first lobster tail, switched to beer for the beef shishkabobs and back to wine for round two of lobster tails. They actually gave me more lobster than I could eat. I've never had that happen before. I can usually squeeze in more lobster.

Lady with rum punch
The Nice Lady with conch shells full of  rum punch

After we ate we lounged in the water to recover from the large amount of food we consumed. We walked to the other side of the island to wade in a bathwater warm lagoon.

We eventually returned and we were promptly given shots of any of half a dozen types of liquor they had. Their business plan is to keep the guests liquored up, well fed and entertained and it was working.

Lagoon
Lagoon
 
Shots
Shots

Before we left, our shuttle driver did his Michael Jackson impersonation by dancing and moonwalking as Billy Jean played on the boom box.

We were sad to see the day end but lounging on a pontoon as it slowly motored through the mangroves was a nice way to end the day and the van ride back was quick.

We had an early dinner and went to bed.Our early bedtime might have had something to do with all of the sun and alcohol.

We were all dragging the next morning but once we had breakfast we perked up.

We didn’t see any sharks on the first dive but there were spectacular canyons. The second dive we saw three sharks and we saw groupers on almost every dive. they are not shy, this one swam directly under me and then posed for a photo.

Grouper
Grouper

I like that the Club Med GO’s (the people that work there) eat with the guests. Stephanie and Doug had eaten lunch with the sailing instructor and we all had dinner with him.

He had just arrived from Ireland. He had been contacted by Club Med to teach sailing for the summer. He was so happy to be at Club Med in the Caribbean.  He commented that the water in the Caribbean was warmer than the air in Ireland.

After lunch we took out a catamaran. Sailing was difficult because the wind was coming directly off the beach so we had to constantly tack to get anywhere.

My sailing skills aren’t all that good so I decided the next time we go to Club Med I would take sailing lessons.

After we finished sailing we hungout at the pool and then had dinner.

This was our last day of diving and we had two good dives. On the second dive we came across the marker where Columbus had dropped anchor in the new world.

Apparently, an artist on one one of Columbus's ships painted a picture of where the ships had landed. Makes sense they had an artist on board. Today we would just take out our phone and take a selfie. Why wouldn't they have an artist to commemerate where Columbus had landed.

There is an underwater marker indicating where Columbus anchored. We had to take a picture in front of it.

Posing in front of the plaque
Posing in front of the plaque
Columbus Marker
Columbus Marker

We came back and had lunch and hung out at the pool with Doug, Stephanie and another couple that we met diving.

This was supposed to be our last whole day of vacation. You need to have at least twelve hours from your last dive until you fly but I prefer twenty four hours so we didn’t dive today.

We met Doug and Stephanie for breakfast. Someone had told Doug that there was a small shopping mall walking distance from the resort where we could buy t-shirts.

Club Med Beach
Club Med Beach

We strolled down the beach until we found the path to the strip mall. There was a liquor store, a convenience store and a souvenir shop in the strip mall. We were warned that the shop wouldn’t be open but if you asked at the convenience store they would open it. That is exactly what we did and they let us in to buy souvenirs.

After lunch we decided to see our Irish friend at the sailing shack. For some reason we decided that paddle boarding sounded fun. We opted not to take any lessons and to tackle the paddle boards on our own. There was a lot of falling, fortunately the water was soft enough and warm. We eventually figured it out.

Watersports Shack
Watersports Shack

We decided that if we couldn’t dive we might as well drink so the four of us spent the afternoon in the pool sipping cocktails.

The following day we got up, had breakfast, and checked out. Since Club Med has so much clout with American Airlines they had representatives and a scale in the the theater at Club Med. We stood in line to check in for the flight. It was hot and the line was moving excruciatingly slow. We had just finished checking in when they told us to go back to our rooms because the flight would be delayed or canceled.

We didn’t know it but there was a tropical storm that closed the Miami airport, which we found odd because we had spectacular weather all week. We also found out that there were only two flights from Miami every week. Since our flight had been delayed the people that should be arriving to take our rooms would not be arriving so we went back to our room and put our swimsuits on.

Walkway to our room
Walkway to our room

It took Club Med a while to let us know what the plan was. I imagine it was because American Airlines hadn’t updated them.

The rumors were flying in the meantime. People were saying that this was the only flight out so we were stuck  here for a week or that it would be four days minimum before we could leave.

None of us had a problem taking an extra day or two of vacation but an extra week might be a problem especially for Karen. Her jpob is really busy.

We chilled in the pool sipped on a cocktail or two and tried to figure out our options. The only irritation was that we didn’t find out early enough when our flight was so we couldn’t go out for an afternoon dive.

Club Med  delivered a printed flier that evening with our departure information to our room. The tropical storm had ebbed and our flight would arrive the following day.  It was too late to get an extra dive in  but we did get an extra day of vacation and Club Med did not charge us for it.

When we got to Miami we discovered that American Airlines automatically rebooked our flight to Minneapolis. I was happy that I booked our entire flight through the Club Med website. If we would have booked Delta into Miami I would have had to try to contact Delta from San Salvador and none of us had a cell phone signal.I am glad that the entire flight was on American. If we had booked Delta into Miami I would have had to contact Delta to reschedule. There were people that were frantically trying.

Recap

The Club Med resort on San Salvador is a very nice resort. The food is great. The diving was spectacular. We would go back anytime. We would go a little earlier next time so we can see hammerhead sharks.

Likes

Great diving

Great dive shop

Good food for an all inclusive

Great beach

Sharks

Amazing swim through canyons

Dislikes

It is a minor complaint but it was a long walk from our room to the restaurant

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