9/3/2019 Update: Abaco has been severely damaged by Hurricane Dorian. This includes Green Turtle Cay. We will keep you posted on when you can visit again. In the meantime, please be generous to our Bahamian neighbors and help in the recovery of Abaco and Grand Bahama Island. We’ve created a list of trusted organizations you can partner with, either financially or with product donations.
Editorial note: If you’ve joined along in this virtual roller coaster ride the past couple of months, you already know our destination wedding week in The Bahamas was a disaster thanks to the shenanigans of management at our venue, Bahama Beach Club. If you don’t know the back story, check it out here. And here. And here. You won’t believe it!
Brendal Stevens: Abaco’s Local Celebrity
Fortunately, all was not lost as we did manage to squeeze one day of fun out of our otherwise bungled week. Thanks to a couple of my favorite Bahamians, Rick and I had the chance to show our loved ones what our hotel refused to provide – the great service and unforgettable memories The Bahamas are known for.
Back when it was my job to invite journalists to The Bahamas, I often took them to Green Turtle Cay, one of the islands in the Abaco chain, because I knew I could depend on a consistent, positive representation of the Out Islands. Smiling faces, great service, delicious food, a relaxed vibe and a quality experience are the rule, not the exception. All those years of visits afforded me the opportunity to forge lasting friendships with some wonderful Bahamians – and they were there for us during wedding week, for sure!
Located next door to the Green Turtle Club, Brendal’s Dive Center has provided scuba instruction, dive trips, sailing excursions and snorkeling adventures for 25 years. Brendal Stevens and his wife Mary run the shop, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with them on dozens of media trips & visits, resulting in millions of impressions. (That’s PR speak for they’ve gotten a ton of good press!)
In 2007, I got certified to scuba dive with Brendal, and the next year, Kristin from Camels and Chocolate did the same. That’s actually the first time we ever met, so returning to Abaco together all these years later was a fun full circle moment for both of us.
After so many great work experiences over the years, I brought my family to Green Turtle Cay in 2009. We still talk about our unforgettable day with Brendal, filled with diving, snorkeling and the best lobster you could ever eat. It was one of the best memories we have as a family.
When we chose to get married in Abaco, part of the reason was because Rick & I wanted our loved ones to be able to experience Brendal’s Beach Adventure, a full-day trip of snorkeling on the gorgeous reef, picnicking on an uninhabited island, frolicking in the waves with friendly stingrays and drinking world-famous Goombay Smash.
And all-you-can-eat, fresh, magical seafood on the beach.
By the time Thursday of wedding week rolled around, we were a battered bunch. Rick & I were plum exhausted from having to deal with 4 days of non-stop drama and construction at the hotel. On top of all that, the weather had been viciously windy from Sunday to Wednesday, so we didn’t even know if we were going to get to go out with Brendal at all. We were beyond thrilled when Mary gave us the thumbs-up — the excursion was on and Brendal was on his way to scoop us up from the Treasure Cay ferry dock.
It was the first time all of our families and friends would be meeting up and hanging out during wedding week, so we wanted it to be special and foolproof. And we figured, it’s pretty hard NOT to have fun when you’re out on the boat with Brendal!
Brendal is a renaissance man; warm, effusive and always ready with a big smile and a glass of cold rum punch. He always wears a speedo and his has 100 jokes to go along with it.
He’s a ridiculously talented free diver – I’ve seen him hold his breath and dive down 60+ feet as effortlessly as a dolphin would. He was a Navy diver & a Florida Gator, and his ambiguous age is a source of much discussion among guests who marvel at his boundless energy.
You didn’t hear it from me, but it’s been said that had something to do with ending the Cold War.
He is oddly persuasive; I’ve seen him convince many-a-terrified Bahamian tourism official to get in the water for the first time. Fear of stingrays? Once Brendal finishes with you, those critters will be eating out of your hand – literally! Don’t like seafood? After a taste of Brendal’s beach spread, you might just change your tune.
Brendal is person you want to know and a person you absolutely have to meet when visiting Green Turtle Cay. I really can’t say enough good things about the guy. As far as tourism goes, he’s an asset to the country. He even won the Bahamas’ Cacique Award a few years ago for being so awesome.
The daylong excursion runs about $150 per person, and Brendal & Mary, like a well-oiled machine, delivered on what’s promised. We snorkeled with grouper, we made friends with stingrays, we chased little friendly sharks, we cavorted on boats, we ate, we drank and we danced and forgot about the mess waiting for us across the Sea of Abaco at Bahama Beach Club.
Even though I warned everyone early in the day that Brendal’s Goombay Smash recipe was ultra potent, I’d say about 50% of folks either didn’t believe me or didn’t care. Let’s just say it was a wild boat ride home!
Did everything go perfectly? Of course not! What ever does? Though the waves and whipping winds kept us from exploring the main reef, we still managed to snorkel on calm side of the islands. We saw zillions of fish and sea creatures – and our family and friends had the best time.
Before we ever reached the shore for our private beach picnic, everyone was raving about the experience and making plans to meet up in a year to do it all again. Staying at Green Turtle Club or Abaco Beach Resort, of course!
When you’re with loved ones and a trusted guide like Brendal, it’s easy to forget the hiccups, the Bahamas travel scams and remember all the best moments.
So there you have it! Thank the Lord one day of our wedding misadventure turned into a fantastic memory for our guests. Even with the outright tomfoolery on the part of Bahama Beach Club, The Bahamas continue to hold a special place in our hearts.
If you’re headed to Abaco, get in touch with Mary & Brendal to set up a once-in-a-lifetime excursion. You’ll LOVE it!