Tiamo Resorts

Check your Blackberry at the door and get way, way offline

Feb 1, 2004
Outside Magazine

THE MOST IMPRESSIVE thing about Tiamo is how unimpressive it is. Even as my sea taxi pulled up to the unassuming scallop of beach on the southern half of Andros, I still couldn't see the resort that was right in front of me. Once ashore, I had to wade through thickets of sea grapes and gumbo-limbo trees to find the central lodge—an unpretentious wooden structure with screened porches and a corrugated metal roof. Was this the place? The sleepy Brazilian jazz seeping out the front door said yes. Hacked out of the Bahamian bush and opened in 2001 by Mike and Petagay Hartman, Tiamo is a fascinating—and so far successful—experiment to test whether assiduous eco-consciousness can coexist with rustic luxury. The ethos here is part Gilligan's Island, part Buckminster Fuller. With only 11 open-air bungalows, powered by the sun and outfitted with compost toilets, everything is small-scale, low-impact, phosphate-free, and relentlessly off the grid. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the resort sits on 12 acres of pristine beach along an inland waterway, surrounded by 125 acres of preserved wilderness. There are no air conditioners, no TVs, none of the whirs and bleeps of the digital age. Nope, at Tiamo, messages are delivered strictly by iguanagram. The Good Life // By day, watch a heron or one of the resident iguanas trundle by your screened porch. At night, the hemp curtains billow in the breeze. The bright-green-and-yellow louvered shutters, exposed copper pipes, and bare-metal faucet levers are sleekly utilitarian. My solar-heated beach-rock shower looked out on a mighty specimen of local cactus known as—I kid you not—the Bahamian dildo. The lodge has the same casual vibe. Browse for dog-eared paperbacks and board games in the library; dine on sesame seared tuna and mahi-mahi with mango beurre blanc at the large communal table; or simply fritter the evening away at the rattan bar, clutching a mind-warming Petagay Punch as a local "rake-and-scrape" band sings you back to bed.

Jaw Dropper // A spectacular network of "blue holes" riddle the limestone bedrock all over southern Andros. Kayak out to the Crack, a fabulously deep gash in the seafloor where two temperature zones collide in a thermocline, and snorkel or dive the nutrient-rich broth alongside hosts of wrasse, lobster, sea cucumbers, and freakishly large angelfish.

Sports on-Site // Tiamo is not a destination for hyperactive folks who expect a brisk regimen of "activities." Basically, Mike shows up at breakfast and says, "What do you want to do today?" Choose between swimming, bonefishing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, bushwhacking, or my new favorite sport, extreme hammocking. Hikes (led by Shona Paterson, the on-staff marine biologist) are free, as are snorkel trips to the blue holes. There's a modest fleet of trimarans and sea kayaks at the ready. But the most elaborate activity is ... horseshoes. Somehow, that says it all.

Beyond the Sand // Andros boasts some of the finest bonefishing in the world, and Mike can easily hook you up with a guide ($350 per boat for a full day; each boat holds two anglers). Ask for Captain Jolly Boy, a corpulent former bar owner turned Baptist preacher who stalks "the gray ghost" with all the biblical fervor of Ahab. "I feel you, Mr. Bones!" Jolly Boy whispers as he poles the flats. For divers, the Andros Barrier Reef, one of the world's largest contiguous reefs, lies less than a mile offshore; its sheer wall, home to thousands of species of fish, drops nearly 6,000 feet into the Tongue of the Ocean. Scuba excursions motor out daily, but you must be PADI-certified ($100 for a one-tank dive, $145 for two tanks).

The Fine Print // Delta (800-241-4141, www.delta.com) and American Airlines (800-433-7300, www.aa.com) fly to Nassau from L.A. and New York for $600 or less. From there, make the 20-minute hop with Western Air (242-377-2222, www.westernairbahamas.com) to Andros; flights are about $100 round-trip. The bungalows at Tiamo (242-357-2489, www.tiamoresorts.com) cost $275 per person, double occupancy ($360 per person, single occupancy) year-round; rates include everything but your bar tab, bonefishing, and scuba diving. The resort is closed August 1 through September 30.