A handy introduction provides the basics on this flung-like-a-string-of-pearls archipelago, spreading 750 miles from the south tip of Florida to the north shore of Haiti. Helpful information includes a primer on island geography, climate, ecology and history--plus present-day social, cultural and religious practices. Find out when to go, what to bring, plus suggested itineraries for weekend/weeklong stays to popular tourist spots. (Also included: a delightful list of recommended fruits to sample, including jujubes, soursop and the aptly named ugli fruit.) A superbly detailed outdoor section gives the low-down on diving, snorkelling, fishing, swimming (with dolphins!), kayaking, bird-watching and much more besides.
Having laid the groundwork for a rewarding trip, Barker devotes the remainder of his guide to an island-by-island, "Best-Of-The-Bahamas" romp. Read up on nightlife bars (where you just might sample a Goombay Squash--one of many local alcohol-and-fruit concoctions), mum- and-dad inns with spectacular views, or Hemingway's haunts on North Bimini Island. -- Martha Silano