Come for the speeches, stay for the beaches.
The Toastmasters 2023 International Convention is being held this August in one of the most alluring cities in the world: Nassau, capital of The Bahamas. The event will be hybrid—both online and onsite—but by attending the four-day event in person, at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar resort, you’ll have the opportunity to explore, relax, and eat surrounded by tropical beauty.
Chief among the highlights: the gleaming white sand beaches that The Bahamas is famous for. The kind with warm, crystal-clear, turquoise-blue waters. Pamela D. Rolle, DTM, a Nassau resident and the co-chair for Convention Host District 47, says there’s nothing quite like visiting the beaches here. “It’s refreshing, relaxing, calming, and rejuvenating,” says the Past District Governor.
The Bahamas is an archipelago of nearly 700 islands and cays. Nassau is located on the island of New Providence, and connected by bridge to Paradise Island, a three-mile resort destination located to the north.
This combined area is often regarded as the gateway to The Bahamas. Replete with a tropical climate, spectacular scenery, lush vegetation, and a vivid cultural scene, it’s a top draw for cruise lines and visitors from around the world.
Tourism expert Charles Adderley has talked with many happy vacationers in Nassau and Paradise Island over the years. “The first thing people talk about is the weather, our natural resources in terms of beaches, the friendliness of the people, the food, the culture—and there’s so much to do,” says Adderley, an executive director for Cacique International, a destination management company in Nassau that provides tours and excursions.
A Little History
Once a British colony, The Bahamas is now an independent Commonwealth country. It became free and independent of British rule in 1973. Toastmasters has a starring role in the island nation, with both Prime Minister Philip Davis, DTM, and Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper, DTM, being longtime members. The first Toastmasters club in The Bahamas chartered in Nassau in 1969, and there are now more than 40 clubs throughout this country of approximately 400,000 people.
District 47—the Toastmasters home of current International President Matt Kinsey, DTM—encompasses South Florida and The Bahamas.
The Downtown Area
Downtown Nassau and the surrounding area reveal a mix of the island’s history and colorful present. The architecture reflects centuries of European influence. Among the area’s highlights are the Heritage Museum of The Bahamas; three historic forts that protected the Nassau harbor in colonial times and the era of pirates; and Government House—the official residence of the country’s Governor-General. The striking pink and white building accentuates a mix of Bahamian British and American Colonial architecture.
Longtime Toastmaster Denison Balfour, DTM, an assistant manager at The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation, in Nassau, recommends a variety of fun places to visit in the downtown area. They include the National Art Gallery and Museum; Ardastra Gardens, which has flamingos, parrots, Bahamian boa constrictors, and many other colorful creatures; and the Nassau Straw Market, a bustling place featuring hundreds of vendors and thousands of items to choose from, ranging from Bahamian crafts and hand-woven straw hats to conch shell jewelry, wood carvings, souvenirs, local delicacies, and more. For those who like to shop, there are also boutique shops that showcase the rich colors of Bahamian fashion.
Beautiful beaches line Nassau and Paradise Island. Among the most dazzling: Cable Beach, a two-and-a-half-mile stretch where the Baha Mar resort sits. Its postcard beauty and tranquil waters soothe the mind and body. The ocean in The Bahamas is also filled with coral, tropical fish, and exotic marine life like seahorses and angelfish.
Depending on how much time you have, you can indulge in a range of water activities on the islands, including boat excursions, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, speedboat rides, and deep-sea fishing. Tourist offerings include ocean encounters with pigs, dolphins, sea lions, and wild turtles.
Savory seafood dishes abound in The Bahamas. Lobster, crawfish, crab, shellfish, to name just a few. “We have fried fish, boiled fish, steamed fish—all different kinds of ways of making fish,” notes Adderley.
The biggest draw is conch (pronounced “konk”), a culinary staple in The Bahamas. The meat of this large mollusk is prepared in every way imaginable; you’ll find conch salad, conch chowder, cracked conch, conch fritters, and more conch concoctions.
The dining scene in Nassau and Paradise Island is a diverse one, with plenty of spots serving native Bahamian fare (peas and rice dishes are a specialty, as are tropical drinks of all varieties) and many internationally flavored restaurants as well. The Nassau Fish Fry is a glut of fish eateries located along one long strip, from sit-down restaurants to beach shacks.
The Baha Mar resort alone features a wide range of prominent restaurants, including the Sugar Factory, Cleo Mediterraneo, the Palms, and Katsuya.
Your Convention Location
Glitzy luxury resorts dot Nassau and Paradise Island, with the Baha Mar leading the way. It is located 10 minutes from the Nassau International Airport and is spread across 1,000 acres.
The resort boasts a dazzling array of amenities, including a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, a casino, tennis courts, retail shops, multiple swimming pools, a beach sanctuary (with daily animal feedings), and unlimited access to a giant water park next door.
There are many excellent reasons to attend this year’s Toastmasters convention in person, and the chance to visit Nassau is one more. When you aren’t viewing education sessions, watching speech contests, or visiting with Toastmasters friends from around the world, you can take advantage of the exquisite area around you.
“Nassau, Bahamas, is a special place to hold a Toastmasters convention,” says Rolle, “because of our unique, colorful history and culture.”
Paul Sterman is senior editor, executive and editorial content, for Toastmasters International. Reach him at email@example.com.
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