GIV Bahamas News
Hit book on the world-famous swimming pigs to feature expanded content; Photo contest to run until March 15
‘Pigs of Paradise’, the double award-winning book on the world-famous swimming pigs, will enter a second edition in 2020, the publisher has announced.
Skyhorse Publishing, based in New York, plans to release an expanded edition of the hardcover in November, including new photography and additional content on the pigs’ continued rise to fame. While the swimming pigs are already a household name for millions worldwide, the attraction has continued to evolve and grow, sparking new businesses and in many ways transforming the tourism product of The Bahamas.
“Exuma will always be where it all started. This edition though will really delve into how the pigs have become so important for so many people in The Bahamas. It has become an attraction that has touched so many lives. So, in addition to new, great photos, we really want to update the book, so it represents the entire country.”
At last count, there are at least seven pig colonies in The Bahamas.
Abaco, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama, and Nassau all provide the attraction for tourists, in addition to the two colonies in Exuma. Treasure Island, a private cay in the Berry Islands, have also spent millions to create a swimming pig attraction that is easily accessible to the millions of tourists passing through on cruise ships.
Other than sun, sand, and sea, the swimming pigs are a common denominator and an important symbol of the country’s tourism product. Earlier this month, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism announced that 2019 broke the record for the most visitor arrivals, with 7.2 million people arriving to these shores last year. More than ever, The Bahamas remains an appealing destination for those seeking a warm getaway. To promote this message, the Ministry of Tourism chose a very simple image – that magical pig, swimming in the most pristine water in the world.
“The swimming pig is our Mickey Mouse,” explains Peter Nicholson, President of GIV Bahamas Inc., who is also the Executive Producer of the film based on Todd’s book.
“First off, it was an accident – a fluke of nature. I think that is why it endures to this day. It was never intended to be a tourism sensation. It speaks to the nature of today’s tourists. They want something truly unique, but also authentic.”
In addition to the expanded content, ‘Pigs of Paradise’ has launched a photo contest, asking the general public to submit their very best photos with the pigs for a chance to be featured in the second edition. The book is also working with well-known influencers, with followers running well into the millions.
“Obviously the swimming pigs are highly visual,” Todd added.
“And part of what has made the book successful is the fact it is equal parts great story but also highly illustrative. It is right at home on your coffee table as well.”
Photo submissions are ongoing. Anyone wishing to enter the contest must submit their photo to Atomic Lavender Social Media Management by March 15.
Limited spots available for this once-in-a-lifetime experience
The most exciting and innovative tourism offering in the Caribbean is returning to Grand Isle Resort & Spa.
Ever wondered what it would be like to see shark research and tagging “live”, and not on TV? Now is your chance to participate in an exhilarating Shark Tagging Adventure, while also doing your part to protect sharks and preserve our oceans.
We want to add you to our Shark Tagging list. The next scheduled trips are February 23 and 23. Availability is very limited.
Wondering what your excursion includes? Dr. Gallagher will be joined by other leading researchers, all of whom take guests step-by-step through the process of tagging sharks. You will experience hands-on shark research with marine biologists, stepping into the shoes of a scientist, contributing to shark conservation, and so much more. Get ready for adventure!
To learn more about Grand Isle’s Shark Tagging Adventures, and book your spot, you can visit the resort’s dedicated page here.
Grand Isle showcases luxury villa offerings at island’s marquee golfing event, as GIV Bahamas once again sponsors and fields winning team for Pro Am 2020
Emerald Bay once again shined bright earlier this month when it played host to the Korn Ferry Tour, an event that is rapidly becoming a can’t-miss staple in the Exuma tourism calendar.
The Emerald Bay Golf Course, an 18-hole, par 72 championship course designed by golfing legend Greg Norman, served as the centerpiece for a tournament that attracts an eclectic mix of up-and-coming talent and scrappy pros looking to get back on the PGA Tour.
On either side of Emerald Bay, book-ending a powdery, mile-long beach, was Sandals and Grand Isle Resort & Spa, both of which were jammed for the festivities. While some came as spectators, others arrived to participate in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Pro Am on Jan 9 and Jan 11th. These guests enjoyed cocktail parties, welcome gifts and a tournament where they are paired with a golf pro.
GIV Bahamas Inc., the largest owner of villas at Grand Isle Resort and a long time supporter of the tournament, fielded two teams in the competition, with one of them coming out on top as the 2020 champion.
“Grand Isle Resort has really woken my wife and I up to a place like Exuma,” said Doug Smith, a former player in the NHL and the owner of Doug Smith Performance.
“Both the resort, the tournament and Sandals were all first class. This island has changed us for the better and helped us clear our thinking. I believe it is the safety you feel in the hands of the Bahamian people, combined with the sheer beauty of the area. It was simply phenomenal.”
Doug Smith’s winning team, which included Craig Campbell, Ian Davidson and Jeff Todd, director of communications for GIV Bahamas Inc., was paired with surging pro golfer Adam Svensson. Prior to the tournament, participants in the Great Exuma Classic’s Pro Am are able to visit both Sandals Emerald Bay and Grand Isle Resort, taking advantage of the restaurants and amenities at both properties.
For Grand Isle, a special VIP party was hosted in one of the property’s four-bedroom penthouses, giving golfers a glimpse of the large, luxurious villas. While most guests come to Grand Isle as a resort guest, it also allowed golfers to see opportunities for home ownership.
“What’s great about this event is it really let’s people see everything Emerald Bay has to offer,” said Peter Nicholson, the President of GIV Bahamas Inc. “Sandals is a great partner and we thank them, along with BD Global Sports, for their amazing leadership. GIV Bahamas Inc. has supported this tournament from the beginning and I’m so pleased to see it continuing to grow.”
Held from January 12 to January 15, The Great Exuma Classic is the first event on the Korn Ferry Tour, with US$600,00 in prize money up for grabs. The Greg Norman Signature Course, surrounding both Sandals and Grand Isle, is a true test for even professional golfers, with the back nine entirely on the ocean. As in past years, the tournament was televised on NBC’s The Golf Channel.
High winds made for challenging conditions for both the Pro Am and the first day or two of the Great Exuma Classic. In the end, it was Tommy Gainey, a 44-year-old journeyman who took home the top spot.
Gainey, who in the past has earned $5.6 million in 200 career starts on the PGA Tour, turned in a final-round 69 to finish the tournament at -11. Dylan Wu and John Oda tied for second with -7, followed by Will Zalatoris and Sean O’Hair at -6.
Registration now open for an exclusive experience in 2020, allowing tourists to assist and participate in scientific research
A truly unique and mind-blowing experience in the Caribbean is returning in early 2020 to Grand Isle Resort & Spa.
Shark Tagging Adventures, where you have the opportunity to learn and participate in crucial scientific research, will be taking place in Exuma for the last two weeks of February. After being greeted at Grand Isle reception, guests are transported to a boat where they receive an intimate briefing on why shark tagging is so important, and what adventures they will experience that day.
Of course, the anticipation can never quite live up the reality, when you eventually come up close and personal with one of the most majestic and misunderstood animals in the world.
“In the last year, this program exposed more than 100 people of all ages to the world of shark conservation. Tagging and releasing 67 sharks in the region, including tigers, bills, reef sharks and nurse sharks,” said Dr. Austin Gallagher, the renowned biologist, and shark expert.
Registration for February is now open. You can also fill out a form indicating another time of year that might work best for you.
Dr. Gallagher will be joined by other leading researchers, all of whom take guests step-by-step through the process of tagging sharks.
“I have performed research like this all over the world,” Dr. Gallagher adds, who is also the founder of a nonprofit NGO called Beneath the Waves. “The Bahamas is a protected area for sharks. And Exuma itself is such an amazing frontier – I like to call it the Serengeti of the Ocean. To expose everyday people to these animals and this research is special. Their faces light up every time. It never gets old.”
Covered by Forbes, Lonely Planet, Scientific American, and many others, this new tour took the Internet by storm in 2018. In addition to being a true unique experience, guests have been captivated by the opportunity to participate in and support genuine scientific research.
Shark Tagging Adventures is a public-private partnership between Beneath the Waves and Grand Isle Resort & Spa, whereby Dr. Gallagher and his team receive a donation of at least US$500 for every person on the tour. This donation goes directly to protecting and monitoring The Bahamas shark population.
To learn more about Beneath the Waves and why sharks are so important to the future of our oceans, click here.
You can also watch a video testimonial of past shark tagging guests here.
While Exuma was not impacted by the storm, GIV Bahamas and the Bahamas High Commission teamed up to raise funds and awareness for those impacted
It has been more than 3 months since Hurricane Dorian struck The Bahamas, widely believed to be the most destructive storm in the country’s history.
While the initial out-pouring of support has been significant, perhaps the biggest danger remains – this tragedy falling out of the news cycle, and consequently from our thoughts.
The category 5 storm, focused solely on Abaco and Grand Bahama, did not impact the majority of the country, including Exuma, which resides more than 300km south.
Nevertheless, GIV Bahamas, the largest owner of villas at Grand Isle Resort, partnered with the Bahamas High Commission earlier this month to keep the desperate need of Bahamians in the headlines. Last month, more than 100 people in the Ottawa community came together in remembrance, raising more than $23,000 for those impacted by Dorian.
“I have been investing in The Bahamas for well over a decade,” said Peter Nicholson, President of GIV Bahamas Inc, as well as The Foundation WCPD, a boutique financial services firm that helps wealthy donors give more to charity.
“Although our resort was not touched by Dorian, giving back is in our DNA, whether it is in Canada or The Bahamas. We wanted to stand with our friends at the Bahamas High Commission and really offer a unified show of support for what this country is going through.”
The Ottawa community did not disappoint.
In addition to coverage in the press (read Ottawa Sun column here), the business community came out in force. 50 Sussex, home of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, provided not only a gorgeous venue for the festivities but also a discounted rate. Lou Lou Lounge provided the furniture. Meanwhile, an eclectic array of Ottawa restaurants donated their time and food through a series of interactive stations, including Restaurant 18, Bar Lupulus, Prohibition and Wandering Chef Catering.
Top Shelf Distillery offered welcome drinks for guests upon arrival, while Mark Motors Group generously donated the red carpet valet service. The evening began with welcome remarks from Nicholson, followed by a greeting from His Excellency Alvin Smith, the High Commissioner of The Bahamas. The crowd was then treated to a screening of ‘Pigs of Paradise’, the new, full- length film based on the award-winning book by Ottawa- based author T.R. Todd.
The film chronicles the origins and rise to fame of Exuma’s swimming pigs, an attraction that now generates millions for the Bahamian economy. Nicolson served as the movie’s executive producer, with Todd as the screenwriter Charlie.
Smith, a Bahamian who lives in Miami, Florida, was enlisted as the film’s director.
After the movie, guests were invited upstairs for food, drink and a silent auction, which helped raise a large portion of the $23,000.
A portion of the $23,000 will go towards NEMA and the Bahamas Red Cross. Meanwhile, the rest is earmarked for The Exuma Foundation to assist with the many Bahamians families from Abaco & Grand Bahama that have been displaced and are now re-starting their lives in Exuma.
Exuma Foundation, the largest nonprofit on the island, is currently building a shelter to house some of those displaced, while also running a breakfast program for the children arriving to school each morning with nothing to eat.
“The need in Abaco and Grand Bahama is tremendous, but we should not also overlook those that have fled those islands in search of a better life,” said Danny Strachan, Managing Director of the Exuma Foundation. “These funds will no doubt go a long way to having a direct impact on families here in Exuma. These families lost everything, but we can give them a chance to start over and have a better life.”
But beyond donations, the prevailing theme of last month’s event was far more simple – the best way to help The Bahamas, is to visit. Sadly, many people believe that all of The Bahamas was devastated. Organizers wished attendees to remember that most of the country remains open for business. Tourism is by far the main economic driver and source of employment for The Bahamas.
“Not everyone can afford a $5,000, $10,000 or larger donation,” Nicholson told the crowd. “But many of us will go on a holiday this year or next. Please consider The Bahamas. As Abaco and Grand Bahama recover, the rest of the country is waiting for you, and as beautiful as ever.”
Exuma Marathon, Featuring the Run for Pompey, attracted a record number of tourists seeking a gorgeous destination with a hint of health and wellness
We all travel for different reasons.
Some of us travel to see certain landmarks or cities, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the Taj Mahal in India. These days, plenty of tourists will travel just to discover great food. And then you have those simply chasing a beach and warm weather, particularly this time of year as winter sets in.
However, Tammy Sieminowski did not travel to Exuma this fall for any of those reasons.
Sieminowski, from Toronto, is a runner – an ultra marathon runner, to be precise. She had run a staggering 172 of them. With an average ultra measuring 50km, that’s 8,600km of competitive running or 5,300 miles.
To put that in perspective, that is nearly the distance of running from Toronto to Exuma and back – twice.
Earlier this month, Sieminowski made the Exuma Marathon, Featuring the Run for Pompey, ultra marathon number 173.
“I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to run many races in a beautiful place,” Sieminowski says, who won the ultra marathon in the female category. “This race is high on my list as the most memorable events. The race was low key and super well organized, which is a rare combination. The volunteers were cheerful, encouraging, and helpful throughout the event. I’d like to thank the race organizers, sponsors, volunteers, and fellow runners for the wonderful race day.”
Held on November 9th, the fifth annual Exuma Marathon attracted a record number of participants from abroad and from the local community. More than 230 people laced up their running shoes and crossed the finish line. Distances appealed to every age and ability, with a 2K, 5K, 10K, half marathon, full marathon, and ultra-marathon all available. Every participant receives the eagerly anticipated “Piggie Medal” as they crossed the finish line.
Of the 230 participants, more than 50 runners flew in for the race, from countries such as Canada, the United States, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, and France. While most tourists might not run an ultra marathon, Sieminowski represents a growing segment of the traveling public interested in sports tourism.
This traveler wants to take in the beauty of the destination, while also doing something active, or focused on their health or wellness. With many beautiful resorts, smaller crowds and an unmatched natural environment, Exuma fits this need perfectly.
“Today we saw a bunch of sea turtles, which is one of my favorite things to do in the world,” says Tim Murphy, an avid runner and the co-founder of BibRave, a running website, and community who participates and reviews races all around the world.
“We didn’t have to book an appointment or pay a bunch of money. There is literally a beach where they hang out. That is a perfect example of what Exuma is like. You can explore on your own and have a very cool island experience.”
Murphy, who founded BibRave with his wife, Jessica, led a group of runners this year at Exuma Marathon. You can listen to a podcast of their experience here.
Murphy’s wife, Jessica, could not help but be impressed by Grand Isle Resort & Spa.
“We are staying in a three-bedroom villa, which is amazing because we have our own bedrooms and bathrooms, and a nice living area, two separate terraces, and a kitchen,” Jessica explains.
“So it made it easier for us to stay here for a long time because we did have those amenities to make it feel more like home.”
Grand Isle Resort, one of the official sponsors of the race, hosted dozens of runners over race weekend. Grand Isle offered a special package for runners, which included a pasta night the evening before, breakfast and a shuttle to take runners to the event in the morning.
The resort was joined by many other community partners and sponsors, led by BAF Financial & Insurance as the event’s longtime title sponsor. GIV Bahamas, Aliv, Atabey, Glinton Sweeting O’Brien, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Peace & Plenty, Caribbean Bottling Company, Breezes, BahamasLocal.com, Silver Airways, and the Exuma Foundation all contributed to the cause.
As in past years, the Exuma Marathon is entirely nonprofit. In fact, the proceeds from each race go towards The Pompey Scholarship, which awards $5,000 to a promising student on the island to assist him or her with college or university.
Also, due to the passage of Hurricane Dorian this past September, the race organizers donated an additional $5,000 to assist families on Exuma that were displaced by the storm.
Exuma was untouched by Hurricane Dorian, with the islands to the north – Abaco and Grand Bahama – getting hit.
According to runners from abroad, it is the authenticity of the Exuma Marathon, and the community feels, that sets it apart from other sports tourism experiences. Running alongside them were hundreds of Bahamians from Exuma and Nassau, many of them students. Run for Pompey is an ode to Pompey, a slave on Exuma who lived in the 1830s. Pompey is famous in The Bahamas for leading a rebellion on the island when 77 men, women and children were scheduled to be separated and transferred off the island. Pompey’s rebellion stopped the order.
At the end of the race, participants could enjoy a cool drink from the bar, listen to the DJ spinning tunes, jump in the turquoise ocean or indulge in a true Bahamian breakfast of stew conch or stew fish.
“Beautiful, relaxed, welcoming,” Sieminowski describes it.
“The clear turquoise water is incredible, and I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of natural vegetation around the island. Locals were friendly and helpful, extending warm hospitality. I had not visited before, but Run for Pompey fit the bill perfectly.
After a sell-out last year, the fifth annual race on Nov 9 th is expected to draw a record number of participants from the Bahamas and around the world
At L.N. Coakley High School, it has not been a typical start to the year.
There is all the usual buzz, excitement and nervousness in the halls, as students return to classes. But this year, there are at least 40 new faces at L.N. Coakley – children that have been forced to abandon their homes in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
“It has been roller coaster ride this summer with the opening of school,” said Don Barr, the principal of L.N. Coakley, the largest high school on Great Exuma.
“So far we have 40 students with us from Abaco and Grand Bahama, and we just registered a few more recently. And they are doing amazingly well. Kids are incredibly resilient, even though many of them have lost everything. And I mean everything. That’s why I wanted them in class as soon as possible because it takes their minds off the tragedy.”
And what a tragedy it has been – dozens reported dead, billions in damage and thousands of lives impacted forever since Hurricane Dorian first made landfall in Abaco on September 1 and then carried on to Grand Bahama. To assist families on Exuma, the Exuma Marathon has announced that it will make a minimum donation of US$5,000 to put towards school supplies, school fees and any other incidentals for students in need.
This pledge is in addition to the usual Pompey Scholarship, given annually to a graduating student in Exuma to help with tuition at the University of The Bahamas.
Participants in the Exuma Marathon will also be encouraged to bring school supplies with them for donation, such as calculators, geometry sets and other items that tend to be in short supply.
“Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by this horrific tragedy,” said Peter Nicholson, President of GIV Bahamas Inc, the largest owner at Grand Isle Resort and a key sponsor of the race.
“The scope of the need can be very daunting, but for our part, we would like to step up and make this year’s Exuma Marathon about these new students joining our island community. The more people that take part in the race, the more money we will raise. This is only the beginning of an ongoing commitment to helping displaced Bahamians in need.”
Exuma Marathon, featuring the Run for Pompey, will take place on November 9th and leave from Regatta Park. The race, now entering its 5th year, has grown to become a major event for the island by not only generating much-needed tourism dollars, but also by bringing together the community. The event sold out last year, attracting more than 200 runners. This year, it is expected to draw more than 250 runners from across The Bahamas and around the world. Grand Isle Resort, one of the race sponsors, will host a pasta night on November 8th, the night before the race, at its brand new beach club, 23 North.
The race includes a variety of distances for every ability, ranging from a 2K “George Town Dash”, all the way to a grueling 50K Ultra Marathon, otherwise known as The Run for Pompey. The Ultra Marathon is named in honour of Pompey, a slave from Exuma who famously led a rebellion on the island in the first half of the nineteenth century. While his rebellion was eventually stopped by the British, Pompey did prevent the transfer of 77 men, women and children to another island plantation, which would have separated families.
Today, Exuma Marathon honours Pompey’s memory. The event is entirely nonprofit, and students can register for free. All races are professionally timed and each participant receives a commemorative “Swimming Pig Medal” , official Exuma Marathon t-shirt and a swag bag of goodies donated by sponsors.
As an added twist, earlier this week, the Sports Tourism Department at the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism provided Exuma Marathon with B$3,000 in prize money, with $500 up for grabs in the male and female categories of the Ultra Marathon, the Marathon, and the Half Marathon.
“This is our first year offering prize money and I think it is just another reason to come out for a meaningful cause,” said Kevin Taylor, Race Director at Exuma Marathon.
“I have always felt that this event ticks all the boxes. It brings in tourism, unites our communities and it is grounded in authentically Bahamian history and culture. We thank the Sports Tourism Department for their support and the support of all our sponsors. This event just wouldn’t happen without them.”
Exuma Marathon is supported by its longtime Title Sponsor, BAF Financial & Insurance (Bahamas) Limited.
Other key sponsors include Aliv, Caribbean Bottling Company, Atabey, Sands Beer, GIV Bahamas Inc., The Swimming Pig, Grand Isle Resort, Peace & Plenty, Cash N’ Go, Glinton Sweeting O’Brien, BahamasLocal.com, Peace & Plenty, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Diane Phillips & Associates.
Award-winning book and full-length film stage event at a historic bookstore with Bahamas Tourism and other partners, spreading the word that Exuma, 300km south of Abaco, was completely unscathed by Dorian
The swimming pigs swam “ across the pond” last month for the latest stop on their world tour, this time arriving
in London, England, to promote their award-winning book and a full-length film.
‘Pigs of Paradise’, released by Skyhorse Publishing in October 2018, has had an idyllic year. The double international award-winning book on the tourism phenomenon has sold out of its first printing, with a second edition slated for 2020. Stanfords, a specialty travel book store in downtown London, received the last boxes of the celebrated book for its book signing in early September.
A new, full-length film, commissioned by executive producer Peter Nicholson, was shown to the crowd later that evening. Charlie Smith, the director of the film, also made the trip from his home base in Miami.
“The famous swimming pigs of The Bahamas continue to fascinate visitors from the world over,” said Anthony Stuart, Director Europe, India & The Middle East of The Bahamas Tourist Office.
“It was a privilege to welcome author T.R. Todd and filmmaker Charlie Smith to London and to share with the UK media and swimming pig fans the stories behind our wonderful swimming pigs through Todd’s book ‘Pigs of Paradise’ and the film of the same name. Discovering the background to these enchanting pigs is sure to draw even more visitors to The Exumas, one of the 14 islands which was not impacted by Hurricane Dorian, to see the swimming pigs for themselves and in so doing aid with the recovery of the affected islands.”
A key message of the night for everyone involved was the promotion of The Bahamas in general, educating the attendees that the country is very much open for business despite the tragedy on two islands – Abaco and Grand Bahama.
In addition to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, other strategic partners came together to deliver this message.
Swimming Pigs Gin, a new company founded by a Bahamian living in London, participated by offering complimentary gin and tonics to the crowd, which included members of the media, travel agents and those simply interested in The Bahamas. Grand Isle Resort in Exuma, untouched by Hurricane Dorian, was also represented at the event, along with other Exuma properties Peace & Plenty and Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
But it was Kew Little Pigs that stole the show. This micro pig breeder, the largest of its kind in Europe, brought in two little piggies from its farm just outside London, setting up an impromptu petting zoo in front of Stanfords. Micro pigs have become increasingly popular as pets in recent times, and Londoners stopped in their tracks to meet the animals and learn more about the animals, and The Bahamas.
“There is no doubt that these swimming pigs are a real source of fascination for people,” said Vivien Godfrey, the third-generation owner of Stanfords, which dates its history back to 1853. Those wishing to make a donation to the Bahamas Red Cross, in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, can visit Stanfords’ website and follow the link.
“It was our pleasure to host ‘Pigs of Paradise’ and all the partners for this truly unique book signing and film screening. We wish The Bahamas well post-Dorian and would certainly encourage people to consider this destination for their next holiday.”
This stop for ‘Pigs of Paradise’ is the latest on the book and film’s world tour, with previous engagements in Fort Lauderdale, the Cannes International Film Festival in France, and local events in Nassau and Exuma. The new, full-length film, narrated by the world-famous Scott Kelly, recently achieved international distribution, and it is expected to arrive on television networks and streaming services sometime in 2020.
Exuma, 300km south of Abaco, was untouched by Hurricane Dorian. Nevertheless, Grand Isle owner Steven Daiagi has made it his mission to bring relief to those that need it most
Ever since Hurricane Dorian passed through the Northern Bahamas, Steve Daiagi has been in the air.
The South Florida resident, who also owns a home at Grand Isle Resort in Exuma, Bahamas, has made it his mission to help Bahamians in need. Even though Exuma and Grand Isle were completely untouched by the catastrophic storm, Daiagi, who owns a jet and helicopter, dedicated himself to bringing relief to those most vulnerable.
In addition to his personal efforts and support, he has launched a Go Fund Me account so he can purchase more funds supplies and relief, which has raised over $63,386 – so far.
“The Bahamian people…these are my people. I have a home in The Bahamas,” Daiagi says, who estimates he has run close to 25 relief missions with his aircrafts in the last month. “If you don’t give in this
world you don’t get. It’s just the way I feel and I believe in it.”
Hurricane Dorian, a slow-moving, Category 5 storm, first struck Abaco on September, before dragging onwards towards Grand Bahama. It left unprecedented damage in its wake, with more than 60 dead, 70,000 homeless and billions in damage. Exuma and Grand Isle Resort, where Daiagi has a home, is more than 300km to the south. It had sunny skies that day, with barely a hint of the destruction to the north – and it remains completely open for business.
Daiagi had not been personally impacted. Nevertheless, he made it personal. The storm had barely left The Bahamas by the time his helicopter had already landed in Nassau, ready to help and deliver aid. Almost immediately, Daiagi and his team, including his wife and daughter, have been delivering aid, evacuating Bahamians and even flying in rescue teams.
Shortly after one of his first relief missions, Daiagi was approached In Nassau by 16 rescue workers that had flown in from Oregon, all looking to get themselves to the affected areas. “I told them there was no way I could do it now. I will come back in the morning with a load of supplies,” he remembers. So I put them up in hotels that night, and when I returned, I had to make six trips to bring their 16-man crew and their dogs to Treasure Cay, in Abaco.”
Describing his first-hand look at the devastation as “10 times worse than what you’ve seen in pictures”, Daiagi has been non-stop ever since, simply because the need is so great. He has run relief to churches in Grand Bahama, where people are being cared for. He has brought generators to the airport’s control tower. His daughter, who works in aviation, is working with NEMA to arrange planes to these islands to save people, at no charge. Daiagi also gives a great deal of credit to Odyssey Aviation, the private terminal in Nassau, which has turned an entire hanger into a relief zone and used their trucks to haul supplies to nearby orphanages.
A great deal of his focus, he says, has been on the children. Daiagi has been providing supplies – diapers, lotions, bedsheets – to overwhelmed orphanages and safe houses in Nassau, where so many of those most vulnerable have found relief. Every time he returns to Florida, he heads off to Walmart to buy thousands of dollars’ worth of supplies, before heading back up into the air, for The Bahamas.
Stories like those from Daiagi demonstrate not just the scale of the devastation, but also the fact that there are many people out there more than willing to help. And while not all of us have the same time or resources, there are many ways to still help.
One way is to make a donation, such as Daiagi’s Go Fund me account.
Another way is to simply plan your next visit to The Bahamas. An archipelagic nation, the country is about 1,000km long. While devastating, Hurricane Dorian only impacted a small portion of The Bahamas, a destination that relies heavily on tourism dollars.
“We are open for business. Beautiful weather. Lovely beaches. No traffic. Incredibly friendly people. And so we are encouraging people to let people know The Bahamas is very much open for business,” Dionisio D’Aguilar, the Minister of Tourism and Aviation, recently told Global News in Montreal, Canada.
The best way you can help us, he adds, is to come and visit and have a beautiful vacation. D’Aguilar even had a few words of encouragement for Exuma and its world-famous swimming pigs. “Come to our hotels, go to our restaurants, go on our excursions,” he explains.
“Of course the swimming pigs, completely unaffected. They are waiting for people to come visit them. They are wondering what’s happening.”
In response to the storm, Grand Isle has launched a Bahamas Strong package – 10% of every booking will be donated to Bahamas- recovery efforts, with a commitment to ensure these funds will reach those that need it most. You can learn more about the package here.
For Daiagi, he is also planning a much-deserved holiday at his home at Grand Isle Resort. Of course, he will also be bringing a plane load of supplies with him, to assist those that have sought refuge on Exuma.
Overall, while so much work has been done, Daiagi insists that people cannot forget about The Bahamas once the story slips off the front page. It will be a long and sustained road to recovery for Abaco and Grand Bahama – and The Bahamas needs your support.
“People will go back to their lives,” he says. “Whether we like it or not, that’s what happens. I’ve spent $30,000 of the $64,000 or so that we’ve raised. And I’m in no rush to spend it. We will continue to bring loads of supplies and raise money. We’re going to continue to focus on the kids. That’s just what we are going to do.”
Brands affiliated with The Bahamas such as The Swimming Pig Store have made limited edition #BahamasStrong shirts to help raise much-needed funds and awareness for Hurricane Dorian relief efforts, donating 100% of the profits from sales to Bahamian Red Cross & related organizations.
Awarded each year to a student on Exuma, scholarship is made possible by the Exuma Marathon, with the next race on November 9th; Registration is now open with a special booking code for Grand Isle Resort
When Sanaaja Smith learned that her brother suffered from a severe mental illness, she did more than offer her support –
Smith, a resident of Exuma, said her brother experienced a series of traumatic incidents as a child, including the loss of her father, which she believes “pushed him over the edge”. While she had always been an excellent student, news of his diagnosis inspired her to better understand the human mind.
So she studied. And studied.
And now, she is the 2019 Pompey Scholarship recipient, awarded last month at the L N Coakley High School graduation ceremony. Smith will attend the University of The Bahamas in Nassau with a major in psychology.
“I aspire to be a clinical psychologist. Once I heard about my brother, I just started doing research, understanding how these things happen, and my interest just bloomed out of being in that situation with him,” according to Smith. “I’ll miss Exuma very much. It is a very peaceful place and not as frantic as Nassau. But I am also very excited and appreciate this amazing opportunity.”
Smith is the 4th recipient of The Pompey Scholarship, awarded to a deserving student each year through the proceeds of the annual Exuma Marathon, featuring The Run For Pompey, which this year will take place on November 9th. Registration is now open.
The race, founded by GIV Bahamas Inc, the largest owner at Grand Isle Resort, has become an anticipated staple of the Exuma tourism calendar. Last year represented the event’s first-ever sell-out, attracting hundreds of participants from throughout The Bahamas and abroad.
In fact, the race has been known to bring in runners from not just the United States and Canada, but also more far-flung countries such as Germany and France. But while Exuma Marathon has emerged as a celebrated community event, and a boost to the local economy, it remains entirely nonprofit, with all funds going towards The Pompey Scholarship.
“Sanaaja was selected because she is one of our top graduates (in the top 1%) who has made significant strides academically but lacks of the financial means to further her education,” said Don Barr, the principal of L N Coakley High School. “She is also one of our top band members and is talented in playing the trombone. We couldn’t find a more deserving student.”
As an event with social impact, Exuma Marathon is well supported by the community, featuring many important local sponsors. The event’s title sponsor is BAF Financial Group, which has been with the event from the beginning. Other major sponsors include GIV Bahamas Inc., Grand Isle Resort, Sands Beer, Aliv and the Caribbean Bottling Company.
For those flying in for the event, Exuma Marathon provides a unique opportunity to have a memorable holiday while also participating in an event with impact and authenticity. The professionally timed race has something for everyone, with short routes for the whole family and a grueling Ultra Marathon for those die-hard runners, otherwise known as The Run For Pompey.
Pompey, commonly considered one of the country’s foremost historical figures, led a slave rebellion on the island in the 1830s when 77 men, women and children were scheduled to be transferred off the island, separating families. Pompey defied the transfer order and preventing it from happening. Today, Pompey is honoured in Exuma by a statue and by a museum in Nassau.
“For my husband and I, Exuma Marathon is the perfect mix of fitness, relaxation, and fun. This island is definitely one of the most beautiful places in the world,” said Lacie Flannery, who attended the race last year with a group of friends.
“It’s just such a unique experience for anyone seeking a new destination race. The island is really special and we will be coming back for the next one!”
Grand Isle Resort is offering a special package for runners. Using the promo code POMPEY, guests will receive 35% off the normal rate for their villa of choice, along with free access to the traditional Pasta Night on November 8th, the night before the race, at the resort’s brand new beach club, 23 North.