For Eric Carey, executive director of the Bahamas National Trust, the Resorts World project is excessive for a place so small you can traverse the main island of North Bimini in a few minutes in a golf cart, rarely losing sight of the ocean in both directions.
“Everyone understands that all of our islands rely on tourism,” Carey said. “But when one thinks about going beyond what’s there now, with a golf course and the jetty, well that borders on being out of scale.”
Thousands have come since the cruise ship service began operating, but Joseph Roberts, a commercial fisherman and proprietor of Joe’s Conch Shack, hasn’t seen enough new customers to allay concerns that development will contaminate the mangroves that partially encircle Bimini.
“I’ve got three grandsons and I hope that one day one or two of them could be fishermen ... and make a decent living,” Roberts said as he pulled a giant sea snail from its shell and chopped it for salad. “What are they going to have if you destroy everything?”
This is a place with a colorful history. In the colonial era, it was a hideout for pirates who stalked treasure-laden Spanish ships coming from South and Central America and the Caribbean. During Prohibition, liquor was legal in what was then the British Bahamas, and Bimini was a source of booze for South Florida.
Bimini has also seen its share of glamor. Hemingway visited in 1935 and then returned for the summers of 1936 and 1937, writing part of “To Have and Have Not” while there, according to the text of an exhibit in a small museum in Alice Town. Other famous visitors included Martin Luther King Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland and Lucille Ball, who stayed at the famed Bimini Big Game Club.