If Ernest Hemingway's famous man-against-marlin novel The Old Man and the Sea always captivated your imagination and you wish you could turn back the clock nearly a century to the days when legendary fishermen like Zane Grey, Tommy Gifford and Michael Lerner were founding the sport, then hanker no longer. Instead, head to Bimini, and the newly reopened Bimini Big Game Club, a Guy Harvey Outpost Resort and Marina, where nostalgia mixes with the new at this eco-destination focused on adventure travel, sustainable tourism, marine conservation and sports fishing.
Located some 50 miles from Miami, the nine-square-mile Bahamian Out Island of Bimini attracted the rich and famous during the 1930s who saw it as an exotic playground. Sports fishermen like Lerner and his pal Hemingway, coveted the island for its proximity to the Great Bahama Bank and the productive waters of both the Gulfstream and Florida Straits. More than 50-record-setting catches have earned Bimini the title, 'Big Game Fishing Capitol of the World'.
"The Bimini Big Game Club was founded in 1936 as a supper club in Alice Town," says Mark Ellert, President of Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts. "It was moved to its current location in 1946 and six bungalows were built in the early 1950s. It was the premier place to go back then and rumored to have had the first TV on the island. The Bacardi family bought it in the late '60s and sold it in 2000. The Club had been closed for two years before we bought it."
Ellert, led by Jamaica-based artist, scientist, sportsman and resort namesake, Dr. Guy Harvey, and fellow partners Charles Forman and Bill Shedd, undertook a $3.5 million renovation of the legendary Club, the 51-room resort and 75-slip marina and reopened Phase I in the spring of 2010. The new owners have done a great job of maintaining the rich historical feel as well as providing modern creature comforts and a strong sense of conservation.
"We've worked with several Hemingway heirs to ensure the property reflects Hemingway's time on the island," says Ellert.
You can see the results of this effort in photos of Hemingway showcased in the Bimini Big Game Bar and Grill dining room. In the lobby, look for the framed letters Hemingway wrote to Lerner, who was on safari in Africa at the time, about the modifications the famed author was making to his boat Pilar to improve its sports fishing efficiency.
"Today," says Ellert, "the concept is to take the Bimini Big Game Club beyond that of a 'fishing lodge', to an eco-destination attracting both fishing and diving enthusiasts, as well as promoting social and educational components and programs that reflect Dr. Harvey's environmental philosophies."
Working in concert with educators, scientists and other professionals at the Guy Harvey Research Institute, the Outpost will become a satellite 'working laboratory' of the Institute, offering individuals and families one-on-one interactive opportunities to learn about marine science and ecology from visiting scientists, researchers and naturalists.
Yet, sports fishing will remain the main draw. In fact, the dock master also wears an outfitter's hat and can coordinate everything from an offshore fishing excursion for blue marlin, tuna, sailfish and swordfish to great bonefish and permit fishing on the flats.
"We plan to host a fishing tournament series this year," says Ellert. "The series will kick-off with a three-day blue marlin tournament on May 18 to 20 that will be 100% release. Conservation is one of our core philosophies. Both Lerner and Hemingway were founding fathers of the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) and Guy is currently one of the IGFA's trustees."
The series will also include a family fishing tournament in the summer, a bonefish competition in early fall and wahoo tournament in November.
Those who arrive by boat can dock at the 75-slip marina, which can accommodate yachts up to 120-feet with a depth of nine feet. Electricity, water, free WiFi, ice, cable TV, bathrooms and showers and 24-hour security are available. A full service fuel dock will open in the spring.
Phase II plans call for the construction of the Guy Harvey Theater, a guest lecture series and interactive sessions with Dr. Harvey and the Guy Harvey Research Institute at NOVA Southeastern Oceanographic Center, and day trips to the Bimini Biological Field Station's world-famous shark lab.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.