Keeping the Bahamas Beautiful: Sustainable Design in Bimini

Once a sleepy island village known mostly as a fishing outpost for anglers, Bimini is evolving into a luxury resort destination. And with views like this one -- it's easy to see why.

Photo by: Kara Franker View of the crystal clear water from Edith's Pizza, a local eatery on King's Highway in Bimini. 

Brimming with a vibrant local culture and picture perfect seascapes, Bimini is the closest island in the Bahamas to Miami. The coastline of the small archipelago is dotted with local businesses like waterfront conch shacks surrounded by towering piles of conch shells -- residents of the island aren't nearly as enamored with the pearly pink shells as we are in the States -- they'd rather eat the meat and discard the rest.

Photo by: Kara Franker A favorite for locals and visitors alike, Stuart's conch shack serves some of the best conch salad on the island. And all of the shells lining the coast are free for the taking. 

Although it's only about 50 nautical miles east of Miami, Bimini has remained somewhat isolated for decades. Formally a favorite hideaway of Ernest Hemingway, the island has, for the most part, been only accessible by individual boats or private planes. Very few commercial flights make the trip to the tiny airport, which used to have no nighttime lighting on its airstrip. Visitors have mostly consisted of anglers, boaters and diving enthusiasts, but that's all about to change, with the development of Resorts World Bimini. 

Photo by: Kara Franker Besides this ship (shown above) that wrecked against the coast of Bimini, there are a number of sunken vessels in nearby waters, including the infamous SS Sapona -- a concrete-hulled cargo steamer that ran aground near Bimini during a hurricane in 1926. The wreck of the ship is easily visible above the water, and is both a navigational landmark for boaters and a popular dive site.

A major worldwide resort and casino developer, Genting Group, is in the process of developing one of the largest construction projects in Bimini's history. And they're implementing sustainable design tactics as part of the master plan. Resorts World Bimini President, Dana Leibovitz, says the company is committed to environmental stewardship. 

“Throughout our development -- whether it is our new hotel, the airport expansion, or the pending construction of our pier -- Resorts World Bimini has been, and will continue to be, very mindful of protecting, preserving and celebrating Bimini’s wonderful climate, beautiful waters and beaches, and unique culture and history," Leibovitz says. "Our goal is to leave a legacy of sustainable development as we help to build a better Bimini for the enjoyment of generations to come.”  

The developers purchased the former Bimini Bay Resort, including the property with existing, brightly-colored waterfront homes and condo-style hotel rooms. They then built a brand new 10,000-square-foot live action casino. Another one of the company's first courses of action, was to add solar panels and LED lighting to the South Bimini Airport, so commercial and private aircrafts can land safely at night. They're also in the process of lengthening the runway to accommodate regional jets.    

Photo by: Kara Franker Resorts World Bimini purchased the property and now manages the brightly-colored vacation homes and condo-style hotel rooms that were formerly known as the Bimini Bay Resort. These beach homes are individually owned, but available for short term vacation rentals. 

Photo by: Kara Franker The Resorts World Bimini SuperFast cruise ship shuttles travelers from Miami to Bimini in under three hours. 

Genting also began construction on a new government-approved cruise ship pier along North Bimini’s western coast, near the resort’s entrance. The pier will accommodate the 32,000 ton Bimini SuperFast cruise ship, which started traveling to the island from Miami on Fridays through Sundays (daily service will begin once the pier is completed in July 2014). 

As part of Genting's $150 million investment, a new, 350-room luxury hotel is under construction and slated to open in late 2014. Besides the fact that the project has created hundreds of new jobs for locals and Bahamians from nearby islands, the company is taking measures to ensure the resort's development is sustainable -- and that Bimini’s environment and culture are not negatively impacted in the process. They formed an Environmental Task Force to monitor three key areas: water, air quality and sustainable energy. 

Photo by: Kara Franker Home to the third largest reef in the world, the waters surrounding Bimini feature bright and bold hues of royal blue, aqua and green. 

Photo by: Kara Franker Michael Jay and his daughter Cara Jay, explored the island of Bimini via electric golf carts provided by Resorts World Bimini. 

Leaders of the project are working to preserve one of Bimini’s greatest assets – its marine life and the waters that surround it. Members of the task force monitor the island’s shoreline for signs of erosion. Additionally, more than 500,000 gallons of fresh water is pumped to North Bimini Island daily via the resort's reverse osmosis water treatment program. The landscaping needs are addressed by providing grey water for irrigation which is processed through the on-site sewage treatment facility. 

Dirt roads have been a problem, as vehicles kick dust into the air, so the resort contracted with Bahamas Hot Mix Company to pave all of the public roads across the islands. Several land based initiatives are in the works as part of an ongoing waste management study, including a recycling program that will be launched as the first step towards a more natural way to incinerate the island’s trash. Additionally, the resort encourages guests and staff to use their on-site fleet of electric-powered golf carts, instead of cars. 

To find out more about the Resorts World Bimini, visit  rwbimini.com.
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