Swain’s Cay Lodge sits on the edge of the third largest barrier reef in the world, on a white sandy beach in Mangrove Cay, on the eastern side of Andros Island, Bahamas. It’s a quiet place where anglers can practice their casts, fish for bonefish, snorkel inside some of the greatest concentration of blue holes in that part of the Caribbean, or just enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.
The Lodge is owned and operated by Cheryl Bastian, a former financial services professional who grew up on Andros and, tired of her years of service in the banking industry, decided that she wanted to open a modest bed and breakfast operation. In 2001, she went on a visit to Mangrove Cay and fell in love with a small lodge there. Over the next eight years, she sought the necessary financing to buy and develop the property, and finally opened the new and improved Swain’s Cay Lodge in February 2009.
The Lodge has a total of nine units and 21 beds. “There’s an apartment with three bedrooms on the top floor in the front building,” says Bastian. “Below that are two other units with two twin beds or a queen bed. We built two other buildings – one on the beach with three villas, and another building right behind it.” A new building, right next to the property, was built last year by the Lodge’s original owner, who is allowing Bastian to rent out three additional rooms with seven extra beds. “This is unique in Andros where most hotels and lodges, the maximum is eight beds or less,” she adds. “We are therefore a good option for tournaments and larger groups – which seems to be the trend for the future in Andros.”
Most of the guests at Swain’s Cay Lodge come from the U.S., and, according to Bastian, they are generally affluent entrepreneurs or business people. “Andros attracts a lot of high-end, saltwater anglers, because there is fantastic fishing and it’s not built up,” she explains. In order to accommodate her guests’ fishing proclivities, she knew she had to provide them with the best possible guides. “So, I engaged third and fourth generation guides, who have the personality and the expertise to engage these affluent and high-net worth anglers,” she declares. “We work with the best guides in the area who favor working with our lodge because of our fair standards, attractive salary, and growth potential. This helps to make the fishing experience more efficient than our competitors and more enjoyable for our customers.”
In addition, Bastian’s staff of ten help make the Lodge’s guests feel at home, while catering to their every need. “We have an excellent staff that provides a truly genuine, helpful, skillful, and friendly service,” she states. “Our client retention is high with guests who have returned for six straight years to fish.” The Lodge’s Reef Side restaurant provides delicious Bahamian food – breakfast, lunch, and dinner can be enjoyed right on the beach with a fantastic view of the ocean. “We recently introduced a lounge area on our deck which guests love, and a new deck with seating is currently being erected over our tarpon pond for guest to fish from, read a book, or just lounge,” Bastian adds.
High season at Swain’s Cay Lodge is from early October to late June, with minimal occupancy levels in July and August. Bastian believes that its 50 percent occupancy rate during the high season can be improved to meet her three-to-five goal of 70 percent. “Our price point is very attractive given that our main competitors in the area are considered expensive,” she says. “We are finding that anglers and others who can afford those more expensive properties, but who feel that we have a comparable product, are moving towards us.”
In order to improve her numbers, Bastian says it she beefing up the Lodge’s marketing activities. It attends fly-fishing shows that are held from January to March, each year, in the U.S.; it is a member of the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board (“That gets us the kind of marketing that we can afford”); and it is focusing more on added-value offerings such as free round trip flights from Nassau to Mangrove Cay and cash discounts for private pilots, boaters, and divers, visiting for four or more nights.
Cheryl Bastian’s dream of a showpiece resort on the Island of Andros has come true after many years of struggle and sacrifice. And the result is a place where anglers and others can enjoy the beauty of a vacation in paradise with no crowds and no traffic – just the warm, gentle breezes blowing off the sparking blue waters of the Caribbean. “Not only will you have a great vacation,” she says, “but the rooms are very nice and the food is really, really good. And it’s affordable.”
So, what are you waiting for?
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Swain’s Cay Lodge
WHAT: A beachside hotel catering to anglers and eco-tourists
WHERE: Mangrove Cay, Andros Island, Bahamas
J.S. Johnson & Company Ltd. – J.S. Johnson & Company, Limited are licensed Insurance Brokers and Agents with a Head Office in Nassau, Bahamas. The company is the oldest and largest general insurance agency in The Bahamas, having entered the field in 1919. The company has over 160 staff members, most of whom have many years of experience and hold professional qualifications from insurance institutes in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the U.S.A. Its products include: Personal Lines, Commercial Lines, Marine, Aviation, and Life & Health covers. – www.jsjohnson.com