A Fond Farewell to NOLS Bahamas


Mar 15, 2023

“There is magic in the turquoise waters of the Bahamas and it always felt like returning home. Floating in the salty water while people shared their stories of present and past are some of the memories I hold dearly. Joyous days playing in boats and learning new skills, crowding a whole group under a single tarp to hide from the sun or the rain before escaping back into the water, the memories are all dear. Wiggling our toes into the soft white sand while planning and timing our movements with tides and wind never got old.

Planning and replanning (and replanning) what our next days would bring.”
~ Lynn Petzold

View from a kayak looking ahead to three other kayakers gliding over crystal clear waterPhoto by Steve Harrington

With sincere sadness the Alumni Trips department at NOLS is announcing the closure of our Bahamas sea kayaking program.

For over a decade this outdoor space has been welcoming NOLSies to the white beaches and turquoise waters of paradise while reminding us that tolerance for adversity is part of the game also (thank you mosquitos and torrential rain).

Woman in a beach hat sitting under a tarp smiling as she looks out the oceanPhoto by Douglas Lowry

While several of us have had the privilege of paddling through the waters of the Exumas, this program has had a steadfast group of 3 NOLS Instructors that manifested the program into existence and shepherded its existence. and I would be remiss if I didn’t first thank them and second share their words.

Several NOLS alumni setting up camp on the beach with kayaks at the edge of the surfPhoto by Lynn Petzold

My sincere gratitude goes out to Lynn Petzold, Steve Harrington, and Douglas Lowry. Incredible paddlers, invested educators, and outstanding human beings. While I am sad to be closing this small chapter of their very large NOLS book, I know that they will each still be involved in Alumni Trips and NOLS for many years to come.

Starfish in the water at the edge of the shore.Photo by Steve Harrington

From Steve Harrington - 
“Some of my life’s best paddling was spent in the clear waters of the Exuma Islands camping with a small cadre of NOLS Alumni. The white sand (actually, calcium carbonate ooids!), the warm waters lapping up against uninhabited islands that were our temporary home, the good company of fellow paddlers… It didn’t get much better than that. Okay, the bugs brought it down a notch but still, it was a great run in a great place with a great group of folks; for which I’m very grateful.”

NOLS Alumni student in a kayak wearing goggles with an instructor standing by her.Photo by Douglas Lowry

From Douglas Lowry - 
“Benchmarks materialize differently for each of us and when you find yourself caffeinated, loading fresh papaya into the hatch of a sea kayak in the shade of a Silver Top Palm on a pristine beach rising out of turquoise water, it is time to take note. The opportunity to celebrate the cathartic beauty of Nature with a small group of folks linked through affinity, while kayak camping through the Brigantines just off the island of Exuma is a metric many NOLS Alumni have now experienced."

A group of NOLS alumni gathered together lounging in the water as they listen to an instructorPhoto by Douglas Lowry

"Almost uniformly, alumni speak of their NOLS course(s) as being transformative and these Island trips have been a wonderful platform for folks to revisit and share their stories from their life changing educational experiences. Paddling across the channels between the cays, exploring the backwaters of mangroves, spotting rays, learning to roll a kayak, snorkeling above schooling fish, or bellying up to a floating backcountry chocolate bar will be activities that will be missed as this well storied trip comes off the calendar. It has been a good run.”

Two kayakers paddle along the shore with white clouds billowing over the shorePhoto by Douglas Lowry

Grads, friends, family, and guests have all had the pleasure of engaging with the NOLS community of humans and nature through this magical location. It might not be goodbye forever, but it is goodbye for now.

5 NOLS alumni standing in the calm water looking out across the open oceanPhoto by Lynn Petzold

Thank you to all who made this space special.

Travis Welch
NOLS Alumni Trips Director

Sunset in the clouds over the oceanPhoto by Steve Harrington


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