“Briland Sweet Eh!” by the Brilanders is a song that reflects the state of mind of any visitor, Bahamian or foreign to Harbour Island. The heavily charged and euphoric atmosphere coupled with the historical and natural beauty blends together to produce a social environment that has long been described as “sweetness”. However, scores of years long before much of the Bahamas tourism was developed, Harbour Island's sweetness remained a well kept and guarded secret to by an exclusive and elite few. Such persons included royalty such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the rich such as the Rockefellers and Aristotle Onasis, politicians such as presidential candidate Senator George McGovern of South Dakota and Mayor Lindsey of New York along with an endless list of other prominent and famous persons, it was realized that Harbour Island is indeed a special place on this earth.
During the late 1940's an electrical engineer from New Jersey, a man by the name of Allan Malcolm purchased his uncle's interest in a few cottages on Harbour Island's beach known as the Pink Sands Lodge and took the winter residency by the elite in the Bahamas to the next level. Undoubtedly, Allan Malcolm is the father of winter residence in the out-islands of the Bahamas. Without any challenge, history must award him that distinction.
Despite that deserved distinction, Alan Malcolm established and maintained a unique standard of excellence. Accommodations was by invitation only and extended usually only to CEOs or other outstanding persons and only after being recommended or screened by others along with the vigilant and scrutinizing eyes of Alan Malcolm. In fact, on more than one occasion, I have heard Allan Malcolm boast that after operating the Pink Sands for almost 40 years, he never had a problem with payment from any of his guest. With no television, radio, telephones or other amenities in the room, the only attraction was that spectacular, three-mile stretch of nature's wonder known as the Pink Sands Beach.
By the late 1990's after the devastating Hurricane Andrew, the Pink Sands was sold to recording mogul, Chris Blackwell. This was the age of the dot-com companies and "neveau riche" such as the Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey's in addition to the traditional rich made the Pink Sands Lodge one of the most outstanding resorts in its class in the world. With its now high-tech amenities and its Moroccan, Indian, and Balinese design, the Pink Sands is indeed in a league of its own. This is an accomplishment that I am especially proud of as the majority of my family over the years including my mother, father, uncle, aunts, cousins, etc all worked at the Pink Sands.
Consequently they helped to build the goodwill that resulted in a hotel with such an outstanding reputation. Yet with its new character, its main attraction is still the pink sand beach.
Despite the establishment of Pink Sands and other world famous Bahamas resorts and hotels along the pink sand beaches, the lure and seductiveness of Harbour Island to both Bahamians and visitors alike is still the pink sands beach. It is not unusual to see persons seeing the pink sands beach for the first time to completely "freak out." For example, a friend of mine, a conservative, Christian, conservative man from Freeport ran into the sea, wholesale ran to the beach with all of his clothes on. This was so contrary to his disciplined character, but then again that's the pink sands beach for you.
However, the true significance of the pink sands beach and its importance to the Bahamas was recently revealed during Beach Week on the Travel Channel where the best beaches around the world were identified. Such beaches included Ipanema in Rio De Janero, Clifton's Beach in South Africa, St. Tropez in France, Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, Poipu Beach in Hawaii, and Bora Bora in Tahiti, referred to the as "a peace of heaven on earth" by one of my favorite authors and Pulitzer Prize Winner, James Michner, in his book "Journey to the South Pacific."
What made these beaches famous have nothing to do with the natural beauty of the beach but what goes on at the beach. Frequented by the jet setters, these famous beaches are more like Beach clubs for social scenes and only serves as a playground for the elite. In some of these beaches, swimming is impossible due to pollution. But when competition judges such as Heidi Mitchell, Associate Editor of Travel and Leisure Magazine and Jay Klanfer, Associate Publisher of Islands Magazine removed the mood on the beach, the emotion, the lifestyle and consider only the basic elements of the beach -- notably sand -- Harbour Island's pink sands beach was voted the Best Beach for Sand in the world.
With its pink, sandy beach, blue pastel skies and turquoise water, the pink sands beach is indeed a wonder to see. Directly facing the east, this beach has been the scene of some awesome sunrises often witnessed by honeymooners. A couple of years ago, a writer in the Caribbean Travel and Life Magazine, when identifying the best beaches in the Caribbean, described the other beaches in terms of natural beauty. Harbour Island pink sands beach at dawn could only be described as a religious experience. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism now needs to promote Harbour Island with this latest award and the Local Government needs to establish the necessary monuments displaying this award of distinction.
Finally one cannot mention the pink sands beach without acknowledging the contribution of my brother, Humphrey "Hitler" Percentie, Jr. who for the past 20 years almost on a daily basis has dedicated his life to the cleaning up and beautification of the pink sands beach. Hitler's efforts, however, often went unnoticed and the Harbour Island community owes him a debt of gratitude for his dedication and foresight to the preservation of this national treasure.