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Category: Bahamas

Exuma: Jewels in the Sea (3)

Exuma: Jewels in the Sea (3)

Con­clud­ed from Part 2…

Staniel Cay is an active stopover for sail­ing yachts with an affa­ble yacht club for lunch. We spent an hour mean­der­ing its wind­ing lanes and admir­ing the col­or­ful cot­tages. On the way back we stopped at Com­pass Cay to “swim with the sharks”—big, friend­ly nurse sharks which behave like aquat­ic dogs, nos­ing up to a water-lev­el dock to be fed bits of conch and allow­ing their sand­pa­per backs to be scratched.

These nurs­es are quite dif­fer­ent from your image from “Jaws” (and as vet­er­an Bahami­an divers know, we have noth­ing that threat­en­ing in local waters any­way). Adult spec­i­mens are as big as a man, but they tend to spend most of their time on the bot­tom, feed­ing on lob­ster and oth­er bot­tom dwellers, some cov­ered with sand. With snacks in the water they swim up leisure­ly and lit­er­al­ly take it out of your hand. Just watch the fin­gers to avoid being gummed.

We were back in Governor’s Har­bour before sun­set, and amazed that we were able to see so much in just a day, thank to Paul Petty’s expert knowl­edge based on his years in Exu­ma; he wast­ed lit­tle time shuf­fling us between points of inter­est. Even then, we had seen only per­haps a quar­ter of it. A high pow­ered skiff is the quick­est way over, but per­haps you want to think of some­thing else if you’re over 50. For sailors. the place idyl­lic. We have nev­er seen such water–even clear­er and more shim­mer­ing than Eleuthera. Still, after any such adven­ture, Eleuthera is the best place to wind down.

More on the web:

Pho­tos from the cruis­ing yacht Sol­stice.

 Fodor’s Trav­el Guide to the Exu­ma Cays



Exuma: Jewels in the Sea (2)

Exuma: Jewels in the Sea (2)

Con­tin­ued from Part 1…

Land and Sea Park (Bahamas Nation­al Trust)

Once reached, the gem­stone islets of Exu­ma invite you to mean­der at a delib­er­ate pace in placid, gin-clear waters. There were sail­boats and cruis­ing lots galore along the islets, and you can see why. Sail­ing from one to anoth­er, drop­ping anchor by whim or fan­cy, is an expe­ri­ence that will wash the world away.

Every islet is dif­fer­ent and has its own attrac­tions. At Ward­er­ick Wells Cay is the Exu­ma Cays Nation­al Land and Sea Park—a good first stop after cross­ing over from Eleuthera. A marine fish­ery and native plant pre­serve, it occu­pies 176 acres. Fish­ing is banned to pre­serve the amaz­ing array of marine life, which you can see by div­ing or kayak.

3ThunderballGrottoThun­der­ball Grot­to, loca­tion for a famous James Bond film, is a cave in the coral where at low tide you can swim inside, sur­round­ed by schools of curi­ous, mul­ti-col­ored trop­i­cal fish.

The div­ing here is spec­tac­u­lar. An upper wet suit was the most we need­ed, and though Bahami­an waters are not known for tepid tem­per­a­tures in Feb­ru­ary, it seemed the water out there was warmer than the south side of Eleuthera—more like 3MeetMrSergeantthe Atlantic, which by a strange inver­sion of the Gulf Stream, is warmer than the Exu­ma Sound in the win­ter.

There are many more pho­tos of this beau­ti­ful lit­tle ocean hole. Just Google “Thun­der­bird Grot­to Exu­ma.”

Under­wa­ter pho­tos by Bar­bara Lang­worth.

2MajorCayPigsAt Major Cay, the famous “swim­ming pigs” prove that Churchill was right: “Cats look down on you, dogs look up to you—give me a pig! He looks you in the eye and treats you as an equal.” Click here for a good video.

Miss Piggy
Miss Pig­gy

The estab­lish­ment of pigs on this unin­hab­it­ed islet near Staniel Cay began a few years ago by a friend of Paul Pet­ty. They have a fresh­wa­ter pond for water and food to root in the bush, but are also well fed by tourists, who beach their whalers or anchor in shal­low water. The pigs swim out, dog-pad­dling with their noses snor­kel­ing in the air. A half-dozen fat, seago­ing pigs are the only res­i­dents. Baby pork­ers are removed when weaned, so the islet doesn’t over­pop­u­late.

Con­clud­ed in Part 3…

Streakin’ Home.
Exuma: Jewels in the Sea (1)

Exuma: Jewels in the Sea (1)

aMapEXUMA, BAHAMAS, FEBRUARY 5TH— Get­ting from our home island of Eleuthera to oth­er Bahami­an Fam­i­ly islands is com­pli­cat­ed, usu­al­ly requir­ing air trav­el via Nas­sau. But the near­est of the Exu­ma Cays is only about 40 miles from Cape Eleuthera, or 65 miles from Governor’s Har­bour, and you can do that in under two hours in a fast boat. So off we went from Cupid’s Cay aboard Capt. Paul Petty’s immac­u­late Mar­lin 35 skiff, Mar­ti­nis & Biki­nis.

The date was our anniver­sary, so it couldn’t have been bet­ter timed. Paul and his affa­ble mate Dwayne had six pas­sen­gers, includ­ing three res­i­dents of Rain­bow Bay and three Cana­di­an ladies, one of whom orga­nized the expe­di­tion. The entire trip took nine hours: two hours out and back, and five hours among the islets—which went like a flash.


The 130-mile-long arch­i­pel­ago form­ing the Exu­ma chain is a majes­tic dis­play of Bahami­an nature—however you get there, it’s worth every minute. All the col­ors from aqua­ma­rine to sap­phire shim­mer through the most beau­ti­ful ocean water in the world. But I’m going to char­ter a sail­boat next time.

Ward­er­ick Wells Cay

A skiff is built to plane, and when you have 2-4 ft waves and chop in the deep­er parts of the Exu­ma Sound, she just pounds, and we took the pound­ing at 35 knots. Paul is a good sea­man and han­dled the waves well. He could have slowed down but then we would have had much less time in the Exu­mas. The ride was rougher out against the tide. On the return, Paul had a fol­low­ing sea and after pass­ing Cape Eleuthera cut diag­o­nal­ly north­west past the Schooner Cays, which gave us a smooth run over turquoise water. Our bod­ies only ached for 48 hours.

Con­tin­ued in Part 2….