The winter was so long in Ohio, we were just craving sunshine and warmth - so we planned a last minute getaway to Exuma! This was our fourth trip to the Bahamanian island and I think it's safe to say that we are totally in love.
The Exumas are an archipelago of 365 islands not far from Nassau, and they are divided up into 3 main areas: Great Exuma, Little Exuma, and the Exuma Cays. We typically stay on Great Exuma, near the center of the Island so that when we venture out, its not far to either end of the island, and only a few miles to the main city of George Town. It was so great to see old friends and make some new ones on this trip - you will meet them all here throughout my Exuma posts.
A few weeks before we arrived, we contacted Sugar Adventure (sugaradventure.com) to schedule our excursions. We always book with Captain Harris "Sugar", because he grew up in Exuma and knows these islands well. He knows where to go for the best fish, conch, and lobster hunting - and he knows all the private islands for the best secluded shore lunch. This trip we booked a full day excursion which took us to the famous Thunderball Grotto, swimming with sharks at Compass Cay, an amazing sandbar, swimming with the pigs at Staniel Cay, swimming with turtles at Farmer's Cay, and feeding the iguanas. It's a full day of fun in the sun!
We brought our own snorkel gear but Sugar has gear on his boat that you can use. I am visually challenged, so I have a special diving mask with prescription lenses, which was purchased from XS Scuba (xsscuba.com). This allows me to see clearly underwater and truly enjoy my experience. If you need glasses to read or see things up close, I highly recommend these masks. Bring plenty of sunscreen and a cover up, as you will be in and out of the water all day in the sun.
First up on this trip, was snorkeling into Thunderball Grotto. At low tide, you can get into the grotto without having to duck under a cave entrance. Once inside, there are all kinds of smaller caves and pathways to explore inside the grotto. A lot of tropical fish and an occasional nurse shark may visit. The grotto is completely open at the top of the cave, which allows a nice stream of sunlight to provide light inside.
Next up was a stop at Staniel Cay to swim the pigs. We have visited the swimming pigs on each trip to Exuma, and each time is always exciting for me! Just to see them swimming up to the boat is such an awesome thrill - it's just something you never really imagine seeing and yet, there it is!
If you plan to feed the pigs, please bring fresh veggies or bread, and try to feed them in the water. This keeps them from getting sand in their bellies. And please be respectful, and do not try and ride the pigs or give them alcohol. These are beautiful creatures and we need to keep them healthy and safe.
The boys at Sugar Adventure also made fresh conch salad while anchored on a gorgeous sandbar, while a lemon shark hung around close by to scoop up the left overs! And men, don't forget to eat the conch pistol, also known as Bahamian Viagra. Legend has it, the pistol is a powerful aphrodisiac. Commonly thought to be the conch's male genitalia, it is actually an appendage in the conch that aids in digestion.
Another stop on this excursion took us to Compass Cay to swim with the nurse sharks. At times, there can be a lot of people in the water, which kicks up the sand and makes the water cloudy. But, if you are patient and have the time to wait, soon enough the people will leave, the water will clear up and you will have the sharks almost all to yourself. If you are stopping here on an excursion, the cay charges $10 for entry onto the pier, but it is well worth the money to get up close, even if you don't get in the water.
Our lunch stop took us to Farmer's Cay, where we dined on delicious food and rum punch at the Ocean Cabin Restaurant & Bar, followed by a delightful swim in the harbor with the sea turtles, sting rays, and a huge smiling puffer.
The last stop of the day was a quick visit to feed the iguanas. Montel and Junior of Sugar Adventure topped off the excursion with some tricks on the beach.
Such a fun day out exploring in Exuma! This is just a small sample of adventures to be had in the Exuma islands. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our trip, where I give tips on restaurants, beaches, and historical landmarks on Great and Little Exuma!