When I was deliberating cruising to the Caribbean, at first I was just looking at the Bahamas as stepping-stones through the Atlantic as part of the “Thorny Path” down to the Caribbean. They call it “thorny” because for the most part you are cruising east-southeast, uncomfortably so into the wind. But once I started looking at the Chart Books and Cruising Guides, I got excited about the whole journey. We had flown over this area many times, and it always looked like someone had taken watercolors and finger paints and made some beautiful abstract art using brilliant colors of various colors of blue, green and white.
I knew very little about the Exuma Islands, but they are the jewels of the Bahamas. Any pictures I take of the colors of the waters and sky don’t do it justice.
Our intro to the Exumas was the Allen Cays. It is a totally uninhabited group of a handful of islands with beautiful white beaches and vivid colors, but most interesting are the iguanas. Not knowing what to expect, we watched from a distance as another couple went ashore to a nearby beach. Even from a distance we could see some very strange prehistoric animals emerging from the scrubby trees and vegetation. The couple escaped unscathed, and then did a drive by our boat to let us know it was remarkable.
So there were six of us that loaded up in dinghies and went ashore. About that same time, some tourist boats from Nassau decided to descend on the island. They were armed with grapes on sticks. Hundreds of prehistoric-looking iguanas in all shapes and sizes appeared out of nowhere looking for their daily fruit-grazing fix. And eat they did. They even went so far as to take a chomp out of a couple of fingers of a Nassau tourist. For some reason, she looked shocked. I mean, what do you expect?
One of our extended stops to wait out the weather was Staniel Cay, home of the Thunderball cave/grotto used for a couple of James Bond movies and the Disney movie “Splash”. As part of our daily 5:00 sundowner on the beach, we were met by a welcoming party of pigs, emerging from the brush behind the beach and charging towards us into the surf. We were the only ones on the beach, but after watching other dinghies later, we learned that if you show up with food, the pigs swim out to retrieve it. Swimming Pigs! There were roosters and hens on the beach, as well. Bacon and Eggs!
We dinghied to shore to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, and were met by about a half dozen nurse sharks, and several of the largest stingrays I have ever seen. Apparently they wait near the fish cleaning station for the tossed scraps as the fishermen clean their daily catch.
The water is crystal clear, so much so that even in 10 feet of water it is easy to discern that the dark patch beneath the boat that is beginning to move is indeed in the shape of a 6 foot nurse shark. So much for snorkeling around the boat! It is nature in all its balance here, the beautiful and the pristine, just don’t get careless!