THE BAHAMAS AND EXUMAS CHAIN
The Islands of the Bahamas span a massive 450 miles from Grand Bahama in the North and Crooked Island in the South.
The chain is a coral-based archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, comprised of 700 islands and cays that range from uninhabited to resort-packed. The northernmost, Grand Bahama, and Paradise Island, home to the sprawling Atlantis resort, are among the best known. Scuba diving and snorkeling sites include the massive Andros Barrier Reef, Thunderball Grotto (seen in the James Bond film “Thunderball”) and the black-coral gardens off Bimini. The name “Bahamas” comes from the Spanish Baja mar meaning shallow sea. The Lucayan Indians were the original inhabitants: they lived throughout The Bahamas between 900 and 1500 A.D. Christopher Columbus (the first European visitor) made his first landfall in the New World on San Salvador (called Guanahani by the Lucayan Indians) in 1492. The Bahama Islands became the free and sovereign Commonwealth of The Bahamas on 10 July 1973, ending 325 years of British rule (but remains part of the Commonwealth). The Bahamas has the world’s third-longest barrier reef.
Five per cent of the world’s coral can be found in the waters of The Bahamas, and it boasts the clearest waters in the world, with visibility of over 61m (200 ft).
Andros (with an area of 5,956 square km) is the fifth-largest island in the Caribbean, but has a population of just 8,000.
Inagua is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with the world’s largest breeding colony of West Indian flamingos (over 60,000).
Several species of whale and dolphin, including blue and humpback whales and spotted dolphin, are found in the waters of The Bahamas every year.
Tourism generates 50% of GDP and directly or indirectly employs half of the total workforce.
Situated at the top of the Caribbean, The Islands of the Bahamas are easy to reach at any time of the year:
By air There are approximately 57 airports throughout The Bahamas which can be reached from Florida very easily, including three international airports (on Nassau/Paradise Island, Grand Bahama Island, and the Exumas). Twenty-four of these airports are official ports of entry to The Islands of the Bahamas.
By sea There are countless government and private marinas throughout The Bahamas, twenty-nine of which are official ports of entry to The Islands of the Bahamas. It is also possible to arrive by ferry from Miami and Palm Beach ports
Documentation Please ensure you have your passport and proof of return travel to your originating country by way of airline tickets or cruising itinerary. This documentation must be provided at first international point of disembarking.
The official language of The Bahamas is English – more British than American, and generally intertwined with a special Bahamian dialect., which links back to the earliest settlement of the islands. Some Indian words like ‘cassava’ and ‘guava’ have been retained in the language.
A popular way to visit the Bahamas by motor yacht is to leave from Nassau and head south down through the Exuma chain of Islands, several routes can be taken. But we recommend this one-way trip the other way around for a sailboat. Starting in Stanial Cay and heading north. It makes for an incredible trip and encompasses the very best of what the Bahamas has to offer whilst making for a comfortable ride during the times of the day when you will be at sea. If you have more than 7 days to sail, we can suggest an extended itinerary which takes you down to the Turks and Caicos. Another stunning country that is both understated and underrated as a yachting destination. Perhaps that is the reason why it is still so pristine.
Flying into Staniel Cay has to be one of the most amazing, unforgettable experiences anyone can have when you look out the window of the plane and see thousands of small islands floating in the turquoise sparkling waters of the Bahamas. Let your sailing vacation begin! When your plane lands in Staniel Cay, the crew will be there to pick you up. A short ride by golf cart will bring you to Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
Here your own private charter yacht will be waiting for you, fully stocked for a week in the pristine islands of the Exumas.
Once you have settled into the boat, you’ll begin to relax and enjoy the island life. Staniel Cay Yacht Club has a fresh water pool where you can cool off and relax. Take the golf carts for a ride and explore the island and find a secluded beach. In the evening the yacht club is open for socializing and is one of the two great restaurants to dine at in the Exumas. Please view there extensive menu
After breakfast we leave the dock for a short ride to Thunderball Grotto. This hollowed out cay is an exceptional snorkel spot and is the name sake and filming spot for the James Bond movie, “Thunderball”. It is also a great place to take the kayaks and paddle boards, and be sure not to leave the snorkel gear and GOPRO behind! A short ride north and you will get to Big Major. This island is home to the famous swimming pigs. You can feed them from the dinghy as they swim out to meet you. Your first night on anchor will be in the southern end of the Exumas Land and Sea Park just off the beach of Cambridge Cay.
From the south end of the Park you will arrive to some of the best snorkeling and beaches in the Caribbean. One of our favorites is a short dinghy ride through the cays to a site, named for the diverse multitude of fish, the “Aquarium”, which certainly lives up to its name. It’s a very colorful reef teeming with life in the sanctuary of the park. There are several great beaches to explore, numerous snorkeling opportunities, and, if you would like to feed the sharks at Compass Cay, you can go to its famous marina. A short trip North will take you to the Warderick Wells Land and Sea Park headquarters. The Park headquarters is located on the island of Warderick Wells and is a great place to put on your hiking shoes and explore the well-marked trails. Two points not to miss are the sperm whale skeleton and Boo Boo Hill.
There are two things the Exumas surpass almost anywhere in the Caribbean: beaches and marine life in crystal clear water. Our next stop is Hawksbill Cay. Traveling north by dinghy, you will go over to the northern cut where the landscapes open up, and for miles all you see is shallow water and white sand beaches. Many charter guests have said that all we needed to do was take them here every day and they would have been happy and content. As the tide comes and goes the sun reflects on small pools of water with ever changing contrast of blues. After lunch, you will set off to Shroud Cay.
This cay is home to a large mangrove estuary. The water enters from small creeks on the east and west. One creek is navigable. Entering it by dinghy, you will cross through the cay, navigating through the shallow winding creek. On the east side is again a beautiful beach, which on a falling tide, has a narrow cut where the falling water will rush you out to sea. A shallow delta lies just outside where the current dissipates and the water is just a couple of feet deep. Its great fun and very beautiful.
Until this point in the trip. You would have mostly been in the Park where fishing, lobstering, and conching is not allowed. By the middle of the day you will be in the perfect waters to catch a fish or lobster for dinner. For guests who are certified divers this is also a great place to dive. As you sail north, its possible for some boats to exit one of the cuts, putting you out into the deep water cruising the wall of the Exuma Sound. The drop off is an area rich in large fish. We can drop the lines in the water or get in the water for a snorkel or scuba. It’s common to catch mahi mahi, tuna, and with any luck a wahoo. Eight miles north and will arrive at Normans Cay.
Normans has a plane wreck in shallow water. Over the years it has become covered in coral but It’s a great place to snorkel. And because it is so shallow, it’s a great place for taking quality underwater pictures or video with the GO Pro. Here from the anchorage you can follow the ledges in shallow water with the dingy and free dive to catch your own lobster. It’s great to catch them but even better to serve them up on the boat as the sun sets.
The next stop along the route is Highbourne Cay. Highbourne Cay has great anchorages and also a very nice marina. By dinghy we can catch conch, scuba dive, snorkel, kayak and explore the beaches. Many guests like to stay at the dock for the night and dine at one of the best restaurants in the Bahamas. “Exumas” restaurant has an outstanding view and some of the best food and service in all the Bahamas.
Allen’s Cay is actually several cays which form a protected lagoon. In the morning, the captain will anchor in very shallow water just off the beach. Two of the islands are home to endangered iguanas. They like to be fed, so take them a little fresh fruit. It’s a great photo opportunity! During the afternoon you will stop at Ships Channel Cay for another snorkel and lobster opportunity. If you like, a bon fire on the beach can be arranged. Or you could sail Further North, closer to Nassau for an evening out on the town.
If choosing the former, sailing northwest, we’ll travel 38 miles back to Nassau across the Yellow Bank. The bank is shallow and midway has many coral heads. In calm weather it’s nice to stop and have a final snorkel on one of the many coral heads. If you are lucky to find conch, the chef will make a nice conch salad on the way back.
EXPLORE THE EXUMAS FOR A TASTE OF PARADISE