Exploring the Central Exumas
This past week we have continued our trip south through the Exumas, enjoying the beautiful beaches, sunsets, sunrises and sailing of this region.
Our first stop after Highbourne Cay was Norman’s Cay. This area gained notoriety in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s as the home base for a cocaine smuggling operation. Yeesh! It is now a very quiet island and the only remnants of its shady past is a small airplane partially submerged in one of the anchorages. Once we set our anchor, our first point of business was to get to snorkel the airplane. It was quite the sight to see as most of the plane is still intact.
It was a fun to snorkel from the dinghy and this was another “first” for Ocean. She had never seen us in our snorkel fins and masks and she had never watched us swim underwater from the dinghy. For anyone that knows Ocean, you know she likes to “talk”. Well, she had lots to say about this new experience, much to the amusement of the occupants of a tour boat visiting the area.
After our snorkel trip, Steve from “Lola” (our buddy boat since Bimini) suggested that we dinghy over to Wax Cay. This was a real treat. Wax Cay is a private island, owned by a billionaire in Nassau. It is set up like a resort with a Vietnamese type style. Inside the harbour were several docks and a large 100-year-old 80 foot steel Chesapeake crab boat. Lucky for us, the owner was aboard and very chatty. Shortly thereafter, the General Manager of the island came by on his golf cart. He was also chatty and loved that we were so interested in the island. Could we beach our dinghies and have a look around? Sure!
It was incredible. There were several out buildings – a dining hall, games building, and many, many cottages. Each building housed intricate carvings and fascinating artwork. The floors were marble, as were the beautifully appointed bathrooms and outdoor showers. Everything had a Vietnamese feel to it and we later learned from the General Manager that the cottages were actually shipped in from Vietnam. The most stunning part is that we learned that the owner maintains the resort to the tune of about $500,000 USD yet rarely visits. He never rents the cottages either. He just keeps them for family and friends. Hmmm, I might need to closely examine my family tree…
The GM, Mike, was an interesting character himself. He had an ever-present glass of gin on hand (a self-described profession drinker 😉) and told us great stories about the property and the plane wreck that we had just snorkeled. He was on the plane just 3 days after it went down. It was in great condition but completely empty and definitely buried in the sand. The plane didn’t crash, actually, it was purposefully landed at low tide after running out of fuel. The pilot and drug runners then removed all the illicit cargo. Like I said, great stories!
After a few more days of exploring and relaxing at Norman’s Cay, we decided to head a little further south to Shroud Cay, which is part of the Exumas Land and Sea Park. The Park is 176 miles long and encompasses over 15 cays, starting with Wax Cay (which we explored via dinghy previously) and going all the way to Conch Cut. The Park was created to preserve the natural beauty and environment of the Bahamas. There are no commercial developments within the Park and the only inhabited islands are privately owned. Fishing and hunting of any kind is prohibited. The result of this care is a pristine and beautiful aquatic playground. Inspiring.
From the first moment entering the anchorage at Shroud, we were mesmerized by the tranquility. All around us were unpopulated white sand beaches, mangroves, and about a million shades of blue Bahamian water. First on our list was to do the famous “dinghy drift.” Throughout Shroud Cay are numerous creeks that wind their way through the mangroves, with the main one being perfectly wide enough to explore by dinghy. Getting there at a half-rising tide, you can actual just put your dinghy in neutral and “drift” through the mangroves, checking out their intricate root system and spying on fish, nurse sharks and sea turtles. The tides didn’t quite work out for Wild Horses and Lola – we got to the dinghy drift at a half-falling tide. Oops! We didn’t mind though. Walking the dinghies through the soft mangrove mud was an experience in itself.
We also walked up the ridge of Shroud and found the fresh water well at the top. And, yes, you guessed it – the water was delicious!
The remoteness and beauty of Shroud was addictive but strong winds are forecasted for the Exumas this weekend so we have moved quite a bit further south to Staniel’s Cay. This Cay is a bustling metropolis compared to the quiet Cays we have been visiting over the last ten days. Truly, it is still a small village but we now have access to small grocery stores, restaurants, shops and fuel. More importantly for us, it is home to the famous swimming pigs and to Thunderball grotto (of James Bond fame), both of which we plan to visit over the next few days. Oh, and we are now officially out of the Land and Sea Park so can start fishing and looking for those lobsters again!
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Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.