We now know first hand why people love to come to the Bahamas. It is a quiet paradise for those that like to linger in tranquility and is jammed-pack full of excitement for the more adventurous. In terms of exploring, Mike, Ocean and I fall into the second camp. We are outside from the crow of the first rooster until the last conch shell has been blown (i.e. sun up to sunset 😊) and we have had more “holy toledo” moments than I ever thought was possible. Active or not, most of us boaters are out here day after day saying “this can’t be real”. I mean, the water alone must have over 40 shades of blue and green, some of these colours I have only ever seen in a Crayola premium pack of crayons.
Our time at Staniel’s Cay was no different. We were anchored just off Big Major Cay, right in front of Pig Beach, for five days but it went by so quickly. They were five awesome snorkel-beach-play-explore amazing days! Being just off Pig Beach, our first order of business was to check out the swimming pigs of course! We could see from our boat that lots of people were walking on Pig Beach, getting up close with the dozens of pigs but we had heard that the pigs are very food-aggressive so we decided to do our exploration from the safety of our dinghy. Plus, we wanted to bring Ocean along and, well, she is also food-strong. The last thing we wanted was for Ocean to fight one of the pigs over a piece of carrot! Luckily, we still got a close-up of the pigs since they have no problem swimming out for their food. They are certainly not the pot-bellied pigs I was expecting. No, these pigs were of the “hog” size. And, man, they were great swimmers!
The next day we got to meet a few of Steve’s friends, Ian and Isobel, who are long-time boaters. They gave us some great tips on navigating our new boating world and even stopped by one night with an extra Bahamian lobster for us that Ian had speared that afternoon. Delicious!
Ian is also an avid kite-surfer and we got a chance to watch him and a few of his friends kite-surfing off a sand bar, just a little west of Big Major Cay. Oh, and for anyone thinking that this boating lifestyle is just for the younger set, all of the kite-surfers were over 60. Ian, himself, is 69 and he spent a good 3 hours surfing and flying into the waves.
For us, the best experience of Staniel’s Cay was had on Monday. Thunderball Grotto. Wow. We got to the famous James Bond underwater cave at slack low tide. What is slack tide? During a rising or falling tide, you have current flow. Slack tide is when the current stalls and the half hour on other side of slack tide is a very weak current. This was important because the current around the Grotto can be extremely strong, making swimming and snorkeling very challenging. Exploring the Grotto during a rising or falling tide would be more about survival than enjoyment. Yikes! Oh, but our timing around the tides was perfect and we were treated to a beautiful caving experience. The Grotto was mesmerizing and the snorkeling was incredible. It was like being inside an aquarium, with the many fish swimming just millimetres from our fingers and toes. And the coral, stunning shades of pink, grey and black all around us.
In amongst all of this exploring, we spent a lot of time walking along the beaches and through the small village of Staniel’s Cay. One favourite haunt was the “Liquormat” where Mike, Steve and I would share a cold beer after a big day of exploring. What is a Liquormat? Well, it is a half liquor-store and half laundromat. Brilliant! We certainly gave one half of the establishment a good portion of our business. 😉
On Tuesday morning we decided to take advantage of the perfect winds and sail our way down to Farmers Cay, about 3 hours further south in the Exumas. This weekend is the 5F Regatta and Festival. This is a big draw for boaters in the Bahamas so we wanted to get anchored there early. Plus, it gave us some time to explore the town and the sights before they got too crowded. In case you were wondering, the 5F is short for “First Friday in February at Farmers Cay Festival”.
Our big venture yesterday was the large cave at Oven Rock. It started with beaching the dinghy, then a 15 minute hike through the low, bushy terrain and up a small hill. The path was rugged but defined enough for us to find our way. Once at the top, well, that was the cherry on the top of a lovely hike. A slight opening in the rockface revealed an incredible cave, complete with a pool of water, bats and lots of stalagmites and stalactites (icicle-shaped deposits from floor to ceiling and ceiling to floor). It was an incredible experience to wander the cave. Mike even jumped in the pool for a swim!
The town of Farmers Cay is a sweet little village with several craft shops and a few people selling seafood but not much else. The residents of Farmer’s Cay are a welcoming bunch and the store owners were quite chatty about the town and their wares. We are very much looking forward to joining them for the 5F festivities, starting with a “Cruisers Dinner” tonight!
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.