Welcome to the Exumas

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snorkeling exumas bahamas shark
June 12, 2024
Ashley Carter

Welcome to the Exumas, an island chain district in the Bahamas that consists of over 365 islands and cays.  The Exumas is known for its blue waters in every possible shade and brilliance, blue holes, grottos, secluded beaches, deserted cays, and ultra-exclusive resorts. But what it may best be known for, is that it is home to the world-famous swimming pigs!

Although most people think of Nassau when they think of the Bahamas, the Exuma chain is only about 40 short miles away. Chartering a yacht, is the best way to see much of the Exumas. Although Nassau offers day charters to some of the more popular islands, you only get to experience such a minimal amount that the islands have to offer.

Being from a yachting background, I have been insanely fortunate to have spent almost the past 15 years working in the Bahamas every season. In my humble opinion, I think these islands are some of the most beautiful places in the world. I will take you on a journey through the islands, as I have experienced them many, many times.

Highbourne Cay, the northernmost island, is a favorite to many. Offering a beautiful marina accommodating yachts of all sizes, a sea plane landing pad, pristine beaches, and the most delicious Xuma’s Restaurant and Bar. If you don’t happen to be traveling by yacht, there are villas for rent with stunning views to the ocean. Don’t forget to take advantage of the workout station that is outside overlooking the ocean or the complimentary bikes that are available to ride around the island. If you are lucky, you can stumble across their little “farm” where they grow their fresh herbs, raise quail and chickens and you can even pet their goats! 

Heading south, a must see is the sunken plane at Norman’s Cay. Rumors have it that it was a drug plane that crashed during when Pablo Escobar was running drugs through the Bahamas. It is a shallow snorkel, maybe only 6ft deep, depending on the tide. With the cockpit and wings still intact, it has made a unique artificial reef for the local fish and corals. Next on my route would be Shroud Cay, along with most, protected by the Land and Sea Park. It is uninhabited, but a beautiful island to explore and it also offers safe harborage for overnight anchoring. 

Now, this next stop, I can say without a doubt, is my most favorite stop! Compass Cay, virtually uninhabited, except for the marina owner, Tucker, and his sons and family that help run the marina, is like docking in an aquarium. The crystal-clear waters are alive with fish, nurse sharks, and tons of bonefish. Here, you can swim with the nurse sharks and feel their sand paper skin brush against your hand or your legs as float or snorkel alongside of them. Past the marina and a walk thru sandy trails you can cross over to the Atlantic side and bask in the sun of Crescent Beach, hike up to Hester’s ‘gym”, and even take the “cliff” walk to Rachel’s Bubble Bath, where at high tide, the waves come crashing through the rocks creating a bubble bath effect in a tide pool that you can swim in and enjoy. 

Although Compass is quite remote, day charters from Nassau are also available. They combine this stop with Staniel Cay, probably the most famous of the Exuma islands. More specifically, Big Majors, the infamous Pig Beach.  As you pull up along the shore of Big Major, the pigs will come running to greet you, looking for treats that many guests hand out.  If you are lucky, tiny piglets will be running around along with adults that can weight over 300lbs! But beware! These pigs are wild and they can get aggressive when food is around, so definitely use caution if you are looking to feed them. 

Right around the corner is Staniel Cay.  It is a large enough island that you are able to fly in on a small charter plane out of Fort Lauderdale with a quick stop in Nassau, Chub, or Bimini to clear customs. Staniel has great little villas to rent overlooking their marina. With each villa rental, you can have access to a small little skiff for snorkeling adventures. And you don’t have to venture far, just down the way, is The Grotto, featured in the James Bond film, you can swim inside the grotto and be surrounded by hundreds of fish such as grouper, snapper, sergeant majors, parrot fish, and so many more!

This is where my travels along the Exuma chain ends, but there are so many more islands to explore. Great Exuma, the largest island in the chain, has an international airport, along with many large hotels, resorts, and private villas to rent.

I hope this inspires you to venture off the beaten path and explore what the outer islands have to offer. With so much history about the settlement of the islands, it’s drug running past, and sheer beauty, visiting the Exumas has so much to offer. So next time you are ready to unwind, imagine yourself on a secluded beach, sipping on an ice cold Goombay Smash or a Kalik beer.  Because that is where I will be, and I hope to see you there!


To book a trip to Exumas Bahamas call Ashley at 609-760-8477 or email her at [email protected]

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