I'm pretty sure with every new place I get to travel to, I come home and I am like "WOAH - that was definitely the most beautiful place I've ever been." Each time. What does that say about the world we live in? Isn't it insane to think of the smallest, uninhabited nooks and crannies of the world - can you imagine how beautiful those places must be?
A few weeks ago, I was so fortunate to be able to take some time off with my family and head to the Greater Exuma Islands of the Bahamas. We're a pretty adventurous bunch, so we pick a place - alternating between hot and cold - each year to visit and explore. I don't remember exactly how we landed on the Exumas - but I am so glad we did. Many people know of these islands from the famous Swimming Pigs - the Bachelor? Oh, and Nassau being a huge cruise ship destination out of Florida - but these islands are much further North, so thankfully not much cruise traffic.
Just a heads up - there will be lots of photos - and I do not apologize.
To start off the trip, I flew home to Orlando and the next day we boarded a small (yes, small, see below) plane with Watermakers Air out of Fort Lauderdale Executive.
We made a stop at Fresh Creek (where all the fresh water comes from in the Bahamas - how cool!) to go through customs, got back in the plane and touched back down at Staniel Cay - Yacht Club, yes please! We had a beautiful Bahamian (Ba-Hey-Me-An) breakfast and then completed our day of travel with a half hour boat ride to Black Point, a few islands South.
Through VRBO, my mom found wonderful cottages owned by a lovely local woman, Ida. Her and her husband own and operate a multitude of things on the island - a laundromat, the church, etc. We took our first two days to rest, figure out the food situation and lay out on our beaches.
If you're planning on visiting, which I HIGHLY recommend, you should understand the food situation. If you're on any kind of special diet, you can forget it. There are 2-3 small grocery stores that are fairly expensive with limited food items and very limited produce. Then, there are about 5 restaurants - with mostly American type foods - think Hamburgers, Fries, Pizza, Chicken Tenders - and the Bahamian delicacy - the Conch, served in many ways. Would this deter me from going?! NO WAY. But, it is something that should be known. Life is too short to worry about what you're eating, especially on vacation (except allergies and things like that, I understand those fully).
Our third day we had a boat for the morning. Everything I read before coming said to make sure you have boat access for your trip. One of the beauties of the Bahamas is the water and the watercolor like qualities in how it changes colors - due to depth of course. I tried to capture it in photos, but honestly, it doesn't do it justice.
On our first boat tour, we hit Pig Beach, the Iguana Islands, the Mile-Long Sandbar & Thunderball Grotto (pictured above). To feed the pigs and iguanas we took bread & cabbage from the grocery. Some of the pigs at this time were sick (and a few had passed away) due to some unknown reasons. We heard from the locals that they were doing testing, but I never heard what the cause was. I can not stress enough that these animals still should be treated with respect and love. It's not funny, in any way, to give them beer or bad food, so please don't.
Staniel Cay had run out of gas, so we were limited to the half day. After making all the animals happy, we headed back to our cottages to plan dinner and relax.
During the span of the week, we saw: 1 dolphin, 1 sea turtle, sting rays, nurse sharks, piggies, iguanas, fish, goats, chickens, dogs, annnnd I think that's it! If you're an animal lover like me, you'll love it!
Due to the No-See-Ums and the Mosquitos, you're basically stuck in your living quarters past 7PM (if you even want to be outside that late). Bug spray helps, but not if you're a bug magnet like I am. We spent our evenings talking and flipping through the channels that were able to come across our TV - even played some Go Fish. Going to bed by 10PM each night made for early mornings - which were great to start tanning and wandering about. We had a baby girl (2 months old) with us, my niece, so the early mornings also meant time to spend with her and family.
These next few photos are of Great Guana Cay, the Black Point area. We rented a golf cart for a few days, which allowed us to see the island (although not very large) from end to end.
There were a few new things we decided to try in the Bahamas - some juices, Conch, way of life, etc. One of their juices was called the 'Goombay Punch.' At a local bar, I asked about the name and we learned that Goombay is actually a huge NYE party that happens in the Bahamas. They start celebrating around 1 AM on NY Day and continue to about 10 AM the next day! The dock above was just off their top party place - Regatta Point. The Friday night we were there, they had a huge party and you could feel the bass and see the light across the bay. Definitely will have to experience that someday!
One of my favorite parts of this trip, and this island, were the people. I absolutely love seeing how others live and then bringing that back into my own life. Their kindness and openness to talk to us was so awesome. I think it's something we forget, wrapped up in our day to day lives, thinking about the things we have to get done and just getting through the day. Everything should be appreciated and seen differently, in my opinion. This life and everything in it is a gift and travel and exploration can help you see how others see that in their own communities.
In one of the cottages next to us, we met a lovely lady from Vermont, who comes to Black Point every year for a month. She leaves her husband to tend at home and lives on the island for that time. They first discovered this particular island on their boat trip down the Intracoastal Waterway - all the way from Vermont! Crazy, right?!
If you live where there are storms, you know what they can do - easily. Growing up some time in Florida, I have been through countless hurricanes and tropical storms. In the middle of our trip, a bad storm - wild wind and heavy rain - hit in the middle of the night. I actually woke up to the wind - sounded like the A/C unit in my room was going to rip out of the house. We ended up losing water and power for about half a day. Knowing they have tourists on the island, the locals were quick to fix everything. It delayed our other boat trip, but luckily the Saturday before we left we were able to go out for another half day!
On this boat trip, we stopped back at the swimming pigs again - because how could we not - and headed even further North to the Exuma Cays Water & Sea Park. This was about an hour boat ride - a little far - but we got to snorkel some more in a protected area. The fish came so close!
On the way back from the Sea Park, we stopped at the sandbar - this time we were the only ones on it. Because of the tides varying so much, sometimes there's more water than at other times. We took another swim break at the sandbar and headed home.
Our last night, we took the golf cart around to make sure we captured photos of everything we wanted to. The goats on the side of the road, the docks, sunsets, everything. One of my favorite shots was on the dreamiest dock, watching the sun set, with my feet over the ocean.
This trip was magnificent. I wish I could elaborate so much more on some of the things I experienced, but for everyone it's different. If anyone is looking to go somewhere in the Caribbean soon - or needs a vacation - go to the Exumas. Do yourself a favor, unplug a little bit (yea, limited access to Wi-Fi) and drag yourself out of your comfort zone. Most of us live very fortunate lives without even realizing it. When you start boiling tap water for the purpose of drinking clean, fresh water - that's definitely when you start being grateful for much more.