Exuma Cays, Bahamas
The only problem for an Exumas charter client is determining how to take everything these 365 vibrant islands and tiny cays offer and squeeze it into a seven-day itinerary. This archipelago is a pristine retreat just a short distance from the U.S. mainland, accessible via direct flights into Nassau and then, if part of the itinerary, a short hopper flight to the heart of the islands. The Exumas are quite a contrast from the more touristy parts of the Bahamas, with white sand beaches, translucent waters and untouched reefs.
Compass Cay offers charter guests an opportunity to swim with—and pet— the resident nurse sharks. Do it. These sharks may as well be rough-skinned puppies, as curious about people as we are about them. Charter guests must mind their fingers (as the yacht’s crew will helpfully instruct as they stand by and watch) and then the experience is exhilarating. Some charter clients say that meeting the nurse sharks at Compass Cay is one of the best memories not only of their vacation, but also of their life.
Just around the corner is one of the best swimming holes in the Caribbean. The deep, crystalclear, blue lagoon known as Rachel’s Bubble Bath gets its name from the wave action. A rocky outcrop detaches the pool from the ocean, and at mid- to high tide, the waves get high enough to crash over the rocks and into the lagoon, creating bubbles of white foam like a natural spa tub. The spot is ideal for a swim or a well-timed leap off the rocks into the water.
With so many unspoiled cays, charter guests here often have beaches all to themselves—except at Big Major’s Cay, a small, uninhabited island where resident pigs, some quite large, swim out to greet people on the incoming tenders. The pigs are friendly, especially if they see that food is available (the yacht’s crew will prepare carrots and the like), but the pigs are wild animals, so the crew will help guests to treat them respectfully.
Near the pigs’ home is Thunderball Grotto, named for the James Bond movie “Thunderball.” The grotto’s entrance is small, almost hidden—and to get inside, even at ebb tide, charter guests have to hold their breath, dive underwater and swim for it, trusting that they will come up able to breathe on the other side. (Don’t sweat it; the yacht’s capable crew have done this many times and will be right there.) Once inside, prepare to be dazzled by the placid water teeming with a kaleidoscope of brilliantly colored fish and the cavernous walls that echo overhead like a sonic fortress.
The vibrant palette of colors and textures of Exumas’ waterborne landscape is something of a masterpiece.