I wonder if there could be a more beautiful place than the Bahamian Paradise!
Turquoise water and the line of islands looks magnificent seen from the airplane. It is amazing how the water changes its color from the darkest blue, to pastel shades, all the way to greenish turquoise. All the way from the plane window you can see the white wave lines left behind by a motor boat, speeding jet skis, and white sails of idly cruising sail boats. This place indeed looks like paradise!
History of the Bahamas in a nutshell
1492 Christopher Columbus discovered the Bahamas
1649 First settlements are established
1717 The Bahamas becomes British colony
1955 Freeport free trade zone is established
1964 Bahama receives autonomy
1973 Bahama becomes independent
Millions of tourists visit Bahamas yearly and why wouldn’t they; the clear waters and many islands have lot to offer. Bahamians are extremely friendly and welcoming tourism being one of the main economic pillars of the country. The white sanded beaches, coral reefs, and the clear waters welcome you to sunbathe, dive, just relax and listen the sound of waves. Bahamas can be enjoyed in a luxury hotel, renting a beach side hut, or on a boat. Our home for the week long vacation was a beautiful catamaran.
The week was fulfilled with all kinds of adventures and our top three was:
1.Swimming with sharks
3.Watercaving with James Bond
Swimming with Sharks
Tia, our chef onboard is from Abaco Island. She told us on the first night onboard that nothing goes to waste, especially food. All leftovers were thrown overboard where fish, crab and sharks could feast on them. Tia explaind that it is important to give back to the nature as they give so much to us and this was extremely efficient way to discard the bio waste. And no wonder we had all kinds of marine life nearby our boat all the time when parked.
Nurse sharks were extremely interested of our boat and we saw them every day. The species is mainly harmless to humans and they have learned to live in peace and harmony with humans. Near Compass Cay, there is a private harbor where people can actually swim with nurse sharks. These sharks are almost like pets to the people working at the harbor, and they are used to having crowds of people around them, but shark is still a shark, no matter how used to people they are. Before entering the waters with sharks, our captain gave us couple of advice.
1.Do not go into water if you are bleeding
2.It is okay to pet the sharks, however, avoid the mouth area as the shark might think your fingers are their snacks
3.Do not provoke or try to stand on a shark. If they feel threatened or get annoyed, they might bite you
We collected our snorkels and headed towards the harbor with our little boat attached to the catamaran (called a dinghy). We secured our boat and hopped off to see huge crowd of people standing in a shallow water. The water was murky, but based on the laughter and surprised screams we knew that the sharks were home.
I was cautious walking towards the crowd and once waist deep I adjusted my snorkel and looked down. At the deepest end, under the pier, I could see a pool of sharks, huddled together. Some completely still, perhaps sleeping, some shifting around lazily. And then, one of them, a 6 feet long monster started to swim towards me, eyes locked into mine. Even though I knew that nurse sharks are mainly harmless to humans, my heartbeat skyrocketed and it was me who started backing down to get away from the way of the shark. I found my footing and stood up from the water and through the surface I could see how the shark circled around me and touched my calves with its fins. It seemed like it was testing if I would be a tasty snack. My first encounter with a shark – scary and so cool!
After few minutes surrounded by sharks my heart found its normal beat and I realized how beautiful these nurse sharks were. They were clearly used to people. They swam so close that I was able to pet them. Their belly felt so soft and back was like sandpaper. We happened to be at the pier at their feeding time and it was a good remainder, that these sharks, no matter how used to people, are still sharks and meat eaters.
Compass Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
Big Major Cay at Bahamas is uninhabited island. Well, if we are exact, no people live on this island, but nearly twenty ”cute” pigs do. Pig is not a native animal to the Bahamas, but the look of these creatures they have adapted well to living on the white sanded beach. It is not exactly known how the pigs got to the islands, but stories say that perhaps sailors left them there with the intent of coming back later to eat them. Other story suggests that the pigs swam ashore from a shipwreck. No matter how they ended up living in paradise, they are now living the easy life. Just like nurse sharks, these pigs have learned that they get food from the people on boats and these pigs welcome everyone to their beach in hopes of some goodies.
We took our dinghy out once again and headed to the pig beach. We had decided that we will stay in our boat during our visit, even though tourists could hop into the water to swim with the pigs. Our captain warned us again, just like with the sharks that these pigs are not pets and they could be aggressive, especially when they smell the tasty treats.
We approached the beach slowly and we didn’t even have to call out to the pigs when the first one already spotted us. It swam towards our boat and this big, spotty, brown pig seemed to be an excellent swimmer. It came so close to our dinghy that it was able to lift its front hoofs onto the side. The pig was huge and its appetite definitely matched its size. Good thing that our chef Tia had prepared a delicious bucket full of leftover spaghetti and carrots for them.
We were able to pet the pigs when they swam by us, but again, we had to be careful not to be anywhere near their mouths not to lose a finger by accident. It was also a good decision to stay on boat and not hop into the water with the pigs. After all, twenty some pigs and piglets keep this beach as their dining room as well as their bathroom. Needless to say, that the water at the pig beach was bit murkier than at the other beaches where there were no pigs as occupants.
Compass Cay shark swim and Big Major Cay pig beach are only a short boat trip apart and both definitely worth the experience!
Big Major Cay, Pig Beach, Exumas, Bahamas
Water caving with James Bond
Sean Connery starred the 1965 Thunderball James Bond movie and it made Thunderball Grotto well known location at the Bahamas. Seen from the boat, it is nothing but a big rock in the middle of the water, but this underwater cave is magnificent, once you get inside of it. Preferably with the low tide.
One of our many snorkeling trips was to Grotto and yes, we needed to get there on low tide. During high tide more scuba gear would have been needed; at least with my snorkeling skills.
This is one of the most known attractions at Staniel Cay and no wonder why. You can swim into the cave through an almost hidden pathway to one side and once inside it opens up to a big room. The massive cave had a dome shape ceiling and it reminded me of the tiffany glass in Chicago’s old library, nowadays the cultural center.
The natural light was seeping through the ceiling and it made the water glimmer magnificent and glorious. Looking down into the water you could see various wildlife in all different colors and shapes making Thunderball Grotto one of the must-see attractions during our visit. The cave can be accessed through small completely submerged little caves as well, but for me, being bit claustrophobic it was enough to know that they existed – no need to try to dive through them!
Staniel Cay yacht club has framed pictures of the James Bond Thunderball actors since after long days of filming back in 1965, that was the place for the crew to relax.
West of Staniel Cay, Thunderball Grotto, Exumas, Bahamas
The Bahamas have so much to offer and even though week seems like a long time to be on a boat, we still have so much to see for our future visits.
Few fun facts of the Bahamas
- Bahamas took part in the Olympics for the first time in 1952 – when the Olympics were organized in Helsinki, Finland!
- The traffic is left sided (be aware if renting a car)
- Johnny Depp has his own island there (we sailed by it twice but he didn’t seem to be at home)
- Bahamian Dollar has been the official currency since 1966 when it replaced the pound. You can pay with American dollars as well.
Start planning your paradise vacation to the Bahamas – what would you want to see while there?