Almost everyone has heard of the Bahamas’s, but have you heard of the Exumas? It’s a hidden oasis, so not many people have. The Exumas consist of over 360 islands, with great Exuma being the largest. It has crystal clear water, pristine beaches, laid-back surroundings, and the friendliest people! While searching for the perfect vacation spot, this island caught my attention mostly because of the interesting wildlife… like the swimming pigs!
1. Stocking Island for Chat ‘n’ Chill’s Conch Salad
If you are visiting the Exumas for the first time, you should take a trip over to Stocking Island. You can get there by water taxi, which leaves from the Government docks in George Town about every 20 minutes, or rent a boat and enjoy the amazing views and the crystal clear blue water. For the entire ride over I was saying “WOW! This is so amazing!” Tons of boats anchor offshore here to enjoy a day at the Exumas beach bar. Sundays seem to be the most popular because of the Sunday pig roast. So get ready to eat, swim, play games, and relax under the palm trees. Life is rough!
Our favourite food at Chat ‘n’ Chill was the fresh conch salad. It’s a bit pricey, but definitely worth it! Be warned: this place can get busy. If you want some quiet time after eating, then head over to starfish beach and see if you can spot a starfish. Or check out the Blue Hole (aka “Mystery Cave”), where there are tons of fish to snorkel with. If none of these appeals to you, try going for a hike in the incredible trails of Stocking Island. There are a variety of terrains to explore, from the beach and hidden coves, to the sand dunes, and the shaded paths underneath the full canopy of the rainforest. We didn’t get a chance to experience the trails, but I hear they are pretty amazing!
2. Swim with Stingrays
The place to swim with the stingrays would be at Chat ‘n’ Chill; they love attention… well actually, they love food! They will glide from person to person to say hi, and hopefully get a snack.
3. Shopping at George Town
George Town is the capitol and the largest town in the Exumas. It is a cute seaside town with a pink government building overlooking Elizabeth Harbour, one of the largest picture perfect harbours in the world.
Shopping is very limited here but you can browse through a half-dozen shops and visit the outdoor straw market, shaded by a huge African fig tree. We saw a gal sitting outside weaving baskets. They definitely do this often, as there was no fumbling or hesitating; her hands were talented machine. We were so impressed that we had to buy a basket!
4. Rolle Town Tombs
If you’re a fan of history then visit the sleepy and peaceful Rolle town. There’s not a lot to do here so don’t expect to be wowed, but the site gives you a glimpse into the past, and the people who settled here in the 17th to 18th centuries. You will find the tombs of the Rolle family, along with a plaque detailing how they passed. And enjoy the amazing view!
5. Three Sisters Rock
As the legend goes, there were three sisters that fell in love with the same English captain. He had come to the Bahamas in search of treasure, when a violent storm forced him to seek shelter on Exuma Island. During his stay each of the three sisters fell in love with him, unaware that they had fallen for the same man. When the day came for the captain to set sail, one by one the sisters jumped into the sea to pursue the love of their life and say their goodbyes. Unfortunately, the sea was rough that day and all three drowned. In the spots where they drowned a mystical rock erupted from the ocean. Since that time, Three Sisters Rock has been a place for romance and oddly enough, good luck. Today many couples choose this location to exchange their wedding vows.
6. Explore the islands by boat
To explore the islands you can choose to be accompanied by a tour guide, or go on your own. We decided to go with a guide. He took us to see some amazing things, such as the Thunderball Grotto, the swimming pigs, the cays of the rich and famous, and many other attractions. If we ever go back, I think we will rent a boat and search for deserted islands.
If you happen to go on a tour boat then take a sweatshirt and maybe some long pants. The boat is fast because they have to cover a lot of ground, and you could experience some cool weather or light rain, like we did.
Welcome to this amazing sandbar! Located just south of Big Farmer’s Cay, this mile-long stretch of pure white sand emerges from beautiful blue-green water at low tide. On most days you will have it all to yourself, so it’s perfect for sunbathing and picnicking. In order to get here you need to rent a boat or go with a tour guide.
8. Feed and swim with the nurse sharks
Want to swim with the sharks? Well, you can at Compass Cay. It is a private island so you will have to pay a docking fee unless you go with a tour guide, who will include it in the price. If you are too nervous to swim with them, then you can feed and pet them from the dock. I would highly recommend that you bring your snorkel gear and underwater camera to get some amazing photos. Even though these sharks are friendly and gentle, it is not recommended that you feed them while you swim.
9. Meet the famous swimming pigs
This is the real reason why everyone goes to the Exumas. They aren’t thinking about running into Johnny Depp, but instead want to meet the famous swimming pigs! Yes, these pigs will swim out to greet you as soon as they see you coming. They expect food, so be sure to bring them a snack! Some healthy treats for them include grapes, lettuce and apples.
• Please don’t feed them beer, bread or junk food. They are pigs, not grown men!
• Their eyesight isn’t the best so be careful when you are taking selfies; they just might eat your GoPro.
• Feeding them hot dogs? Really? That just sounds wrong. Don’t you know what’s in hot dogs?
• These pigs come out to meet you because they trust you, so please don’t tease or try to ride them.
• Bring them a bottle of fresh water. It can get dry there and water may be scarce.
Lets give them healthy food with essential nutrients and vitamins to allow them to thrive and grow healthy. They wouldn’t have the energy to provide you with entertainment if we continue to feed them junk.
Good food: Just about anything, except for the food list below.
Bad food: Meat, raw potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, onions, raw celery, raw parsnips, banana peels, and citrus fruit. SAND. Our tour guide dumped the veggies on the sand but they are now finding that the pigs are ingesting the sand and may be killing them. I’m thinking someone should build a platform. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/swimming-pigs-bahamas-death/
10. Thunderball Grotto
The benefit of going with a tour guide is that they take you to cool places like this. This grotto got its name from the 1965 James Bond movie “Thunderball”, which was filmed here. Thunderball Grotto is a limestone cave located just west of Staniel Cay. This is a fantastic underwater cave but to get inside you have to swim through a small opening. Once you are in you will see spectacular coral and many fish. There is a natural skylight above and I could imagine beams of light piercing the crystal clear water, lighting up the fish and coral as you snorkel around. The weather wasn’t ideal for us and it would have been so much nicer inside if the sun were shinning.
• Bring your snorkelling gear to get to see the full beauty of this cave.
• Bring an underwater camera
• Bring fish food to feed the fish
• If you are not a strong swimmer then don’t go when the current is strong. You have to swim against the current to get out of the cave.
• Be careful when swimming in and out of the cave, there are many sharp rocks that you could hit your head on.
11. Allen’s Caye
Here they come! These fearsome looking but gentle creatures welcome visitors to their island because we bear gifts of fruits and vegetables. I think we were surrounded by at least ten enormous iguanas, but the island is littered with them. We put food offerings on the end of sticks and held them out so they could gently take it.
• They are strict herbivores so don’t give them hot dogs. Protein will give them gout and other nutritionally related diseases.
• White bread is bleached and stripped of all fiber and nutrients. If you don’t want to poop for a day that’s your choice but let’s not deprive them of nutrition and fiber.
• Just like us they need strong bones to stay healthy, so load them up on greens.
• Do not place food in the sand. Please place a small piece of food on a stick and hold it out for them.
Lets keep these guys healthy by giving them natural food. Good choices would be low water foods.
Staple foods: Dandelion greens, collard greens, green beans, acorn squash, mango, cactus, okra, snap peas Occasional foods: Apples, bananas, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, kale, kiwi, pears, spinach, melons, zucchini
Treat foods: Raspberries, grapes, whole wheat bread
People may have hijacked these wild iguanas taste buds so the healthy offerings may be rejected. Just like people, once the iguana has developed bad habits, it may be difficult to break them of it.
12. Santana’s Grill Pit
We decided to tour the island one day and happened to spot Santana’s Grill Pit. This is a true beach shack with good food and great cocktails! The views are beautiful and the owners are super fun and friendly.
Chris and I were indecisive on what to order for drinks so the owner made us a Bahama mamma! Just a bit of a warning, the Bahama mamas are strong and may cause you to pose for the camera.
13. Visit the tropic of cancer beach
This beach is not too far from Santana’s grill pit so head over and enjoy a relaxing time at this picture perfect beach. The road that takes you there is rough and unforgiving, but well worth it. You will be rewarded with a deserted beach, fine powdered sand, and water in different shades of blue! If you decide to head to this beach just be aware that there are no amenities (washrooms, or restaurants) so make sure you bring your own food and water.
14. Be a beach bum
Sometimes you just need to slow down and relax. That’s why vacation is so important. We always tend to be on the go and when we are away from our day-to-day responsibilities we are forced to slow down. And what better place to do that than the Exumas! The beaches are basically deserted so you may just have a beach to yourself!
15. Stay in a place with a kitchen
Our stay at the Grand Isle Resort and Spa was wonderful. The grounds are clean and beautiful, and the villas are set up by individual owners. Our villa was well equipped with top of the line appliances, comfortable beds, and a wonderfully set up living room. It is a bit of a drive from town and many other attractions, but it was a peaceful place to get away from people. We stayed in a lovely and spacious one-bedroom condo. This place was nicer than our own back home, which made it difficult to leave.
The kitchen was fully stocked with essentials that made cooking very easy.
The bed was huge and the balcony off of the bedroom overlooked a marina.
Check out the jetted soaker tub!
The restaurant had tables outside (under cover) overlooking the pool and a breathtaking view. The food was good but a bit pricey; take advantage of the villas lovely kitchens.
And don’t forget to leave your footprints in the sand!