Discovering Bahamas by Yacht: Abaco and Exumas
If you were to look for an ideal spot for sailing in the Atlantic Ocean – the Bahamas archipelago with the most clear water on earth and the scenery worthy of James Bond movies is a perfect spot worth exploring by charter yacht.
In fact, it will make 2 perfect trips: the Abaco Islands and Exhumas, if not more. We guarantee you if you have sailed Bahamas at least once – you will be back. It is simply an unforgettable experience.
Although the entire area of the islands is known for pristine waters, and uninhabited cays and many smaller islands untouched by man, the dedication of the local population to preserving nature deserves respect with their 6 national parks:
- Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park
- Abaco National Park
- Black Sound Cay National Reserve
- Walker’s Cay National Park
- Tilloo Cay National Reserve
- Fowl Cays National Reserve
No matter which trip to the Bahamas you will choose – you will experience the thrill of discovery sailing on a charter yacht among its 700 islands, and of course the excitement of the wildlife discovery.
When to plan your trip to the Bahamas
June, July and early August the best months for sailing, most of regattas and fishing contests take place at this time. Afternoon thunderstorms are common, but they pass quickly.
December through May is also a very pleasant time to visit, the temperatures are a bit lower but still very enjoyable.
Mid August to October is usually the Hurricane season here, this is when everything shuts down, for a few weeks or even for full 2 months.
What you did not know about the Bahamas
On Boxing day and New Year’s day the Bahamas (no matter whether it is one of the major islands or the ones far out ) explode in colorful parades, loud music, and laughter. Junkanoo is a celebration of happiness, originally, as folklore has it, created by the slaves celebrating a few days off during the holidays. The unusual name is traced back to a character called John Canoe African tribal chief, or also quite possibly stands for French gens inconnus – unknown/unrecognized people, i.e people behind the mask.
If you have missed it in winter – there is a Junkanoo festival in summer where the groups from even remote islands compete in choreography, music, and dance before the jury.
Fishing in the Bahamas
With the abundant sea life here thanks to well-preserved reefs you can indulge in any kind of fishing whether it is deep sea fishing, reef/shoal fishing or spearfishing, and will always enjoy a bountiful catch. But you absolutely have to try bonefishing – the sport of choice in the Bahamas Catching the bonefish, plentiful in the sandy flats and mangroves requires expertise, good eye, and patience.
Indigenous to the Bahamian waters Conch is the favorite food of the Bahamians. Easily found distinctive conch shells in the shallow waters, although tricky to remove mollusks from the hard shell are delicious whether you eat them raw, or fry or grill.
National Tree & National Flower
Although you can easily recognize the hibiscus flower on about any Hawaiian shirt, it is not the national flower, unfortunately, Malaysia already has claimed it as its very own. The distinctive trumpet of Yellow Elder is chosen in the Bahamas as its national flower.
Lignum vitae, commonly known as ironwood is the national tree of the Bahamas. Now, why the shipbuilding nation chooses the only wood that actually sinks in the water as its symbol, is a bit of a mystery, but it works very well for some boat parts, such as propellers.
Reefs feed and protect the island’s inhabitants, but while they are able to grow miles and miles of firm defense – corals are really very delicate structures. It takes very little, such as oil spill, or chemical waste, or industrial fertilizer getting in the water and they become to die.
Bahamians, sometimes create artificial reefs by sinking ships and create great conditions for the reefs to grow fast. In 1982, a freighter Theo was deliberately sunk off Grand Bahama Ledge, and Royal Caribbean Cruise line is also pitching its efforts to create new coral growths by helping create concrete reefs off Coco Cay.
The Abaco islands are a scenic group of islands stretching over 120 miles long with pristine white sandy beaches, great to explore by a sailboat. In fact, the Abacos are considered to be unofficial sailing capital of the Bahamas.
No wonder it’s here in the Abacos, Disney has chosen the Castaway Cay (formerly Gorda Cay) as an exclusive port for its Disney Cruise Line ships.
Great Abaco Island is the Abacos commercial center enjoys a much modest and quieter pace of life compared to Nassau, with its fishing and farming communities, and f you were to cross over to Little Abaco Cay via a small bridge, you will see that very little has changed here over the past 100 years.
Abaco National park, located in the Southern Abaco, was created to protect the 20,500 acres of pine forest and also serves as a sanctuary for the Abaco parrot, with less than 3000 birds remaining.
Man-o War Cay is well known for 2 things – the fine tradition of boat building, dating back to 1800 and alcohol sales completely banned on the islands with the exception of only 2 restaurants for tourists). The island heritage is tightly linked to the Albury family that have produced internationally known shipbuilders.
The story starts quite like a novel, a ship from Harbor Island wrecks here in 1820, a young crew member Benjamin Aubury (pappy Ben) stays on the island, meets Eleanor Archer, and marries her 1 year later, permanently settling on the island and committing to building ships.
The tradition continues now with Albury Brothers Boats. Here on the island, you will be able to explore everything that is related to boat building. It is a candy shop for anyone who loves boats and can appreciate fine craftsmanship.
If you head north by the path leading past the Sail Shop – you will end up in the narrow path separating the calm waters of the bay from the unruly waves of the ocean. The
Great Guana Cay
Great Guana Cay is an idyllic narrow islet, only 11 km long, with the lavish sandy beach running long almost half of its entire length. There are a few well preserved early colonial Loyalist houses on the island that are quite worth taking a look.
The island is the home to only 150 people, but they managed to cause quite a stir and involve quite a few ecologic minded groups, including Jean Michel Cousteau himself in the controversy with Baker’s Bay Resort, whose extensive building and operation have threatened to destroy the Save Guana Cay Reef.
Green Turtle Cay
Yet another picturesque “Abaco Out Island” was named after green turtles that once inhabited its beaches. The older homes here still remind the houses with the steep roofs, built by the island first settlers from England. Lobstering is the main occupation of the residents here, of course, if they are not in hospitality business catering to the thousands of tourists visiting the island.
Treasure Cay is technically not an island but a part of the peninsula connected to Great Abaco by a very narrow strip of land. It is also a site of an early Loyalist settlement of about 600 people, named Carleton Point. You will see its ruins dating back to 1783. It was destroyed only 2 years later by the hurricane.
Treasure Cay Blue hole is a must see. Scientists believe it is 200 feet deep and is famous for its crystal clear blue water, which is a mix of salt and fresh water, that is why the sea life is not found here. In 2010 very well preserved fossils of crocodiles and tortoises were found at the bottom of it making the site briefly internationally famous. The discovery was featured in National Geographic.
Hope Town, Elbow Cay
Most part of Hope Town is closed to motorized vehicles – cars, scooters and golf-cars alike. You will appreciate the unspoiled beauty of Charming Hope Town by foot. Most of its population has lived here for a few generations in colorful cottages with distinct picket fences.
The comfortable life was uninterrupted here for decades, the town got its telephone service only in 1988. If you had to call someone you would simply use VHF radio tuned to channel 16.
Hope Town Lighthouse with its distinctive candy cane striped look, is not only the island’s most prominent landmark, but the last hand turned kerosene-fueled lighthouse in the world.
Little Harbor is the place where time stands still.. As in many places around the world a modest fishing village offers refuge to artists. It is here internationally acclaimed Randolph Johnston together with his wife established an art colony back in 1950. And still, quite a few artists have found a creative refuge here.
It is a great place the take in artistic vibes and recharges before heading back to the airport.
Exumas is another fascinating group of Out Islands, away from hustle and bustle – the little cays offer incredible privacy and views. It is here celebrities like Johnny Depp, Tim Mc Graw, David Copperfield, and Nicolas Cage own private cays.
Miles and miles of uninhabited unspoiled beach and great spots for snorkeling or kayaking at its Horseshoe Bay are the beautiful highlights of the Highborne Cay. The nearby Octopus garden Reef is one of the best spots for diving in the Exumas. Just one-mile northwest is the Allan Cay, with its iguanas guarding Leaf Cay beach, another great snorkeling spot.
A perfect end of the day is a stopover at the hilltop restaurant with 360 degrees views of the island set against the rays of the setting sun.
The quiet now Norman Cay, enjoys a very sketchy past of a modern day drug distribution hub for Colombian drug lords complete with 1000 long runway and armed guards. In 1982 the cartel was dismantled and the island became the property of the local government.
Its picturesque scenery is one of the most magnificent sights in the Exumas. The sight of the plane wreck sunk only at 10 feet deep is a great spot for snorkeling.
Lee Stocking Island
This little gem was once the site of the Perry Institute for Marine Science. Unfortunately, it has been closed in 2012 but the marine biologists know how to select the site for research. Its a wild silent understated beauty is mesmerizing. Her from the highest point at all the Exhumas, at only 100 you can enjoy the fabulous view.
Staniel Cay is quite a hub of local activity thanks to its yacht club. Its tiny village is protected by the Bahamas National Trust. The Staniel Cay became famous after the Thunderball, the James Bond movie was filmed here in 1965 in one of the island’s limestone grottos, now named after the movie. The local population works hard to accommodate the influx of tourists that flock to the scenic site.
Be careful when exploring the Thunderball grotto, as with the changing tide you can easily get trapped inside overnight. At high tide, it is accessible only to professional scuba divers.
Another unexpected adventure is nearby at Major’s Cay – the famous swimming pigs – who will greet you right in the water, or play with you at the beach.
Warderick Wells Cay
Warderick Wells Cay is the headquarters of the 176 square miles Exuma Cays Land And Sea Park the largest underwater park in the Caribbean. It was truly the first of its kind in the world – with pristine waters and an incredible variety of corals populated with a variety of sea life. Its grounds offer over 20 marked hiking trails which will take you through the cay’s incredibly picturesque terrain. The Cay also offers a great protected anchorage for the guests.
Shroud Cay is also a part of the impressive Exuma Cays Land And Sea Park. Here you will find solitude among the mangrove. The wildlife feels here at home and it is a perfect place to enjoy the unspoiled wild beauty of the Bahamas.