Officially, there are seven wonders of the world – I’m lobbying to knock one of them off the list for the addition of the breathtakingly stunning, spectacular, sapphire-blue waters of The Exumas that showcase every possible blue that exists, and that I have dubbed the crown jewel of The Bahamas.
I have literally traveled the world – Australia, France, Great Britain (many times over), China, Malaysia – you name it, I’ve been there, including almost every Caribbean island (multiple times over) and should I throw in the states I’ve visited in my neighbor to the north for good measure; but when it comes to my own country, I am a neophyte. This is a problem I’m correcting by dipping my toes into the world of domestic tourism and making attempts to explore every possible nook and cranny.
Why should I let visitors to my country have all the fun?
The Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board provides the perfect vehicles to explore The Bahamas with their Bahamas residents two fly/cruise free from Nassau promotion – one free airline/Bahamas Ferries ticket from Nassau for pre-booked two-night hotel stays or two free airline/Bahamas Ferries tickets from Nassau for pre-booked four-night or longer hotel stays, plus individual hotel offer.
First out the gate for me – The Exumas, an island chain that is divided into three major areas – Great Exuma, Little Exuma, and the Exuma Cays, for no other reason than for years having heard people marvel about its beautiful waters. And then there were the high praises sang a few years back by American astronaut Scott Kelly, about video conferencing with his youngest daughter while he was in space, and of showing her the most beautiful place from the vantage point of space, which was, of course, The Bahamas.
The Exumas, a chain of 365 islands is home to secluded footprint-free beaches, deserted cays, and ultra-exclusive resorts, so-much-so that nature outnumbers man. Then there are those world-famous wildly popular celebrity swimming pigs to be found at Big Major Cay (sometimes called Pig Beach) or White Bay Cay, and the iguanas that visitors flock to see.
With so much to see and do, there’s the Exuma National Sea Park just waiting to be explored. Hang out at Chat ‘n’ Chill on Stocking Island. Catch the rays then cool down in the waters at the Tropic of Cancer Beach on Little Exuma. Indulge in local delicacies at Santana’s or Tropic Breezes restaurants on Little Exuma. Dig for sand dollars on Coco Plum Beach. History buffs can delight in visiting the Rolle Town tombs and that statue of Pompey in Steventon.
I can now say I’ve cavorted with the swimming pigs at White Bay Cay. (Although to be totally honest, I was launching javelin-style, the carrots handed to me to feed the pigs to keep those pigs away from me, and all the while hitting “Mariah Carey-esque” screams as I did what I was told not to do, which was turned tail and ran.)
I fed the iguanas at Leaf Cay. (And believe you me, I kept my distance and lobbed those grapes.)
Attempted to feed the stingray. (Dropped my sausage and again fled.)
I snorkeled in a 25-foot blue hole at Sugar Cay. The underwater views were simply amazing to behold as I took in the beautiful corals and vibrantly hued sea fans for the first time. And I was tickled pink when a fish literally swam up to my googles and stared me in the eyes, because I was in his domain. It was an exhilarating experience, that I’m ready to have again. (But in all honesty, true to form, this was not the most natural thing in the world for me. I tend to panic when I feel out of my depth, but there was a five-year-old on the excursion who took to the water like a fish; I couldn’t let her outdo me. I held on to a guide’s hand for a good 20 minutes before I felt comfortable enough to let go and traverse the blue hole on my own.)
Speaking of those secluded footprint-free beaches and deserted cays, I relaxed on Boise Cay.
And no visit to Exuma is complete without visiting the Tropic of Cancer Beach (also known as Pelican Beach), the longest beach on Little Exuma. It is also said to be the prettiest beach. It was quite lovely, and I had it all to myself. Let’s face it, with hundreds of pristine beaches to choose from, this should not have been a surprise.
The Tropic of Cancer Beach is named after the meridian line that defines the northern extent of the tropics and crosses right through it. Visitors arrive from all over the world to bathe and sun at this beach, and now I’ve done it too. (Considering I’ve straddled the Prime Meridian of the World – Longitude 0° – the line that divides the eastern and western hemispheres of the Earth; a geographical reference line that passes through the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, in London, England, where east meets west, it would have been a shame to miss this experience.)
Hanging out at the legendary beach bar Chat ‘n’ Chill on Stocking Island, reachable only by boat (literally a five-minute ride across Elizabeth Harbour) was a must. At this playground off the beaten path, I enjoyed the famous conch burger, a no-frills burger – that featured a ground conch meat shaped into a pattie between two slices of bread, which you dress according to your liking, but they suggest you pair with their famous garlic “cabbage” slaw. I ended up being so chill at Chat ‘n’ Chill – so much so – that I forgot to take the opportunity to feed and pet the friendly stingrays that gather beach side at the conch shack waiting for leftovers.
It’s experiences like these that visitors flock to Exuma for. I have definitely been missing out. In fact, many Bahamians have been missing out on the natural wonders of our own country. The Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board two fly free initiative seeks to rectify that, allowing Bahamian residents the opportunity to get out and experience the country at a reduced cost and introducing them to the fact that from The Abacos to Inagua, there’s a collection of unspoiled islands that cater to true connoisseurs of island life.
No matter where you live in the country, there’s absolutely no reason to not experience the wonders of The Exumas and vice-versa.
Visiting family for the summer take time to get out and explore the island’s offerings, like a tourist. And if you’re a native Exumian, there’s no reason to not take in all off the natural wonders of your home island.
Exploring the Exuma Cays was a truly extraordinary experience.
There were some things that I missed during my visit that should not be missed, like a visit to Big Major Cay, the official home of those celebrity swimming pigs. A visit to Staniel Cay, home to the famous Thunderball Grotto which is a fantastic underwater cave system that is great for snorkeling, diving, and wading, and teeming with exotic marine life and a kaleidoscope of brilliantly colored coral reefs and fish.
Like The Exumas themselves, the resorts and hotels on the island are just as unique and diverse. Bungalows tucked into the tropical landscape, chic beachfront villas, branded and starred boutique hotels and quaint vacation rentals.
When I wasn’t taking in all that The Exumas had to offer, I laid my head and rejuvenated for the next day, at the three-star Hideaways at Palm Beach, in George Town, Exuma, which offers casual resort accommodations. The beach chic cottages and villas that are each a one-of-a-kind unit are nestled along the shoreline, for a relaxed, indulgent stay.
After experiencing The Exumas (and already making plans to return) my only question is – where to next?
With the Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board’s domestic tourism program – two fly free from Nassau, which makes domestic tourism incredibly attractive and doable, The Bahamas is my oyster!
There are three ways to redeem the fly free offer – directly with participating hotels, via Majestic Holidays and Bahamago.com.