The location of the Exumas
The Exumas are an archipelago consisting of over 365 islands. The largest one is Great Exuma with a length of app. 60 kilometres; it is connected directly to Little Exuma, another smaller island of the island chain. Its capital is George Town. The entire archipelago is 209 kilometres long and has a territory of almost 190 square miles. The Tropic of Cancer passes through right here, specifically on Little Exuma. The southernmost island is Great Exuma, while the northernmost one is Ship Channel Cay. The latter is located only 50 kilometres from Nassau. Florida, Atlanta, Toronto and Nassau all offer flights to Exuma International Airport, located in George Town. The boat trip from the northern islands of Exuma to Nassau is app. 60 minutes long.
The history of the Exumas
The first inhabitants of Exuma were Lucayan Indians; the land at the time was called Summa and Yummy. Spanish conquerors arrived in the 1500s and made Exuma the most important salt-mining centre in the area. Americans took over the island in the 1700s. They established cotton fields, and soon the island became the area’s most significant exporter of cotton. The neighbouring waters were dominated by Caribbean Pirates during these times; several famous pirates such as Redbeard and Anney Bonny used the archipelago – offering hidden caves – as a base. During the 1970s and 1980s, Norman’s Cay was among the most significant drug smuggling centres in the region.
This is where Carlos Lehder set up his base as well. Since Florida is located fairly near, he had a runway built to facilitate the transportation of large amounts of drugs into the United States. The runway still operates today, but of course, is not used for drug smuggling. By now, Exuma has become a peaceful tropical holiday resort with large waves of tourists visiting every year for a relaxing Bahamian vacation.
Climate of the Exumas
Exuma has a subtropical climate, characterised by moderate warm weather during the entire year. The average annual temperature is 28° Celsius; this means 21° Celsius in the winter and 27° Celsius in the summer. The temperature rarely drops below 16° Celsius or above 32° Celsius. The dominant wind blows from the northeast in the winter and from the southeast in the summer, freshening up the air a bit. The velocity of the wind is an average of 15 km/h during the entire year. Most of the precipitation falls in the summer months. At the end of the summer – during the period between June and November – the tropical cyclones (hurricanes) may be a threat.
The strong wind (with a blast of over 90 km/h) and the seawater that rises, as a result, may cause heavy damage. The weather is usually pleasant in Exuma during the whole year, meaning that sailing is also enjoyable in all seasons. We should definitely avoid the hurricane season though, as storms may be very challenging
The main sights to see around Exuma
The Exumas are mostly famous for the wonderful beaches. Still, there are a lot of other sights to see that are definitely worth visiting, too. Thunderball Grotto – one of the most frequently visited diving spots in the Bahamas – is located near Staniel Cay. We can also sail to Big Major Cay where we can meet the famous Bahamian swimming pigs. On Allen Cay, we can get an insight of the life of a giant family of iguanas. We will find the centre of Exuma Sea and Land Park on Waderick Wells Cay where we can observe the colourful wildlife of the Bahamas.
If we fancy a nice walk in town, we can go to George Town. Besides the authentic shops and the market, this is also where the largest sailing contest of the region takes place. The archipelago is very diverse, and has dozens of exciting sights and activities to offer – it is definitely worth getting to know this place!
Gastronomy of Exumas
The cuisine of Exuma is very similar to that of the Bahamas; in fact, it is a variant of the latter. The most popular dishes are prepared with frutti di mare, and we can taste fresh local fruits as well as fruity refreshers as well. We will find a large variety of fish on the menus such as barracuda, perch, jack crevalle or snapper. They also serve shellfish and lobster. There is a very unique place on Great Exuma where we can try the most authentic dishes of the Exumas for a fair price: Fish Fry in George Town. It consists of several smaller restaurants serving the most delicious dishes of the island. They have an extensive menu, and locals love the place just as much as tourists. If we can, we should definitely pay a visit!
Beaches in Exumas
Tropic of Cancer Beach
Tropic of Cancer Beach – officially called Pelican Beach – is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Exumas. It can be found on Little Exuma near Williams Town. We will see a small shack at the entrance, from where there is a short flight of stairs with the sign “Tropic of Cancer Beach”, leading to the beach. We can admire the unspoiled white sand and the dazzling blue sea here while enjoying the relaxing solitude. The marvellous beach also offers a great opportunity to go scuba-diving, which will be a wonderful experience on these parts.
Forbes Hill Beach
Forbes Hill Beach is located at the end of the bridge connecting Little Exuma to Great Exuma. The crescent-shaped shoreline is a breathtaking sight and is among the most spectacular shore segments in the region. We can admire all the tones of blue here. One side is surrounded by limestone formations towering above the surface, with the gentle waves of the turquoise ocean lapping the beach. The other side offers a picturesque beach with a wonderful view in each direction. It is a quiet and gorgeous area where we can explore mysterious rock formations, relax on the soft sand or play around in the rolling waves of the ocean.
Coco Plum Beach
Coco Plum Beach is located in the northern part of Great Exuma. The beach is a true gem of the archipelago. We can go walking on the sandbar appearing during high tide or look for the treasures of the ocean. The beach is full of beautiful pastel-coloured conches, starfish and unique sand dollars. It is a favourable diving spot, and we can also try kiteboarding, which is becoming more and more popular these days.
Three Sister Beach
Three Sisters Beach is another beautiful beach on Great Exuma. The beach can be found 20 kilometres from George Town; it has astonishing blue waters and is covered by clean sand. There is an amazing view of the rock formation called Three Sisters from the beach.
Stocking Island Beach
Elizabeth Harbour, located on Great Exuma, is a few kilometres away from Stocking Island where we can choose from several amazing beaches. Stocking Island Beach is among the most beautiful beaches in the Bahamas. The blue holes, coral reefs and underwater caves make the surrounding waters even more unique. It is a very exciting spot for beach-goers, snorkellers and divers as well.
Boat rental in Exumas
We can find several great moorings and anchorages on the shores of Exuma, as well as some nice yacht marinas. We can explore the entire archipelago thanks to the fact that most of the islands are surrounded by suitable anchorages. You will find a list of the best ones below.
George Town can be found in the central-western part of Great Exuma. We can anchor practically anywhere around the town, as the area is well-protected. There are great anchorages in the centre, at Kidd’s Cove, and a little more to the south behind Crab Cay, at Red Shanks. There is a large port that belongs to Exuma Market in the centre; from here we can easily get to the central shops. They have a fuel station nearby that we can use. There are several yacht marinas in the area, for instance, February Point Marina and Marina Village Crab Cay. All of these marinas are relatively small and family-friendly. Exuma Cay Yacht Club can be found in the southern part of town. Here we can get fuel, access electricity, replenish our water and ice supplies, and they have shower cabins as well. There are also many restaurants and groceries in town.
Great Guana Cay
Great Guana Cay is located in the centre of the Exumas. It has two great anchorages: Black Point and Little Bay. Black Point is a true gem with a nice port and several moorings. People are very friendly and casual, and they find it important to help sailors any way they can. Little Bay is a small bay at the southern end of Black Point. The sea bottom is sandy, making it ideal for securing our boat safely. The depth of water is app. 3-4 metres. There is a beautiful beach here, but there are no establishments, ports or shops.
Little Farmer’s Cay
The island of Little Farmer’s Cay, located between Great Guana Cay and Great Farmer’s Cay, is less developed. Its port, Little Harbour is well-protected and has great anchorages. We can anchor at the mooring buoys in the area between the northern corner of the island and Great Guana Cay. Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club is also located here. It is a small yacht marina where we can get fuel, water, ice and access to electricity. There is also a bar and a restaurant here. We can find other anchorages in the area as well, but these belong to other businesses. Unfortunately, they are not marked properly, so we might not know who owns them. During high tide, the depth of water is 4 metres.
Norman’s Cay one of the most fascinating islands of the Exumas, as the area is surrounded by an ancient coral reef. The conditions are suitable for all kinds of waterfront activities, but the place is also perfect for a relaxing afternoon. The remains of drug lord Carlos Lehder’s plane lie beneath the sea. It is a classic diving spot, as the plane is still intact, providing a home for tropical fish and corals. We can anchor at several parts of the island. Boats that are well-suited to strong waves may use the area between Battery Point and Norman’s Cut. As for vessels with a smaller draft, they can anchor near Boot Cay. We can find other anchorages on the southeastern side between the dock and the plane wreck. The area is well-protected against winds, and the depth of water is around 2 metres.
Staniel Cay is among the most favourable destinations of the sailors in the Exumas. Thunderball Grotto can be found on this island – the place got its name from a 1965 James Bond movie which was shot here. The island has an amazing yacht marina called Staniel Cay Yacht Club. They can accommodate 18 boats, and they provide fuel, access to electricity, water and ice. The depth of water is between 2 and 3 metres. There are other anchorages in the area near Sampson Cay. This sandbank can be found the app. 5 kilometres further; we have the opportunity to safely anchor on the shallow waters.
Compass Cay also belongs to Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park. There is a meandering mangrove river passing through the island, at the end of which we can find Rachel’s Bubble Bath. This unique “pool” is fed by the ocean – the flowing water crashes against the coral reef, which practically makes the pool a natural jacuzzi. The yacht marina of the island is quite stranded, with only basic amenities. We can also anchor a bit farther outside, but the area can only be used for a fee. There is another shelter in the southern direction with great anchorages. It is a very quiet and peaceful spot, but they can only accommodate 10 boats altogether.
Highbourne Cay is a small, private island between Nassau and Eleuthera. It’s a popular stop for boaters heading to Nassau. We can get water, ice fuel, food and all the essential supplies we need here. Its harbour is beautiful, well maintained and protected.
If we visit the Exumas, we will get to know several sides of maritime life there. All sailors will find something exciting on these parts, including wonderful places to visit. The amazing ports and marvellous beaches make this diverse chain of islands a major destination among sailors.
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