Cruising through the beautiful Exuma Land and Sea Park means pristine anchorages, rich and abundant sea life, beautiful walking trails with amazing views and wonderful bird life. It’s a no-take zone… so no fishing, no conching and no shelling for us here.
Our first stop is the deep and well-protected anchorage of Fresh Well Bay in Shroud Cay. Arriving from the Banks, we pass about 20 mega yachts —some with helicopter pads—to make our way into the shallower waters closer in to shore to set anchor. Our 4.3-foot draft always allows us a front row seat in the islands.
White-tailed Tropicbirds with their wispy long tail feathers play above us. They look bright blue with the water reflecting on their white feathers.
It’s late afternoon, so there’s still time for a dinghy ride in one of the many creeks that lead inland. It’s low tide, so our adventure stops short. It’s shallow. We park the dinghy and explore the flats on foot. There are lots of little things—small shells, tiny foot prints and little crabs. We see cairns everywhere. Some of these balanced stacks mark trails while others seem to signal a place with a great view. We add to these stone towers whenever we can.
Early the next day, we head up to another creek entrance a few hours before high tide, so the water is still rising. It’s shallow, warm and crystal clear. Mangroves line our watery path. The roots are breeding grounds and nurseries for fish, conch and lobster. We’re able to travel this creek straight through to the other side of the island where we anchor and hike up to Camp Driftwood. Along the ridge and in every direction the view is just amazing.
We make our way back to the boat for lunch of fresh conch salad with the leftovers from Norman’s Cay (not in the Park). We decide to push on to Hawksbill Cay in the afternoon. It’s another 10 miles south. Anchor is up by 1 p.m. and sails up shortly after. Breezes are about 15-18 and we enjoy an hour or so of sailing.
Hawksbill has a tidal creek just below the bluff at the lower end of the island. We decide to anchor here. It’s low tide when we drop the dinghy in the water and arrive ashore. Old dog Jock joins us. He loves a land nap. Last time we were here, he was a spry 4 years old, now he’s 16.
At sunset we hike up to the top of the bluff overlooking the Banks to watch the sun dip behind the clouds. It’s such a peaceful scene with all the boats at anchor. We can see for miles. It’s magic from up here.
Warderick Wells is our next stop. We decide to head to the protected north anchorage and grab a mooring ball for a few nights. We’re so happy we did. This may be one of the most beautiful anchorages in the Bahamas. There’s only room for about 10 or so boats in the horseshoe shaped bay.
Nurse sharks swim under the boat so the boys lift up the emergency hatch which is the floor so they can see better. It’s homeschooling at it’s finest. Later we snorkel the Coral Garden and see Hawksbill and Green turtles, huge spiny lobsters, and a sleeping nurse shark under a big coral head. There are loads of other colorful fish, labyrinthine brain corals, fan corals and sea plumes.
The wind howls for several days so we take advantage of all the hiking trails on this Cay. We hike up Boo Boo Hill and along the ridge down to the wild windswept beaches. Another path connects us to the “Hutia Highway” but we never see one of these furry, oversized gerbil–looking animals. They’re nocturnal and it’s midday. Phill and Tristan climb down into a limestone cave, we trek through thick vegetation of palm trees, poisonwood and mosquito bushes and walk over little rickety bridges and along flats. This is a fun island to explore on land and under water—there’s so much to do and see.