This whole area is filled with spectacular underwater sites. The “Sea Aquarium” is just off the west side of O’Brien Cay and across from Johnny Depp’s island Little Hall’s Pond Cay. When we dive over the sides of the dinghy, hundreds of sergeant majors greet us and nibble the tips of our fingers in search of food.
The patterns and shapes of all the corals, sponges and fish are out of this world when you look close enough. Enormous green vase sponges and electric yellow tube sponges house schools of tiny glowing and spotted fish. Leopard skinned Flamingo Tongues attach to bright purple fans. Labyrinthine brain coral, star coral, and all the intricate designs and colors amaze us.
When we swim through the elkhorn forest just off Honeymoon Beach at the southern tip of Cambridge Cay, we’re among giants. This area is noted as being one of the oldest stands of this type of coral in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. In between their massive intertwined thick branches, we see beautiful tiger grouper, schools of big snapper and a lone barracuda who watches our every move.
The mystical Rocky Dundas caves are just inside the southern side of Conch Cut. We visit at slack low tide (that brief time just before the tide turns and water rushes in). We tie to a mooring and jump in. Purple fans sway with the motion of the ocean. Huge brain coral boulders and brightly colored sponges are colorful on the white sand below. We swim with fish through the dark cave opening and see huge stalactites and stalagmites once we’re inside. These were formed when the cave was above water — some 15,000 years ago when the Great Bahama Bank was land. It feels sacred. Light streams through the holes at the top of the cave. We take off our fins and snorkels and walk around inside. According to legend (and conch shells dating back to the 1500s), this spot was once a holy place for the Lucayan Indians.
We also get to tour the Coral Reef II research vessel while at anchor. Again homeschool is awesome. Part of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, the ship facilitates research here in the Bahamas and all over the Caribbean. We hailed them on the radio yesterday and Captain Z kindly agreed to dazzle us all with science and give our young scientists a tour. To top it off, the chef gave the kids some ice cream while on board. Science is sweeeeeeet!