The Exumas, BAHAMAS — heaven on earth. This chain of 365 secluded islands and quiet cays is home to some of the most turquoise-clear water on the planet.
7 days / 7 nights
Departing from Palm Cay Marina, Nassau, Bahamas
On a catamaran! We used a yacht broker, Sailogy, based out of Milan, to help us find the perfect catamaran charter for our group of 7 friends. The site is great because you can search anywhere in the world to hire a boat, sailboat, catamaran, or powerboat –captained or bareboat. Customer service was great –you just have to be flexible with the time difference to answer your questions until you have a local contact closer to your departure.
I’d recommend going this route vs booking with Dreams Yacht Charter direct (some of the direct reviews are less than desired). Plus, you can package your trip to add fishing poles, paddle boards, and transportation so all you have to do it show up and everything is already ready and paid for. The only fees you pay onsite would be any extra mooring, Land and Sea Park fees, entrance to see the sharks at Compass Cay, and fuel cost (ours was $950 to reference).
We originally booked a Bali Catamaran 4.6 with 6 bedrooms (4 for us and two beds for the captain and chef), but were magically upgraded to a Bali Catamaran 5.4 with two extra bedrooms when we checked in. It’s definitely close quarters (our bathroom and shower were combined into one square space), but we never felt claustrophobic. I’m typically sensitive to any motion, but never really felt sea sick and sleeping was quite steady.
You have the option to add on extras like a captain (+€1,890) and a chef (+€1,400) to handle all meals. We opted for a “full board” which is 3 meals a day and well worth the value of (+€3,185). Food is quite expensive at the very few restaurants on the cays, so $65 per person per day was very reasonable. You can also order alcohol through the charter, but options were limited so we procured our own through Bristol Wine & Spirits (and they delivered to Palm Cay Marina!).
Iguana Beach (Bitter Guana Cay, owned by Nicholas Cage) – home to endangered species of Bahamian Rock Iguanas. We brought grapes to feed them.
Staniel Cay – Swim with pigs! Originally here for remote farming, these piggies have stayed on the island for tourism. Just west from the pigs is Thunderball Grotto. You’ll have to find the hidden entrance underwater, but it opens up once you get inside. It’s really fun to see all the coral and colorful fish. Bring your fins!
Not far from Staniel Cay, you can find an underwater plane wreck from the days of Paulo Escobar’s drug empire.
The marina is also a good stop to grab ice and throw away trash.
Compass Cay – bring your snorkel goggles for an up close and personal view of these nurse sharks. $12 entrance per person.
Southernmost Sandbar at Pipe Cay – we were the only ones there! Great to experience at sunset and sunrise! We sailed in February and the weather was great, but the wind does pick up so bring a jacket or rash guard to keep warm.
We were lucky to attend the first annual “Flotilla“, where 14 boats tied together for a day party! Our captain found an IG post from a group of people who connect and arrange crossings to the Bahamas from the Florida coast. Lots of fun since we didn’t see anyone else while sailing!
Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park – after a few days on water, it’s nice to be on solid ground and explore this park on foot. You’ll need to pay for the mooring ($1 per inch of your boat) and $15 entrance per person, but the hike is nice and water is crystal clear with several sandbars. There is even a sunken boat for snorkeling. Just beware, you’ll be swimming with the sharks really anytime you are in the water. I was surprised how many sharks we saw everyday. They are mainly nurse sharks, but one day our friends were in the water with a 7 foot bull shark. Yikes!
Shroud Cay – This northernmost cay in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is known for its naturally occurring lazy river, called the “Washing Machine”. Once you anchor, you’ll take the dingy about 15 minutes through the mangroves to the uninhabited island for more secluded beaches. Sadly, we have no pictures from this cay.
Sampson Cay– my favorite sandbar! Pack water games, drinks, even chairs for a private afternoon in the shallow water. It’s literally your own private beach!
This was a trip of a lifetime! Glad we got to spend it with our close friends. I have a feeling we will be back very soon…