- Katharine Hesmer
Bahamas | Take 2 | January 10, 2023
Warderick Wells to Staniel Cay, Exuma Cays, Bahamas
KORKZcrew is the blue dot on the map
Steve said it was time to GO, and when Steve speaks, we listen!
KORKZcrew set out for Staniel Cay today, with a gameplan to make a quick stop along the way at a snorkeling spot I had heard about thanks to this Instagram post by Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
The Sea Aquarium is located at O'Brien's Cay in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. I had read that it felt like swimming inside a tropical fish tank, with fish swimming right up to you, and since it was on the way to Staniel, it made sense to stop there.
As we pulled into the anchorage, I noticed a building on an otherwise remote-looking island on our left, looked it up on Google thinking it was possibly a resort, and learned it was Little Hall Pond's Cay, better known to some as Johnny Depp's private island. 😱 This was news to me, and kind of fun to think that he might be over there wandering around on the beach. See if you can find him in this drone video 😜.
After anchoring, we gave Steve the assignment of guarding the pilot house, aka closed him inside so he wouldn't try to come with us. Poor dude. As much as he would have LOVED to see those fish, snorkeling while Steve waits not very patiently on the dinghy is not an ideal combo. It was a short dinghy ride over to the snorkeling spot, which I've marked in this drone video.
Just before reaching the mooring ball they provide for visiting dinghies, we saw a woman on the small adjacent island who'd been trying to swim while fighting the current and was having a hard time getting back to her group. She was now walking along this rather precarious rocky edge of the island so we offered to throw her a line behind the dinghy and tow her back to the mooring ball. In exchange, her friends very kindly offered to let us tie up to their boat while we snorkeled.
They also advised us to snorkel on the south side of the island because the currents can get pretty treacherous if you go at any time other than slack tide and get too close to the east or west sides. We basically limited our snorkeling to a small protected cove that had all the sea life you could hope for. Some people spotted rays and turtles, and I was overwhelmed just by seeing the multitude of colorful fish all around us. The only downside was that it was here that I learned for the first time that my GoPro Max couldn't handle underwater filming. So every shot or video I took was blurry and basically unusable. Not a big deal, but it was still disappointing. At least I know now and won't make the same mistake again. Thank goodness all two of my blog subscribers will understand. 😜
Continuing our journey to Staniel, we passed a popular attraction in this area known as Pig Beach.
From the website:
"Meet Exuma's adorable and famous swimming pigs. This is one experience you simply can’t miss while you’re here. Wondering how the pigs got to Pig Beach? We don't know for sure. Big Major Cay is uninhabited and the pigs are not native to the island. Some say they were left by a group of sailors, who planned to come back and cook them. Or that the pigs swam over from a shipwreck nearby. Wherever they came from, there are now about 20 pigs and piglets living the easy life, with daily visits from Bahamians and tourists. When you visit, be sure to get a selfie with the #swimmingpigs—they’re even cuter in person!"
We visited here with the Reddins in 2019, and I have to say it's pretty wild to see pigs walking around on the beach and swimming near the people visiting. Their caretakers tell you to hold your hands out facing upward to show them that you don't have any food or the pigs will approach you assuming they're going to be fed. We didn't visit them on this trip, even though Steve personally begged us to do so.
Here's a glimpse of our 2019 experience, with George clearly relishing his role as the Pig Whisperer. 😜
KORKZcrew made her way to nearby Staniel Cay, and was kind enough to time her arrival perfectly so we could anchor, take the dinghy to shore to get a few provisions at the Pink Pearl, and eat an early dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Good thinking, KORKZcrew! Especially the early dinner part.
Skeet and I took the short walk from the Staniel Cay Yacht Club to the Pink Pearl grocery store. It's one of three small markets on the island, and the owner is so friendly and kind.
Before getting our table at the restaurant, we enjoyed watching some local fishermen filleting their catches of the day, and throwing the scraps to the eager nurse sharks swimming below. You're actually allowed to "pet" the nurse sharks but it's probably not the best idea during feeding time. 😱
The Staniel Cay Yacht Club restaurant is extremely casual and low-key.
From their website:
"The Yacht Club has been an established part of the Staniel Cay community since 1956. Today there are 14 charming cottages, an 18+ slip marina, and the same clubhouse with a restaurant and casual island bar. We hope you enjoy your stay and we look forward to serving you!" You don't have to be a member of the yacht club or a guest at their cool looking cottages to eat here. This part of Staniel is super charming, with its gorgeous views over the adjacent harbor. It would be a great place to vacation as there are numerous options for accommodations as well as a small airport that services the island. Another notable tidbit about Staniel is that it was one of the filming locations for the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball. On the wall at the bar there's even a picture of the film crew hanging out at the very same spot. Pretty cool! You can snorkel at the nearby Thunderball Grotto named for the movie, which is best accessed at low tide, but it's become such a tourist destination that you can almost count on it being crowded. It's definitely worth it though if you get the chance to explore this underwater cave system.
Photo: Staniel Cay Yacht Club
Dinner was HEAVENLY (translation: fried 😜), and Skeet joined me with a deep dive into a fabulous tempura chicken sandwich topped with Asian slaw. Forgive me if I burst into tears just typing those words. 🤩 It was outrageously delicious.
Eating at Senior Citizens' Hour insures a daylight dinghy ride back to the boat, and we enjoyed the view (and our full and happy bellies) for the rest of the day.
Night night, KORKZcrew!
3 hours underway; 19 nautical miles traveled
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