ELEUTHERACAT ISLANDNEW PROVIDENCEPARADISE ISLANDLITTLE SALVADORLITTLE EXUMABIG MAJOR'S SPOTSTANIEL CAYWARDERICK WELLS CAYHAWKSBILL CAYHIGHBOURNE CAYALLAN'S CAYRock SoundThe BightNassauGovernor'sHarbourScattered over 100,000 square miles of iridescent blueshoal waters, more than 700 Bahamian islands andcays lie in a gentle east-west curve just 50 miles southof the US coast of Florida. Most of the cays aredeserted and surroundedby unspoilt reefs, shallowfishing waters and a plethora of dive sites, while a handful areinhabited. From the cosmopolitancapital of Nassau to thequaint, laid-back Exumas and the shallow waters of theAbacos, the Bahamas offers high style with Bohemian living. Begin your charter in Nassau, before sailing off to the 100-mile string of pristine cays known as the Exumas lying to thesoutheast of Nassau. For those on a longer charter, HarbourIsland, to the east of Nassau, and the Abacos further north arealso prime cruising grounds. Sun-drenched sands New Providence Island and Paradise Island are bustlingneighbours with vibrant nightlifes and an abundance of dutyfree shops, casinos and restaurants. Board your yacht in theworld-class Atlantis Marina on Paradise Island and relax intolife aboard as you begin your cruise towards the Exumas. Overthe next few days your yacht will glide from idyll to idyllas you chill out on board, snorkel, dive, swim, fish andplay with the numerous watertoys. First stop is Allan's Cay, which is a haven of calm. The three isletsthat make up this cay have a perfect anchorage at their centre,so take the tender from here to Leaf Cay and feed bananas to thelocal family of wild iguanas before returning for your first eveningon board. On the second day you will discover Compass Cay, anatural paradise of 450 acres with 15 beaches to explore, the mostspectacular being the long Crescent Ocean Beach. For a uniquemarine adventure, throw hot dogs to the nurse sharks that swimaround the shallow waters and then dive in to swim with theseincredible creatures. The less adventurous can step ashore anddiscover the many scenic trails, or go with the crew by tender tobonefish in the shallow creek meandering up the centre of theisland. Spend the evening berthed in Compass Cay Marina andtake the tender around to the spectacular horseshoe beach on theeast side. While the crew set up a sunset picnic, relax in the islet'snatural Jacuzzi known as Rachel's Bubblebath. The deep,aboardashoreSUGGESTED ITINERARYDay 1Paradise Island to AllanÕs Cay (35nm) Day 2AllanÕs Cay to Compass CayDay 3Compass Cay to Staniel Cay (10nm) Day 4Staniel Cay to Warderick Wells Cay (20nm) Day 5Warderick Wells Cay to Hawksbill Cay (10nm) Days 6Hawksbill Cay to Highbourne Cay (20nm) Days 7Highbourne Cay to Paradise Island (45nm), or on to Eleuthera Island and the Abacos (45nm) AUTUMN 2011I sea&iI57Above:the BahamasÕimmaculate pastel-painted houses arealmost as appealing as its natural landscapesOpposite page: put your feet up and relax on a charter through the Bahamas
58Isea&iIAUTUMN 2011crystal-clear lagoon on the northwest of the island is one of thefinest swimming holes in the Caribbean. From Compass Cay, take the tender to the mangrove-edgedarchipelago known as Shroud Cay. Snorkel through the crystal-clear creeks that connect the islands for a view of the sanctuaryfish, or if you manage to catch high tide this is the place to try thefamous Mangrove Run aboard a jet ski. At the end of the run thereis a hill you can climb to enjoy spectacular views over thesurrounding cays. While you're there you can also take a momentto inspect all the mementoes that have been left by yachties whohave previously visited this now-famous spot. Back on board, cruise on to the baby-soft sand beaches ofStaniel Cay for a cold margarita before diving in to discover theThunderball Grotto of James Bond fame. The grotto is a hollowed-out island and, tides permitting, you can jump in and feed theplethora of colourful fish, including a number of stingrays, as youswim and snorkel through the water. Later, take an air tour of theisland, or feed the wild swimming pigs on Big Major's Beach. Spendthe evening ashore at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a rum punchand conch fritters. Your yacht can then deliver you back up the chain to aprotected anchorage off Big Major's Spot, ideal for waterskiingand other watersports. From here, anchor off Warderick WellsCay, one of a cluster of islands that make up the Exuma Landand Sea Park. Often referred to as the Garden of Eden,this natural marine preserve is home to brilliant coral reefs andexotic marine life. For the non-divers in your party, there aremany species of tropical birds to be spotted on the islets andcays, or you can step ashore to Warderick Wells Cay and trek thenumerous hiking trails dotted around the island. Still withinthe park, Hawksbill Cay is one of the most attractive spotsin the Exuma chain and is well worth exploring. From here it is a short hop to the popular yachting outpost ofHighbourne Cay, which offers rolling hills, beautiful beaches,great snorkelling and diving. Directly off the cay is a drop offthat faces the Exuma Sound - a vertical, 22-metre (75-foot) fallthat is populated by all manner of sea life. Deep-sea fishing tripsfor mahi-mahi, wahoo, tuna and marlin can be arranged, so setoff in the tender for an early morning adventure. Those leftbehind can berth among the spotted rays in the port ofHighbourne Cay. From here, return to Paradise Island for disembarkation, orfor an extended itinerary head east to a handful of the OuterIslands, which include Harbour Island, Eleuthera, the BerryIslands and the Abacos. The Outer Islands Harbour Island is the place to find the pretty pastel-colouredhouses and pink beaches that you so often see representing theBahamas on postcards. It's also home to some of the bestnightlife in this Caribbean group. Eleuthera is, like most of theBahamas, ideal for snorkelling and diving. Particular hot spotsinclude the Current Cut channel, the inland saltwater lakeknown as the Blue Hole, and the Train Wreck. The Berry Islands can also be incorporated as part of anextended Abacos cruise from Nassau.