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.
AUTUMN 2011I sea&iI59aboardashoreLAZY Z51.4m (168'7), 12 guestsfrom US$239,000 per week(available in March and April)TOP TIMES 34.47 (113'1), 10 guests from US$70,000 per weekGEORGIANA 30.48m (100'), 11 guests from US$32,000 per week