Welcome to our first stop in the Exumas chain of islands, and what a beautiful stop it is! We’ve joined 10 other boats in the anchorage nestled between Allan’s and Leaf Cays, surrounded by white sand beaches, rocky limestone outcroppings, and gorgeous turquoise waters.
The area’s claim to fame is a group of prehistoric iguanas that live on two of the islands. As the guidebooks say, all you have to do is dinghy over and stand on the beach, and iguanas begin to come out of the proverbial woodwork. The guidebooks also recommend that you do NOT feed them (they may bite), but that doesn’t stop the fast boats that bring inebriated tourists from Nassau offering fruits and vegetables planted on sticks. (Hey – at least they’re not quite so stupid as to risk their digits hand-feeding the iguanas!) We wait for the tour boats to leave, and make our way to the beach on Leaf Cay. As predicted, we’re barely out of the dinghy before a handful of iguanas start wandering towards us looking for handouts. Apparently they haven’t stuffed themselves on the tour boat offerings, because many of them come within mere inches of us. The iguanas are anywhere from 18” to three feet long, and have red and blue coloring on their faces and spines/scales. We’re soon joined by over 30 of these creatures, and some are quite aggressive. All you have to do is wiggle your fingers and they come running. What a bizarre sight!
Our next dinghy stop is a small beach on SW Allen’s Cay with its lone palm tree swaying above the brush. It’s a gorgeous setting, and we make our way (avoiding more iguanas along the path) to the Atlantic-facing beach on the other side. There are smaller, 6’-tall palm trees all over the island, but only one tree that can be seen from a distance. We have no idea what causes this phenomenon, but it certainly makes for a good picture. We really can’t believe we’re in such a beautiful spot, and can only imagine what the rest of the Exumas have in store for us.
On Monday we’re off to Highbourne Cay, which is a whopping four-mile trip from Allan’s. Highbourne is the most northerly inhabited island in the Exuma chain, but visitors must ask permission to venture beyond the marina on this three-mile-long, privately-owned island. The marina itself provides us with our first grocery store since leaving Nassau, and the prices remind us why we’re so heavily weighed down with provisions from the States: $6.50 for a dozen eggs, $8.50 for a bag of cookies, and $9.30 for a small box of cereal. Ouch! Fortunately we don’t need anything but a couple of limes for sundowners, and manage to depart without any serious damage to our wallets. Next up is a dinghy tour of the far side of the island to see some of Highbourne’s eight gorgeous beaches…or at least that’s the plan. The wind has kicked up some rough seas (at least it feels that way in the dinghy), so we turn back to explore a protected cove on the lee side of the island. LA and Susan are more adventurous than we are, and continue on around the island before meeting us at the cove. Once again, we’re floored by the color of the water. We’d been told that the Exumas were even prettier than the Abacos, but had a hard time believing it until the proof was right in front of us. Everywhere we turn, we see postcard-perfect scenery. The sea is made up of a dozen different shades of turquoise, depending on depths, sunlight, and bottom conditions. There’s a single house high on the hill above the cove, and we can only imagine the views that the owners enjoy from their wrap-around porch. Heavenly!
As gorgeous as the cove is, there really isn’t much to do on Highbourne if you’re not staying at the marina. We don’t need the grocery store yet, and we can’t use the marina’s internet access if we aren’t paying for a slip. There isn’t a restaurant or bar on the island, and exploration beyond the ship store isn’t exactly encouraged. After one night anchored out, we make a last-minute decision to motor 8 miles down to Norman’s Cay. There’s a north-northeasterly blow coming through Wednesday-Friday, and Norman’s seems to offer as much protection – or more – as Highbourne Cay. Better yet, Norman has plenty of snorkeling and kayaking opportunities, not to mention MacDuff’s Bar & Grille. Some of you may have heard of Norman’s Cay in the 1980s, when it became somewhat notorious thanks to the…uhhh…”extracurricular activities” of its owner, alleged drug lord Carlos Lehder. Being on the island now, you’d never know that it was once the target of various drug enforcement agencies. The only remnant of the “bad old days” is (or was) an old DC-3 drug plane that crashed near the southern anchorage just short of the runway; very little of the plane remains visible today, but you can still snorkel the wreck and let your imagination run wild.
The weather kept us on board for our first couple of days in Norman, but we were finally able to go exploring on Saturday in the dink. Norman's Cay has a bight (think "big horseshoe-shaped bay") with mangroves and a blue hole. We had to maneuver our way through the shallows, but it was so worth it! We saw stingrays, sandbars, and gorgeous colors. The waves from the Atlantic were crashing against the outer reef, but we were completely protected. We turned back before we wanted to, but we really didn't want to get stuck on an outgoing tide. If we grounded, it would be a long walk back - towing a 200lb dinghy - to the boat!
We’re heading back to Nassau on Sunday to meet up with a friend from Kemah. Geoie will be our first boat visitor of the year, and we’re excited to show him some of the beautiful sights down here. Nassau will also give us a chance to get back online; we haven’t had internet in over a week, and have been told not to expect much before we arrive in Staniel Cay. We’ll be in Staniel on Friday so that Geoie can catch his flight back to the US, so we’ll try to post another blog then. Cheers!
Pictures with this Blog chapter: