Hand on heart: have you ever heard of Exuma? No? Never mind, neither did we until a few years ago. If you are not a huge fan of the Caribbean and are not committed to discovering the most beautiful dream beaches in the world or visiting the swimming pigs of the Bahamas , then you don’t have to deal with Exuma. But if you love buttery soft, white sandy beaches and turquoise blue water as much as we do, then you should be careful now: The Exuma Islands in the Bahamas are the weirdest thing we have seen in recent years! Really now. Exuma is paradise. PARADISE. We have never – never! – seen something like that. And if IIf I write something like that, I don’t really know how to explain what the Exuma Cays are. Nobody believes us anyway.
Let’s try it this way: The Exumas are an island chain of the Bahamas consisting of around 360 individual islands. Most of them are completely untouched. The island chain extends southeast of the main island of the Bahamas, New Providence and Nassau. The Exuma Cays belong to the so-called Out Islands of the Bahamas and are visited by significantly fewer tourists than Nassau. That is a huge mistake! It is to be hoped, however, that this will not change anytime soon, because tourist crowds like Nassau have to cope with them would destroy this paradise within a very short time. Characteristic of Exuma is the relatively shallow water that stretches for hundreds of kilometers across the entire chain of islands, which means that the entire area of the Exuma Cays is bathed in a brilliant turquoise blue. This view of the bright blue water is seldom broken by places where the sea is a little deeper and the water shimmers dark blue. In between, the often nameless islets with their white beaches line up, many of them are completely uninhabited or are owned by some celebrity.
Exuma Cays: By boat through paradise
How did we end up here of all places, one of the most remote places in the world? The answer is simple: Exuma is home to the famous swimming pigs of the Bahamas. As frivolous as it is: Without the rationally simply incomprehensible wish to experience the swimming bristle beasts once in a lifetime, we would probably never have come to Exuma (yes, we are these tourists who only came to Exuma because of the swimming pigs and the Incidentally, only a blank shake of the head from the locals). Fortunately, when we make such decisions, our mind often has a break from broadcasting, and so it happened that we found ourselves poorer by 1000 €, armed with toast and a GoPro on a speedboat, which in a monkey tooth with us through the bluest sea of all time Exuma Cays raced – pigs, here we come!
In the first part of our report about our tour to the Bahamas pigs we already reported in great detail how exactly you get to Exuma and what possibilities there are to book such a tour. You can read everything here:
Since the pigs on Big Major Cay are not the only highlight on an ocean safari through the Exuma Islands, we have split the report about our adventure for reasons of space. In part 1 we reported about the swimming pigs that we had finally reached after what seemed like an infinitely long 2 hour boat trip. Feeding, petting and playing with them was really an absolute highlight. The pigs were the first stop on our tour – here you can find out how it went afterwards and what else we experienced in Exuma.
Adventure on Exuma: petting sharks on Compass Cay
After leaving Pig Island and the pigs behind us a bit wistfully, we were of the opinion that after this absolute highlight of the tour, there probably wasn’t much more to come. So we could hardly believe our eyes and ears when our boat set course for a small island called Compass Cay and our guide announced that we would now swim with sharks and stroke them. Pet sharks ?! Wtf ?! I’ll give a shit! 20 seconds later I was in the water petting sharks. Mr.
Even though I knew in theory that the Nurse Sharks that live here on Compass Cay are completely harmless, the pump went really well in the water at first. In the first few seconds no shark was seen, but it wasn’t long before the first shark appeared out of nowhere. At that moment, by the way, it was already too late for the instinct to flee spontaneously, because the shark didn’t need 3 seconds to get to us. Ready to be eaten, I gave in to my fate – and stroked my first shark (or rather the shark stroked me by eagerly swimming around me. I preferred to hold still first).
At Compass Cay, the island’s owner has built a boardwalk into the shallow water. The nurse sharks that live there are used to the tourists and even voluntarily swim to the jetty at high tide to be petted and fed. The sharks are not fenced in, but can move freely. But since they are well taken care of, they do not seem to have any increased interest in staying anywhere other than Compass Cay. If you want some peace and quiet, just dive down and lie down on the ocean floor under the jetty. The largest of them are up to 4 meters long including their tail fin and can frighten you at first just because of their size. But we get used to it quickly and swim and snorkel for a while with the sharks (which, by the way, look like wet,
By boat through paradise: Conch on the sandbank
After everyone was collected happy and euphoric by our guide at the port of Compass Cay and directed to the boat, we went on to the next item on the program: Prepare conch salad on a sandbank. Aha. Now we’re supposed to cook our lunch here ourselves in the middle of the sand, which our guide caught earlier during a short stopover in the sea … or what does it look like? And what is that anyway … Conch? Do I have to kill it myself?
The snobby tourist in us wrinkles our noses a bit, but as we slowly head towards the sandbank with our boat, we immediately get huge, bright eyes. What’s going on here…?? OMFG! As soon as we set foot on land, we immediately sink into the softest, finest white sand we have ever experienced. The bright turquoise blue sea nestles gently around the white sandbank, interrupted again and again by new, small sandbanks. Holy shit.
Unfortunately, we don’t notice much of the preparation of the conch salad, but we are very grateful when our guide brings us a portion of it – in true Caribbean style in a white plastic bowl. Delicious!
To clarify: Conch (read: “Konk”) looks to us laypeople like a fairly large mussel, but is a sea snail. The conch is known in German as the “Great Fechterschnecke” and is native to the entire Caribbean, the Bahamas, southern Florida and Bermuda. The conch seems to be something like the national dish in the Bahamas, we encounter it afterwards as conch fritters, as conch burger, conch something … everything is with conch. The shells of the snails look beautiful when cleaned and are sold to tourists as souvenirs for little money (normal is around $ 5 each). But be careful: Since it is a formerly living animal, you are not allowed to import the conch housing into every country. If you want to enter the USA on your way back from the Bahamas, the import is for example prohibited, to our knowledge max. 3 housing per person to be brought.
We then learned that the conch is under species protection due to overfishing and we thought about what we should advise you now. The result: we can’t advise you. The conch is so ubiquitous in the Caribbean and it is perfectly normal for the people to eat it. In our experience, in the Caribbean you don’t need anyone with environmental protection, ecological responsibility, overfishing, species protection or anything else – you are not that far there and you cannot be at all. These are First World Problems and the Caribbean is not one of them. Most of the people live from fishing and tourism, not infrequently from hand to mouth. It goes without saying that you don’t give a lecture on such topics to someone like that. If someone offers you conch, try it.
And to come back to the sandbar: By the way, here we saw the next shark in the wild. He swam very close to the anchored boats in the shallow water … and as far as we could see it was not a safe nurse shark this time. You have never seen us jump out of the water so fast!
This is only possible on Exuma: snorkeling in James Bond’s Thunderball Grotto
After we have stayed on the sandbank for a while, we continue to the next highlight of our tour, which is just around the corner: The Thunderball Grotto . In 1965, parts of the famous James Bond film ‘Thunderball’ were filmed in this grotto, since then it has been known as the Thunderball Grotto. For laypeople, snorkeling is only possible in the afternoon at low tide, because only then can you find the entrance to the grotto. Inside the grotto you can expect a breathtaking backdrop and a colorful underwater world. Unfortunately, we only managed to take stupid photos and due to the coming flood we only had a limited amount of time in the grotto … but a little imagination doesn’t hurt either 😉
By the way, you don’t have to lug the snorkeling equipment with you, you will usually get it as part of the tour.
After the snorkeling adventure in the grotto, we finally head for an inhabited island of the Exumas for late lunch. By the way, we didn’t know at that moment exactly which island we were on, because nobody told us that. Our credit card statement says it was Deshamon’s Restaurant on Great Guana Cay . Aha! According to Google Maps, this is not possible at all, because Great Guana Cay is completely different. Well then – no idea where we were. The food from the buffet was okay, but the $ 50 for 2 people was expensive, as is typical of the Bahamas. The islet itself looked very nice at first sight and there was even an asphalt road … we really would like to know where we were.
The Bahamas iguanas are a very special species because their skin is slightly reddish. So the photos are not a Photoshop Fail, the iguana’s skin is actually red. Incidentally, so is our skin. We applied the lotion diligently, but still burned ourselves a lot during the day. Yeah
We are therefore very happy that the day is slowly coming to an end in the late afternoon. Tired and exhausted from all the impressions, we finally set off at full speed on our way back to Great Exuma, the main island of the Exuma Cays, where we stay for 3 nights at the Two Turtles Inn * in George Town. On the boat we treat ourselves to two, three, four Bahama Mamas (THE cocktail of the Bahamas, you have to try it!), Which are again served in true Caribbean style from plastic canisters in plastic cups. Bottom up!
This is how you can book the tour through the Exuma Cays
In the first part of our report, which is only about the highlight of the tour, the swimming pigs , we have already listed all the providers we know with whom you can do a full-day tour through the Exuma Islands. Here is the overview again:
- Coastline Adventures (price-performance overview here )
- Four C’s Adventures
- Exuma Water Sports
- Robert’s Island Adventures
- Island Routes
- Exuma Sunrise Tour
We were traveling with Coastline Adventures. The individual program items are basically the same for all providers: You always visit the pigs on Big Major Cay, the sharks on Compass Cay, and go snorkeling in the Thunderball Grotto. The rest varies a bit, depending on the direction from which you are heading to the Exumas and how much time you have. Which spot you go to in which order doesn’t follow a fixed plan, but the weather. Your guides on the boat communicate by radio with people on site and decide what the route looks like that day.
You will definitely have a lot of fun! Exuma is a blast! Before and after our trip to the Bahamas, we often heard “Oh, Bahamas… that’s pretty boring, isn’t it? There is nothing but two or three beaches … and they are not that beautiful either ”. Hm … no ?!
That might be the impression you get when you head for New Providence or Nassau on the cruise ship. However, if you think you have seen the Bahamas because you have seen Nassau, you are unfortunately wrong. Not just a little, but miles. The Exumas are a completely different world that we have never experienced anywhere else! And they are one of the few places in the Caribbean that has been spared from cruise tourism. You can feel that clearly. If you are looking for peace and seclusion and want to get to know the real Caribbean feeling, you have to come to Exuma.