It helps to be a bit of a mermaid when visiting the Caribbean, especially in the tiniest island communities like Staniel Cay in The Bahamas’ Exuma archipelago. Accessible either by charter flight or charter boat, Staniel Cay is paradise for anyone drawn to crystal clear turquoise water and unusual adventures.
Things to do in Staniel Cay, Bahamas
The Exumas were the site of the very first press trip I ever lead as a publicist for The Bahamas, and a few weeks ago I had the chance to take some travel writer friends down to experience it once again. I’ll tell you what – the color of the water, the unoccupied beaches and the friendly folks you meet along the way never get old.
Visit the Swimming Pigs
If you were expecting some web-footed species of mermaid-pig to swim up to your boat, you might be disappointed. Staniel Cay’s pigs are just regular piggies, let loose on Big Major Cay ages ago to feed, grow and ultimately join us for breakfast… on the table. As bacon.
Once folks realized that the pigs were more of a draw in the water than on the plate, they decided to let them be — and one of the most curious tourist attractions in The Bahamas was born. If you want to visit these little fellas, check out my tips for visiting the swimming pigs of Exuma.
When you visit, it helps to go early to avoid the rush – yes, there is a rush to see these local celebrities! Take snacks like lettuce, grapes and produce to draw the pigs out from the island’s interior, and please keep in mind they are wild animals so you might get nipped if you get too close.
Explore Thunderball Grotto
Infamous Thunderball Grotto is only accessible to those willing to swim in and out, but if you visit at the right time of day during the slack tide, it’s rather easy to do. (And you can make it more challenging by diving down into the swim-thru holes speckled around the base of the cave.) Pro Tip: Check out my post on how to take clear, detailed underwater photos with GoPro.
I can’t imagine how in the world a film crew managed to shoot scenes from James Bond’s 1964 flick Thunderball inside, but you couldn’t pick a setting with more natural mystery. Swimming into the narrow cut in the rocks, the interior instantly takes your breath away as sunlight streams in from holes in the top and bottom of the cave.
To be extra safe, hire a knowledgeable guide like Jake from Staniel Cay Divers. He’ll lead you into the grotto at the best spot, show you the coolest features in the cave and help you find lobsters, grouper and all sorts of colorful critters on the outer wall of the grotto.
Claim a Beach
If you’ve been to the Caribbean’s popular ports, you probably shared your sandy beach real estate with dozens if not hundreds of other sun-seekers. On Staniel Cay, and really throughout The Bahamas, there’s more than enough sand to go around. I love how you can wake up, hop on a golf cart, and in 5 minutes find a solitary spot under a palm tree with a stretch of powdery white sand without a footprint on it.
And hey, if someone is already there, you can drive 90 seconds up the Queens Highway and there’s sure to be another place to plant your beach umbrella.
Spend All Day on the Water
No matter what you do in Staniel Cay, chances are the majority of your days will be spent on a boat. Whether sailing as part of the annual Emancipation Day Regatta, or yachting with celebrity friends, or searching for sharks, rays and turtles in some of the world’s most fantastic dive sites, the water here is irresistible, and you’ll find yourself hopping in at every opportunity.
While enormous yachts and celebrity private islands are the norm in The Exumas, somehow the 365 cays, and especially Staniel Cay, are more low-key than red carpet. Every day revolves around the sea, and some mix of swimming, snorkeling, diving, fishing, sailing or floating in it.
Here are my other recommendations for what to do in Staniel Cay!
So pack your mermaid fins and seashell bikini, because Staniel Cay awaits!
Thanks to wonderful Nicky & Natajia at EMBRACE Resort for hosting me during my last visit. Their beautiful homemade, homegrown, sustainable resort is scheduled to open in 2014. Find out more here.
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