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Private yacht destinations, traveling to the Bahama's by water
Few areas in the northern hemisphere offer the serene tranquil ambiance as the waters of the southern Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Along the boundary line where these oceans meet, lye a labyrinth of Islands surrounded by crystal clear water and diverse global culture.
To the southeast of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, is an aqua wilderness of sorts. Whether you are heading to the Bahama's, or any other destination down island, there should always be a bit of well thought out planning. At the top of the list of things to do is the need to check the laws of the countries you are traveling between.
Many places like the Bahama's, and Puerto Rico, require advanced notice before you are allowed to enter their ports. This is especially important if you are near Islands like Cuba. Foreign Military officials, as well as the regulations they uphold should always be respected, and followed, no matter where you are traveling. If you think that the system of due process in the U.S. is slow, then you certainly don't want to experience it in this region.
Larger vessels traveling in to harbor at Nassau are required to contact the port authority to request permission to transit through. Keep in mind that there are many vessels usually in the region, including cruise ships. These ships are escorted by the Coast Guard, and have a security perimeter established around them. This can mean delays at times so it pays to just exercise patience, enjoy the scenery, and give them room.
On Nassau's Paradise Island, there are many places to shop and eat, but the first thing you must do is to check in with Customs. When you travel by water between countries, you are required to fly a Quarantine flag, which identifies you as a person entering their waters. As a U.S. Coast Guard veteran I can assure you that just because you aren't flying it, doesn't mean that you haven't been tracked, so it is best to just run the flag up, even if you think it is a hassle.
Places to stop
Once you have arrived in the Bahama's and have cleared customs, the fun begins. Though there are many Islands yet to explore, some may look no further than Paradise Island, which is home to the Atlantis resort and casino. Docking behind this place can be quite expensive however, so finding alternate moorings is a good idea. Just across the waterway from the Atlantis, there are numerous marinas which are reasonably priced, and yet are still close enough to ride a bike or walk to nearby restaurants and shopping areas.
If your looking for authentic culture and local cuisine, make sure you go to the street market place under the bridge to Atlantis. In the evening around sunset the air is filled with the sounds of Steele drums and waifs of steamed conch. Vendors line the street under the bridge with their goods in this primitive market place, each hoping to impress would be buyers strolling past.
For those who want to avoid commercialization and crowds while traveling the Bahama's, simply head south out of Nassau to the Exuma's. The Exuma Islands are a chain of over 350 islands, many which are uninhabited, offering numerous places to drop anchor. This area of the Bahama's is perhaps one of the most beautiful and unique places one could ever hope to explore. It is also home to numerous filming locations, including the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which had several location shoots on Sand Cay near Georgetown.
Staniel Cay, is right next to the smaller private resort Island Sampson. This is the area that the 1965 James Bond movie 'Thunderball', starring Sean Connery was filmed. Thunderball Grotto, is on the end of a rock island located right in the middle of the cove near the Yacht Club on Staniel. The grotto is a cave like structure which can only be accessed by swimming below and up into it. It is a snorkelers dream, and full of exotic fish. Among the fish in these waters are colorful sear gent majors, parrot fish, giant rays, and the gentle nurse shark. Don't let the fact that it is a shark scare you, as this particular species is very docile unless provoked.
Every afternoon the local conch fisherman come back to the docks with their catch. These free diving fisherman clean the shellfish on a table under a grass hut. As they remove the conch, the shells are then tossed into a pile which casually slopes into the water. For the nurse sharks and giant rays it is like ringing the dinner bell. As if on cue they quickly swim to the area to scavenge whatever pieces they can.
Staniel Yacht Club
It is no secret that the months of December through February is an ideal time to catch a glimpse of a celebrity at play in the Bahamas. From NASCAR drivers, to models, actors, actresses, and athletes, the global elite seem to find there way to the region every winter. Among some of the famous who have called the Bahama's home are Sean Connery, Elle McPherson, Jimmy Buffet, Jeff Gordon, and the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. Although many prefer to travel to the region via private yachts, there are many islands with runways, making it a "jet setters" hub.
Islands in Blue
Located next to Sampson Cay, both Islands have marina's and private plane landing strips.
Which part of this Island area would you enjoy visiting the most?
Among the beautiful creatures in the water here, are the less than glamorous, but even more famous swimming swine. That's right, on Big Major Cay, an Island uninhabited by people next door to Staniel, you will find the notorious "pig beach." These famous porkers in paradise have lived on the Island since they were originally brought here by sailors of long ago. Although much lore can be attributed to how they arrived, they continue to survive today, thanks to the numerous tourists who dole out free meals to them as they swim up to say hello. These bundles of bacon absolutely provide one of the most unique photo opportunities in the Islands!
Things to Bring
Things to pack
..for a day
Camera is a must!
Lots of food
Lots of water
Even more wine!
As previously mentioned, most of the people who travel to this region do so by their own private transportation. However, there are a few options which allow the general public a more affordable approach to access these remote Islands. There are daily flights from Miami, or Ft. Lauderdale into Nassau, where you can Island hop via seaplane or boat. Most of the shuttle boats offering service to the area operate daily weather pending of course.
Other Island stops
With so many destinations to choose from in the Bahama's, it would be impossible to nail down just one or two as favorite places. From the Abaco Islands in the north, to Great Inagua in the south, these Islands are so full of cultural ambiance that one could spend a lifetime exploring them. Here are a few other of my personal favorite places to visit.
1. Eluthera: Known for it's caverns and surf beach on the main Island, as well as it's pink tinted sandy beaches on the Harbor Island side. Close enough to Nassau to catch a ferry ride over.
2. Kamalame Cay, Andros Island: Popular diving destination as it boasts the 3rd longest barrier reef in the world!
3. Mush Cay: Owned by world famous magician David Copperfield. Known for its spectacular views and outdoor movie theater.
4. Sandy Cay-Exumas: Famous for its Iguana's and backdrop set in the movie Pirates of Caribbean. According to lore, this Island once was a favorite stop for the legendary pirate Captain Kidd.