Traveling is a very unpredictable hobby of sorts. Those who take part derive purpose from the experience, not necessarily from ticking off the travelogue. Whereas other “collectible” obsessions (baseball cards, comics, video games, stamps, coins, what have you…) are orientated towards specific wants and desires, most travelers (despite certainly having a bucket list of destinations) just like to be, well, traveling.
Take for instance, my feeling towards the Bahamas. The tropical island paradise that is our country’s third-closest neighbor was one of the last destinations I was ever interested in visiting. Why? EVERYONE goes to the Bahamas, I’d just as soon go somewhere else. I’m a bit of an adventurer, I don’t desire joining every ma and pa-type on the shores of the Atlantis Resort and Casino. I want culture, not throngs of tourists.
So, when it came to planning a trip with my girlfriend, her friend and her friend’s husband, the four of us naturally settled on the Caribbean. We were between St. Martin and St. Croix before this mysterious little place in the middle of the Bahamas stuck its nose at us. George Town, Exuma. The costs worked all the way around (flights, rental car, rental property) and before you know it, my 17th visited country would be one of the last places I’d expect to be go.
Exuma seemed to fit the bill. Easy access (it has a major airport), low profile (only a few thousand live on the main island) and gorgeous beaches (that are mostly empty).
After spending an entire week in the Exumas, I’d gladly go back (and I don’t say that often). We ate some incredible seafood, met some of the most genuinely friendly people I’ve ever interacted with, snorkeled and swam in the clearest waters imaginable and enjoyed a private rental literally RIGHT on an incredible beach (you won’t regret renting with RayAnn’s – you’ll be sad to leave).
I don’t even care that we had to wait two days for the grocery store to stock milk. Being back in the U.S., I’m almost annoyed that everything is in stock! Somehow being on a beautiful island makes regular day inconveniences seem charming.
Want to acquaint yourself with driving on the left? I’ve done it four times now (England, Antigua, Montserrat and Bahamas) and Exuma was by far the easiest. You basically have one main road the spans the length of Great Exuma (some 40 miles) and that continues onto the much smaller Little Exuma (which is connected by a one-lane bridge). There is nearly no traffic as you leave George Town (the main place of business and government on the islands) and head south towards Little Exuma. There you can enjoy such luxuries as lobster poppers at Tropic Breeze (one of the best rated seafood restaurants in the entire Bahamas) or get the fried lobster at nearby Santana’s. Most eating is done casually, either on a deck or right out in the open. Crack open a highly sweet (and highly caloric) Bahamas Goombay Punch, and you’re all set (I’d also recommended a cool Kalik Radler Lemon, a beer that drinks like soda).
After filling your stomach, there are many fine beaches to swim or snorkel. If you’re already in Little Exuma, you’ll have to locate the Tropic of Cancer beach. I say “locate”, because nearly everyone misses the road their first time trying (quick primer: if you’re driving south just remember the signs for Perry Road, then start watching for dirt roads on your left, it’ll be the one with a lot of trash bins and blue reflectors on the telephone pole. You won’t likely see these blue reflectors until you drive back north – since they are facing northbound traffic). The Tropic of Cancer passes through this part of the Exumas, and, along with nearby Long Island, is the only place other than Mexico for North Americans to visit this line. It’s more than just a monument here, though, it’s one heck of a beach (with a decent amount of snorkeling).
Nearby Stocking Island is another great excursion. Most landlubbers (read: non-sailors) take the water taxi from the government docks in George Town. While they advertise every hour on the hour (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), we walked up at 9:30 a.m. and Martin (of, go figure, Martin’s Water Taxi) offered us a ride right away. Martin is affiliated with the Chat n’ Chill, a hangout/restaurant/bar/volleyball beach that is just about the coolest place you’ve seen. We happened to go on a Wednesday, when the Chat n’ Chill hosts music and dancing for the boaters in the harbor. Because of this, Martin had no qualms about letting us stay as long into the night as we wanted.
Stocking Island had the best snorkeling we experienced around the main Exuma islands (the best was on the Four C’s tour, which I’ll dedicate another post to). To get to the prime snorkeling, walk south past Chat n’ Chill and the volleyball courts. You’ll come to some rocks that jut out into the water, and you’ll have about a 10 minute walk in waist-high water (at high tide) to get to the private beach on the other side. Keep to the sand on the private beach and keep walking to the next set of rocks. These you can amble over onto a public beach. You’ll see a small buoy out in the water – use that as your marker. There is some very impressive snorkeling around that very buoy. (Note – I had purchased an underwater camera case for this trip, but was left disappointed by Polaroid’s lower budget offerings which allowed water in when I tested them in the sink).
After our snorkeling sessions, we grabbed conch burgers and ribs at the Chat n’ Chill (I have a new love for conch, which has a squid-like texture to the bite and is awesome fried). After rounds of Kalik Radler’s and Bahama Mama’s, we walked across the island to the Atlantic ocean side. While I’ve seen the Atlantic more than enough times, this might have been the most pristine and sparsely crowded section of it that I’ve ever swam in. It’s not great snorkeling, though we did spot a few fish and some nice views of the sea floor, but it’s a worthy side excursion nonetheless.
It’s really hard to sum up a trip to Exuma in just a few paragraphs. The majority of my traveling that I’ve recapped on this blog has been me racing around from point-to-point, taking in as much as I could in as little time as possible. Exuma didn’t rush me however. Yes, I saw quite a bit, but I never felt the pressure or crunch of time – until it was time to leave, of course. Ahh, what I’d give to be back in that rental, tossing a football around and taking in the sunset…
I’ll post a bit more later in the week about our adventures with Four C’s around the Exumas chain. A little preview: we got to see swimming pigs, feed some iguanas and frolic around the same sandbar that Pitbull did in the “Timber” video (I’m officially a fan now…of the sandbar…not Pitbull).