5 Days on Staniel Cay, Part 3 – Off the Cay

In 5 Days on Staniel Cay, Part 1, we talked about the beaches on Staniel Cay and in Part 2, we highlighted some of the other attractions on island that we were lucky enough  to experience. In this last part, we’re going to feature the area surrounding Staniel Cay – which are just a short boat ride from Staniel Cay and definitely worth exploring!

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Exuma, a long chain of stunningly beautiful islands, or cays – 365 of them, that start about 35 miles south of Nassau, Bahamas. The Exuma Cays are the northernmost part of this chain and much of it is easily accessible from Staniel Cay.

Map of Exuma Cays
If you have boating experience, you can rent a boat for the day or the week from Coral at Staniel Rentals, or 1/2 day and daily rentals from Nicole at 3N’s Vacation Services. If you’re not comfortable navigating your own boat, Nicole can also arrange a guided tour of the surrounding cays for you.

During our all too short stay, we first took a guided tour of the surrounding area, which included snorkeling at Thunderball Grotto,

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Swimming with the pigs at Big Major Cay,

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Swimming with the nurse sharks on Compass Cay,

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And a fun afternoon playing on the sandbar near Little Pipe Cay.

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We enjoyed the day so much that several days later, we decided to rent a boat of our own to explore more of the incredible area. We swam with the pigs again, then headed north for more time on Compass Cay, where we spent time chatting with Tucker, the proprietor of Compass Cay Marina,

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Exploring the stunning Crescent Beach on Compass Cay,

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Boating through some of the clearest, bluest water we’ve ever seen,

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Then spending the last several hours of our day on Sandy Cay, exploring the tiny uninhabited island and the long arc of white sand sandbar that appears during low tide.

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Have you spent time on Staniel Cay or in the Exuma Cays? Tell us about it!

Find these cays on the map above, or on our Bahamas Map

To see more posts on the Bahamas and other islands, check out our Island Blog Directory

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Pictures and other content may not be re-used without written consent from Rum Therapy, LLC

5 Days on Staniel Cay, Part 1 – The Beaches

Staniel Cay, a small island in the middle of the Exuma Cays, a chain of beautiful islands and cays in the Bahamas, is a hub for the area because of the amenities it offers: a small airstrip, three grocery stores, three restaurants, a clinic, church, marina, gas and a variety of accommodations.

We got to spend 5 days on this lovey island (thanks to Embrace Resort), which is only about a square mile in size and home to about 100 people. What’s it like to stay on a small island, or cay such as Staniel Cay?

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Well, if you like spending lots of time on beautiful deserted beaches, if you like an island where on-island transportation is via golf carts, bicycles or walking, if you don’t mind that there’s really only one nightspot – but it’s a good one, if you enjoy getting to know the locals and other visitors to the island by name, and if you don’t mind “island time”, you would probably love Staniel Cay. We absolutely did.

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Our arrival from Nassau was by Flamingo Air on a very small plane that seated about 8 – less if the passengers have much to carry on. The views over the Exuma Cays were spectacular and we could hardly wait to land and start exploring.

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From the moment we set foot on Staniel Cay, we felt welcomed. Smiles and greetings from everyone – even other visitors were abundant and we quickly started to relax and get on island time ourselves.

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Our first day or so was spent exploring the island by foot and golf cart. What’s there to see? We’ll show you!

Beaches…
 Exuma is known for its stunning beaches and sandbars and there are secluded ones around every corner in the chain of cays, but if you don’t want to leave Staniel Cay, there are several great ones right on island to explore, such as,

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Ocean Beach.
On the east side of the island, you can access this long expanse of beautiful sand from the bluff above it. We took our golf cart, parked at the top of the bluff and walked down to the beach.

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Once on the beach, you can find just the perfect secluded spot to spend the day. As you can see, you won’t be competing for a little space.

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The surf was very calm the two days we visited and we spent a lot of time in the water snorkeling and floating, but I imagine it could get rough on stormy or windy days due to its orientation.

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Find all of these beaches marked on the Staniel Cay map below.

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Another beach that we really enjoyed was Pirate Trap Beach.

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The beach itself is not huge and varies with the tide, but the views from the cove are stunning and the water was calm and great for swimming when we were there.

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Although the Ocean Beach and Pirate Trap Beach were our favorites, there were several other beaches on island that are worth exploring.

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Ho Tai Cay was a bit hard to find, but had a nice little park with picnic tables, a tire swing and a volleyball net in the water. The beach is located on an inlet on the islands southeast side and gets very low during low tide, but is probably always calm due to its location.

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Just over the hill from the park was another beach that we believe was the upper edge of the South Beaches. We couldn’t find a public access path to the South Beaches (beside this little area) as the beach is dotted with private homes, but it looks like another beautiful area.

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And last, but certainly not least – the beach next to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. It was calm and fairly shallow. Looked like a perfect place to kayak or SUP.

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Did we do anything other than visit beaches during our stay on Staniel Cay. Yep.
Check out Part 2 – The Island and Part 3 – Off  the Cay. We’ll let you know the other fun things we got to experience on this beautiful cay!

Find Staniel Cay and its beaches on our Bahamas Map

To see more posts on the Bahamas and other islands, check out our Island Blog Directory

 Copyright©Rum Therapy
Pictures and other content may not be re-used without written consent from Rum Therapy, LLC

Embrace Resort, Staniel Cay

Imagine a small, intimate eco-friendly resort with 7 well appointed themed villas, a spa, pool, cabana and upscale restaurant all on a beautiful, quaint little island in an exquisite chain of small islands in the Bahamas called the Exuma Cays. The island is Staniel Cay and this resort, Embrace Resort, is the dream of owner Nicole Ferguson and daughter Natajia, who are well on their way to realizing their vision.

Embrace is an acronym for the names of the 7 villas that will soon grace the resort: Exuma, Mayaguana, Bimini, Ragged Island, Andros, Cat Island, Eleuthera – all named after Bahamian Islands.  4 of the villas are already complete and range in size from 1 bedroom (including a honeymoon villa with indoor spa tub) to 3 bedrooms.

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Andros – 3 bedroom villa with  complete kitchen

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Bimini – 2 bedroom villa

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Ragged Island – 1 bedroom Honeymoon Villa

Once completed, the resort will host the only spa, fitness center and meeting space on the island and will also include a pool and restaurant. Nicole and Natajia also run a business called 3 N’s Vacation Services which offers destination wedding planning, boat rentals, tours & excursions and golf cart rentals. Guests of Embrace Resort will certainly benefit from their expertise, knowledge of the island and services available.

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Owner Nicole Ferguson

We were invited to visit and learn about Embrace Resort and stayed in Mayaguana, an intimate 1 bedroom accommodation with a refrigerator, microwave, large en-suite bathroom, air conditioning, wireless in the room, and flat screen TV with dish network.

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Although the resort is not directly on the beach, it is close to several of the islands fine beaches and they are easily reached by walking or by golf cart. It is also just minutes away from the islands restaurants and grocery stores and the popular bar and nightspot at Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  Staniel Cay is easily reached by air via Nassau or Ft. Lauderdale on either Flamingo Air or Watermakers Air.

Every effort is being made to make Embrace Resort sustainable and eco-conscious in the choice of building materials and systems used in the construction of the resort, which is important anywhere, but especially on a small island where every action leaves a mark on the delicate ecosystem.

Staniel Cay and the entire Exuma chain is an area that is getting more and more attention lately due to the diversity of activities available in the area, from fishing to boating to experiences you won’t find anywhere else. From our base at Embrace Resort, we were able to visit Big Major Cay and its swimming pigs,

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Swim with the nurse sharks on Compass Cay,

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Snorkel through Thunderball Grotto – used in the filming of the 1965 James Bond movie “Thunderball”,

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and spend lazy afternoons floating in some of the clearest water we’ve ever seen…

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 Embrace Resort is scheduled for a Grand Opening in 2016 once the entire resort is finished, and although the restaurant, swimming pool and spa are not yet complete, the 4 villas that are already constructed are available to rent and can be booked through their website: Embrace Resort.

To find out more about Embrace Resort, be sure to follow them on their Facebook page and Twitter.

A big thanks to Nicole and Natajia for hosting our stay at Embrace Resort and we look forward to visiting again next year to see all that Embrace will have to offer!

Crescent Beach, Compass Cay

During our recent interview with Beach Bar Bums, we were asked to list a few of our all-time favorite beaches. Crescent Beach on Compass Cay in the Bahamas was one.

This gorgeous arc of brilliant white sand and clear turquoise water was actually a recent addition to our favorites “list” as we visited the Exuma Cays for the first time a few months ago. One of the stops on our first day of exploring was Compass Cay. Compass Cay has become known for it’s marina, where you can can interact with their friendly pet sharks, but, as we found on our second visit, there is more to see on Compass Cay than sharks – although that was really a great experience…

We rented a boat for a second day of exploring from Coral at Wheels -N- Waves Island Rentals on Staniel Cay and she mentioned that we should definitely spend a little more time on Compass Cay, and to make the short hike over from the marina to Crescent Beach. Boy are we glad she made that recommendation.

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Upon our arrival, we spent a little time swimming with the sharks again and visiting with Tucker, the proprietor of Compass Cay, who echoed Coral’s thoughts on Crescent Beach, then started on the path to the beach.

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The path was marked with colorful and whimsical signs.

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The sandy path wound its way through the foliage.

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As we rounded the last corner, we got our first glimpse of the gorgeous beach.

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The beach was a long stretch of sugar soft, white sand and there was no one else in sight.

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We spent several hours walking the beach and floating in the lovely warm, clear water.

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There are so many gorgeous beaches and sandbars in the Exumas, but we must say Crescent Beach stands out as our favorite Exuma beach from this trip just for its sheer beauty, although we’ve only visited a few of the 365 islands and cays that make up this magnificent chain so far…

Have you been to Crescent Beach on Compass Cay? Tell us about it!


Find Crescent Beach on our Bahamas Map

You might also enjoy:
Compass Cay and its One Full Time Resident

The Swimming Pigs of the Exuma Cays
Staniel Cay Yacht Club
Thunderball Grotto


To see more posts on the Bahamas and other islands, check out our Island Blog Directory

 Copyright©Rum Therapy
Pictures and other content may not be re-used without written consent from Rum Therapy, LLC

Staniel Cay Yacht Club

On Jimmy Buffett’s list of “10 great places for a Waterside Drink”, the Staniel Cay Yacht Club is a great place for just that, and a whole lot more…

The Staniel Cay Yacht Club & Marina (SCYC) is located on a small cay named Staniel Cay in the middle of the chain of stunning islands known as the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. SCYC offers a full service marina, cottage and suite accommodations, a shop, and a bar/restaurant.

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It’s one of the few places to gas up a boat in the area, so there are always boats, large and small, in the marina and boaters in the bar. The SCYC bar sits in the middle of the marina and is a colorful, eclectic, laid-back, nautically themed place to enjoy a few drinks and some laughs with visitors from around the world. 

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It’s well known by those who navigate the crystal clear Exuma waters, and frequented by a number of celebrities, such as Johnny Depp, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Tyler Perry and David Copperfield who have purchased islands (not just homes – islands in the Exuma Cays!) Jimmy Buffet,we were told, used to fly in on his seaplane.

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The walls and ceilings contain a multitude of frayed sailing flags and memorabilia and pictures of the crew from the James Bond movie Thunderball hang close to the bar, as some scenes from the film were shot in the nearby Thunderball Grotto.

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Although the entire resort emits a decidedly relaxed vibe, the SCYC bar is the place to be for nightlife on Staniel Cay.

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As the evening gets later, the bar fills up and the chatter and laughter gets more and more lively.

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From inside the bar, you can glimpse the huge boats harbored in the slips – a great view while savoring a blackened mahi sandwich from the lunch menu.

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And there are plenty of drink options available from the local beers to specialty rum drinks, such as this frozen rum punch.

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Additional seating is available outside, where you can enjoy the sunshine and crystal blue water.

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Or take your drink to a rocking chair on the front porch and enjoy the sights and sounds of the busy marina.

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Whatever you do, relax and enjoy every moment. It’s one of those places that you’ll take a mental escape to when life gets hectic back home. As a sign on the bar says,
“What’s your hurry? …you’re here”
.

Have you enjoyed a “waterside drink” at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club bar? Tell us about it!


Thank you to the wonderful folks at Embrace Resort who sponsored our stay on Staniel Cay. The Embrace Resort is within walking distance of SCYC and an even shorter golf cart ride!


Find Staniel Cay Yacht Club on our Bahamas Map

To see more posts on the Bahamas and other islands, check out our Island Blog Directory

 Copyright©Rum Therapy
Pictures and other content may not be re-used without written consent from Rum Therapy, LLC

Compass Cay, Exuma and its One Full Time Resident

Compass Cay, one of the small cays that make up the extraordinarily beautiful chain of islands called the Exuma Cays, is home to only one full time resident. Well two, if you count the island cat Lilly…

Compass Cay is perhaps best known as the location of friendly swimming sharks, but there are other reasons to spend time on this small and beautiful island with water as clear as a swimming pool – making boats appear to be floating on air, and one of them is to meet and chat with the only full time resident, Tucker Rolle.

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During our recent stay at Embrace Resort on Staniel Cay, we had the chance to visit Compass Cay and meet this soft spoken, friendly man who works hard at making sure his guests are having a nice time. And as the word gets out about this magical place, there are certain to be more and more visitors making their way to Compass Cay.

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Tucker has been the proprietor of Compass Cay since 1992, but has worked on Compass Cay farming it since he was 13 years old. At that time he lived in a small house on Sister Cay directly across from Compass, and would row over everyday to work on the cay.

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Now, the Compass Cay Marina & Resort includes a protected marina with electricity, reverse osmosis water, laundry, shower service and a small store. Tucker say that the marina has accommodated a boat as large as 155 ft in the past, but most boats that dock here are 135 ft or less. Boating guests are told that they need to draw less than 6 ft. to come in at low tide. There is a $10 per person landing fee to come ashore at the marina – which was well worth it in our book. There are also a few homes available to rent on Compass Cay if you’d like to have more time to experience all that this cay has to offer.

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In addition to marveling at the nurse sharks interacting with the many people that visit on day excursions, the island has other interests well worth exploring, such as the absolutely stunning Crescent Beach, just a short walk from the marina.

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And if you have time, you might want to visit Rachel’s Bubble Bath, a natural lagoon fed by water from the sea breaking over an opening in the surrounding rocks, climb the 92 ft high Compass Peak for a great view of the nearby Exuma Land and Sea Park and visit the 12 other beautiful deserted beaches on the cay.

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We also enjoyed checking out the colorful and amusing signs and memorabilia lining some of the trails and pathways through the island.

Before reluctantly leaving, we asked Tucker if there was anything else he would like us to mention in our post about Compass Cay. He said, “We try to keep Compass as natural as possible and do not want to see development on the lovely cay.  That’s why we all say take only pictures and only leave footprints.  We want to share Compass Cay with our guests and make them feel welcome and at home. Like our sign says, Welcome Home to Compass Cay.”

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Have you been to Compass Cay? Tell us about it!

 

Find Compass Cay Marina and Crescent Beach on our Bahamas Map

You might also enjoy:
The Swimming Pigs of the Exuma Cays
Thunderball Grotto


To see more posts on the Bahamas and other islands, check out our Island Blog Directory

 Copyright©Rum Therapy
Pictures and other content may not be re-used without written consent from Rum Therapy, LLC

Thunderball Grotto, Exuma Cays

Just off the coast of Staniel Cay in the beautiful Exuma Cays, lies an underwater cavern paradise called Thunderball Grotto. It acquired its name because it was one of the filming sites for the 1965 James Bond movie “Thunderball”. Thunderball Grotto has since been used in the filming of several other movies such as Never Say Never Again, Splash and Into the Blue.

By boat, Thunderball Grotto is just a couple of minutes from Staniel Cay and we were so excited to get to explore it during our recent stay at Embrace Resort. The island itself is composed of sharp rocks and a few shrubs – not giving away a clue as to the wonderland underneath.

Grotto-3-(a)--(600)-OA faded sign on the island indicates the location of the grotto and says
“Welcome to Thunderbird Grotto – No Fishing – Take Only Photos”

During low tide, snorkeler’s can enter the cave through a small opening on the west side of the small island.

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Our guide pointed us in the direction of the opening and encouraged us to swim right in.

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Not quite sure just what we would be swimming into and hoping that it would be more spacious than the original opening, we ducked down and made our way in.

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Sure enough, just a few feet in, it began to open up.

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Once inside, we began to get a glimpse of the cavern. The colors of the water and the walls were absolutely amazing and it was soooo much lighter inside than we imagined.

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Underwater, rays of sunshine highlighted the beautiful coral.

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And sergeant majors were abundant.

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But we thought the most amazing feature of Thunderbird Grotto was the grotto’s size and colors once inside. The openings in the ceiling let generous amounts of light in and apparently the adventurous sometimes jump into the cavern through these holes. Yikes.

The current eventually brought us to the other end of the grotto,

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Where we swam out through a much larger opening to our waiting boat.

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Have you been to Thunderball Grotto? Tell us about it!

Find Thunderball Grotto on our Bahamas Map

You might also be interested in the following posts from this area:

The Swimming Pigs of the Exuma Cays


Swimming With Sharks on Compass Cay

 

To see more posts on the Bahamas and other islands, check out our Island Blog Directory

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Pictures and other content may not be re-used without written consent from Rum Therapy, LLC

Swimming With Sharks on Compass Cay

So, I know sharks play an important part in the oceans ecosystem, but I just am not a fan. Sorry sharks. Nothing personal, it’s just those teeth…

When we were offered a stop at Compass Cay to swim with the sharks during an excursion generously provided by Embrace Resort on Staniel Cay, I thought fine. I’ll just take photos of the experience while John happily interacts with them in the water. Photos, from the dock – or as far away as I needed to be out of tooth range. But then I did a little research on the type of shark that hangs out at Compass Cay. The Compass Cay sharks are nurse sharks and according to National Geographic, adults are commonly about 7.5-9.75 ft long (although they can get as big as 14 ft.) and weigh 200-330 lbs. NG goes on to say, “Nurse sharks are for the most part harmless to humans.”  Apparently they just don’t like to be provoked…(please tell me what ticks off nurse sharks!)

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Upon our arrival at the Compass Cay Marina, we quickly became aware of the sharks presence. There were several people already in the water with (gasp) sharks swimming all around them. No one was panicking and there were even smiles.

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Some were petting the sharks…

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I found myself getting more and more intrigued.

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Tucker, the man who owns Compass Cay Marina relayed the story of the sharks. When he first opened Compass Cay Marina, he brought in several nurse sharks. Over the years, the sharks had little sharks, have become accustomed to human
interaction and are now considered “pets”. There is a continual and abundant supply of fish scraps for the sharks as fish are cleaned at the end of one of the docks. At feeding time, a small hatchet is whacked on the cleaning board and the sharks come swimming in.

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Hmmm. To make a long story short, I not only got in, but I snorkeled with them, pet them and enjoyed every minute. We enjoyed it so much, that we rented a boat from Staniel Cay Rentals and came back several days later to do it again at high tide when they just float right up next to you on the dock.

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When we got back to our hotel, we looked through the pictures we got underwater while swimming.
Even more impressed that I got in.

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So, do I have a greater appreciation for sharks? Well, let’s just say I really did enjoy this adventure and would do it again. With nurse sharks. On Compass Cay. In a heartbeat.


Have you gone swimming with the sharks on Compass Cay? If not, would you? Tell us about it!

Find Compass Cay Marina on our Bahamas Map

You might also enjoy:
The Swimming Pigs of the Exuma Cays


To see more posts on the Bahamas and other islands, check out our Island Blog Directory

 Copyright©Rum Therapy
Pictures and other content may not be re-used without written consent from Rum Therapy, LLC

The Swimming Pigs of the Exuma Cays

Big Major Cay, an uninhabited cay north of Staniel Cay in the chain of islands known as the Exuma Cays is famous for one unusual thing. Pigs. Not just any regular pig mind you, but pigs that swim.

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These cute little oinkers have become rather famous in the last few years as evidenced by the number of boats moored in the beautiful bay in front of what is now appropriately known as Pig Beach.

We were invited to go and swim with the piggies recently during our stay at Embrace Resort on Staniel Cay. The view of Pig Beach coming in is spectacular. No wonder the pigs enjoy living there!

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We could spot a few pigs as our boat got closer, but by the time we got to the beach, there were several more making their way out of the bushes to greet us.

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They were a bit bigger than we had imagined and were not shy about coming right up to us to see if we had brought them any scraps.

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I mean, right up to us.

A few adorable piglets made their way out to greet us as well, but were a little more timid.

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Wondering how the pigs got here in the first place, we asked our guide who said that there are quite a few (pig) tales about their arrival on Big Major Cay, but that truthfully they were simply transported over from Staniel Cay a number of years ago by their owners who had gotten tired of complaints from neighbors who were fed up with the pungent porkers.

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After giving them what little we had (they also seem to like it when you pour cold water from a water bottle in their mouth!) we got in the water to watch them swim.

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They seemed content to wade in the crystal blue water that looked more like a clean swimming pool than an ocean until another boat approached.

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They then “hog-tailed” it out to the newcomers to see what treats they might have in store.

If you get to go to Pig Beach, be careful if you’re bringing food. We saw a guy who brought in a large bag of scraps get instantly surrounded by the large and hungry pigs and sustained a nip to the stomach when he didn’t dole it out fast enough!

Have you been to Pig Beach? Tell us about it!

Find Pig Beach on our Bahamas Map

To see more posts on the Exuma Cays and other islands, check out our Island Blog Directory

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Next Stop: Exuma Cays

Consisting of over 360 islands, or cays – many uninhabited, The Exuma chain spreads out over 130 miles of sparkling azure water just south of Nassau.

Although we’ve flown over the Out Islands of The Bahamas before and marveled at the brilliant blue water and unbelievably white sand beaches, we’ve never had the chance to visit The Exumas before now. We’ll be spending a few days soon in the Exuma Cays  – the land of swimming pigs and beautiful shallow water dotted with cays and sandbars that go on for miles, a bar that Jimmy Buffet calls one of the 10 best bars in the Caribbean, sharks that let you pet them and endless picture taking opportunities.

So tell us. Have you vacationed in The Exumas? What were some of the highlights of your time there?

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To see more island posts, check out our Island Blog Directory

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Pictures and other content may not be re-used without written consent from Rum Therapy, LLC