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Falling in love with the Bahamas is easy to do. For us it was love at first sight. All of the 700 Bahamian tropical islands in the western Atlantic Ocean were created from an extensive limestone platform – at every turn the scenery is spectacular. There are also thousands of smaller cays (pronounced: keys) surrounded by the clearest water that have hues ranging from brilliant turquoise in the shallowest coves, to deep sapphire blue when depths dropped off to 12,000 ft.
WAVEJourney explored the Bahamian Out Islands on a 12-day small ship cruise with Blount Small Ship Adventures – a splendid way to experience these out-of-this-world places. As we cruised through the islands we encountered dolphins that would swim alongside our small ship, a sperm whale appeared right next to our ship, and everywhere we gazed there were flying fish. Once in the tiny towns and villages, locals were friendly and welcoming, buildings were painted bright pastel colors, and the pace of life slowed dramatically – almost to a snail’s pace. This is indeed paradise!
To get to the places where only the private luxury yachts and small sail boats go, Blount’s shallow-hull ship Grande Mariner was our mode of transportation. One definitely can’t get to these idyllic, serene and remote areas on a huge cruise ship.
Nassau is the busy center and capital city of the Bahamas, and is located on the island of New Providence – 21 miles long and 7 miles wide. More than 70% of the population (approximately 275,000) of the Bahamas live in Nassau; the most popular destination for tourists and cruise passengers. During our first morning in Nassau with Blount Small Ship Adventures, a small group of about 20 early-arrival passengers took a 4-hour guided tour of the colonial landmarks and historic sites. Along the way we saw the Sidney Poitier Bridge, Governor House, historic downtown, and drove past the port full of huge ocean cruise ships with their thousands of passengers and crew. Interesting and informative stops were made to Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, Graycliff Chocolate Factory, National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, Fort Charlotte (in time for the firing of the cannon at noon), and John Watley’s Rum Distillery.
Spanish Wells is about 51 miles from Nassau, and took Grande Mariner approximately 6 hours to cruise to. This small town of brightly colored houses and buildings is located on St. George’s Cay – an island that is 2,000 feet wide and 9,380 feet long. Upon arrival, passengers had the option to take a nature walk and snorkel with Blount’s nature guide Luz hunter. We opted to do our own exploring and quickly fell in love with the charm of the town, the white powder sand beaches, clear turquoise water, and friendly locals we encountered. Budda Snack Shack is a bar/shop/liquor store where the locals and tourists can find pretty much everything they are looking for. A new marina (Spanish Wells Yacht Haven & Resort) where Grande Mariner docked, was close to being ready for business – looks like it’s going to be a huge hit once open.
Harbour Island is known as Briland by the locals, and has a population between 1,500 to 2,000. This small island is most famous for pink sand beaches – there are over 3 miles of them. Located approximately 60 miles from Nassau, the island spans 3.5 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. Getting to and from the island via a highspeed catamaran ferry ride from Spanish Wells took about 45 minutes, and the weather was perfect to sit on deck and watch the scenery go by. During a full-day excursion with Blount Small Ship Adventures, we explored via golf cart (rentals are readily available near the dock) following a tour with a local guide. Although there were plenty of luxury resorts to dine at, we opted to find a rustic cafe – Harry O’s Seafood Grill and Cafe – in Dunmore Town. It sat right on the water, served local Bahamian food (conch fritters were delicious), and was one of the best experiences ever!
With a population of approximately 1,500, Governor’s Harbour is the largest town in Eleuthera. The island is long and skinny – 90 miles long and 1 mile wide – and raises to 168 ft at the highest point. Governor’s Harbour has a secluded harbour on the caribbean side where boats moor while their passengers explore. One of the top sights in the town is the Haynes Library – a Victorian structure – that is also the best place to check internet and enjoy amazing harbour views. Just 2 miles from town is the 25-acre Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve – which has a focus on traditional bush medicine. In search of a fine pink sand beach? About a mile from town is French Leave Beach. This beautiful beach on the Atlantic side of the island has fine sand, plus is perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
For the ultimate secluded beach experience we loved Crescent Beach – we saw very few other people during the hours spent there. It is one of thirteen beaches on Compass Cay in the Exumas. The beach has powder-fine soft white sand, and the water is crystal clear – which makes it perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Located just 35 miles east of Nassau, the Exumas are an archipelago of 365 cays and islands. Compass Cay Marina is the main hub of activity, and is situated in a shallow, protected bay. The marina is the place to get souvenirs, snacks, burgers and beers, while watching the comings and going of locals and visitors alike. Another plus – you can even swim with nurse sharks at the marina, or take a trip to see the swimming pigs on Big Major Cay. Plus, you never know who you will find hanging out there – Tommy Lee from Motley Crue, and his family had chartered a yacht and were exploring some of the same places as our cruise.
Take a look at some of the other locations where Blount Small Ship Adventures offers small ship cruises – going where the big ships can’t!