Exumas

Overview

Introduction

From a point just southeast of New Providence, the Exumas—a chain of 365 islands and cays—lie strung out across some 95 mi/150 km of ocean. They are lightly inhabited, and most of the population lives on Great Exuma or Little Exuma, both of which are in the southern part of the island chain.

The Exumas are an area of great natural beauty. Tiny cays, secluded inlets, isolated beaches and some of the best fishing waters in the Bahamas make it the ideal vacation spot for boaters, anglers and beachcombers. The northern end of the island chain and surrounding waters are protected within the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, a popular destination for day trips from Nassau by speedboat.

Otherwise, except for independent sailors, most visitors usually stay on the largest island, Great Exuma. The biggest village, George Town, is a great place to rent a boat to explore the other Exumas. The only attraction in George Town itself is the Government Building, but there's splendid fishing, diving and tennis on the island.

If you rent a car, you'll be able to drive the length of the island, from Rolleville to Rolletown. (Many Exumans are named "Rolle" after the early British colonist and slave trader Lord John Rolle who, when Britain abolished slavery in 1865, gave his plantation lands to his former slaves in perpetuity.) The scenery is interesting—you'll pass endless mangroves and overgrown cotton plantations.

A highlight in the Bahamas annual calendar each April, the National Family Island Regatta in George Town draws thousands of people (mainly Bahamian natives) for a weeklong celebration and boat race.

Great Exuma is the site of the International Airport at Moss Town, just a few miles/kilometers north of George Town. There are daily flights from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Nassau. South of there, Sandals Emerald Bay is located on the site of the former Four Seasons. Part of the all-inclusive chain's Luxury Included line, it offers golf, a marina and complimentary scuba. Toll-free 888-726-3257. http://www.sandals.com.

Beautiful Stocking Island lies about 1 mi/1.6 km off Great Exuma's George Town and offers good snorkeling. Another resort area is found on Staniel Cay, and there's outstanding scuba diving at the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, just north of Sampson Cay (phone 242-359-1821; http://www.bnt.bs/parks_exuma.php). Divers at Ocean Rock in the park will see an underwater valley filled with caves of black coral. Every Sunday evening there's a popular pig roast at Chat N' Chill Bar & Grill. Phone 242-336-2700.

The island of Warderick Wells is alleged to be haunted. On moonless nights, people claim they hear spirits singing and conversing. These cays are home to many endangered creatures, including iguanas, hutias (a cat-sized rodent) and marine turtles, which nest there.

Sea kayaking (best in April and May) is a wonderful way to see the Exumas. It's not as strenuous as you might think, and sails are often used. Most one-week tours start at Staniel Cay and end at Norman's Cay. Two-week excursions cover about 100 mi/160 km and go from Great Exuma Island to Allen's Cay (home to the largest iguana colony). The Starfish Exuma Adventure Center in George Town can arrange tours and rentals. A four-hour tour costs US$55-$70 per adult. Phone 242-336-3033 or 242-357-0184. http://www.starfishexuma.com.

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