Bitter Guana Cay

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The 700 Bahamian islands and cays are all low-lying flat tablelands of sand, coral, and limestone on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, averaging not more than 30 meters/100 feet in elevation. Most of the smaller cays are uninhabited, covered with low tropical vegetation, small spiky palm trees and cedars. 

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One such cay is Bitter Guana Cay in the Exumas where we stop for a few days for a total do-nothing relaxation period away from everything and everyone. The island looks like a chocolate-covered puff-cream pastry. The white sand is the vanilla cream filling and the limestone is the chocolate on top, which is now all cracked-up and melting away as a result of some glorious roaring Jurassic convulsion of the earth’s crust.

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On the west side, the side of the shallow Bahama Bank, the anchorage in front of the small beach is completely protected from east, north and south winds and big ocean waves.

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We spend a few days here alone, with no other boats around, swimming, fishing, climbing the crumbling sandy ridges, exploring the small cave, feeding the population of hungry but friendly iguanas with whatever leftover food, which is not much, sorry, iguana-buddies.

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Only once a dinghy stopped by our iguana-island and a young couple spent the afternoon on our beach, completely naked and happy, their white butts shining like vanilla ice cream under the mighty all-seeing ever-smiling tropical sun. We forgive them the trespassing, just because they were naked and therefore totally free and defiant, and because they too shared some food with our iguanas.

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On the other side of the island, the Bahama Sound, the sea is not so kind. It is scary and menacing, deep blue-purple color, east winds and huge waves pounding the rock. Here the ocean dropoff plunges to depths our depth founder will never record, some of the deepest ocean water in the hemisphere. We stay away from there. For now.

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Swimming with Pigs

 People normally swim with dolphins.

We did it with pigs!

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Near Staniel Cay, after snorkeling in the Thunderball Grotto, we go for a swim with pigs. I know, this is weird. Trust me, I am now looking at the pictures and can’t believe it’s real.

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Swimming pigs! We have heard of the swimming iguanas of the Galapagos even of the swimming monkeys in Borneo. But pigs?

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No one knows for sure how the pig family came to settle on the beach near Staniel Cay in the Bahamas known today as Pig Beach, and how come they swim, like true athletes, in the tropical sea.

Legend has it that the pigs have been dropped off on Big Major Cay by a group of sailors who were planning to return later and cook them. But the sailors never returned. Probably got too drunk and forgot on which of the 700 hundred Bahamian islands they dropped the animals. The pigs sustained themselves feeding on leftovers dumped from passing ships.

Another theory says that the pigs survived a shipwreck and managed to swim to shore, while another claims that they are fugitives from a nearby islet. Others suggest that the pigs are part of a business scheme to attract tourists to the Bahamas.

 

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Whatever the truth behind these guys New World beginnings and pioneering struggles, today they are prospering and thriving on the island, enjoying a life of pleasure and leisure, of fiesta and siesta, and a bit of sporting activities, for which way of life many openly envy them.

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How not to envy them? They have the perfect setup. All they do all day is lie on a Bahamian beach lazily basking in the sun. And when it gets too hot, either move under the shade of the low tropical vegetation of the island or jump in the warm crystal waters of the Caribbean Sea for a few refreshing laps.

The baby piglets, the cutest you will ever find, occupy themselves with activities and games like any vacationing youngsters on a beach resort, such as digging holes in the sand with their soft pink little muzzles or chasing each others’ tails.

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Moreover, these guys never worry for food. Food comes to them every day on a boat. On many boats actually.

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This girl is kissable…

Locals and tourists bring them goodies of all sorts: apple and potato peels, pieces of salad and bread, tasty leftovers. The cruisers stop in the anchorage in front of the beach and don’t throw their food scraps to the fishes. Oh, no! They keep every last piece of uneaten diners for the piglets. The locals bring them food too, organizing boat rides for tourists, and consider the pigs national patrimony, one of Bahamas’ most popular tourist attractions.

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Mira feeding the piglets

Thus, when the piggies spot a dinghy approaching the beach they know a delivery is coming and race to the boat. The fastest swimmer gets the biggest cut.

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All they have to do to deserve the handouts is swim with the tourists, demonstrate gracious swimming skills, and pose and smile for the pictures.

Maya swimming with pigs

Maya swimming with pigs

The most beautiful part of the story is that the animals don’t belong to anyone, they live in freedom and die of old age. They are protected, enjoying a status of celebrities, and nobody roasts them and eats them.

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More fun pig pictures

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Ivo swimming with pigs

Ivo swimming with pigs

 

Synchronized underwater pigs

Synchronized underwater pigs

Maya and her piglet friend

Maya and her piglet friend

 

Mira with the pig family

Mira with the pig family

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surreal underwater creatures

surreal underwater creatures

 

 Three swimming pigs chased by Mira

Three swimming pigs chased by Mira

 

Maya with underwater pigs

Maya with underwater pigs

Smile for the picture!

Say cheeeeeeze!

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Thunderball Grotto Images

Ivo

Ivo

Staniel Cay is a small island, about 1 square mile, in the center of the Exumas island chain with a settlement of about 80 permanent residents. It offers the basic needs locals, cruisers and tourists might need. There is a school, a church, library, post office, three small retail stores and two bars and restaurants, as well as various small and secluded beaches. It became one of our favorite places in the Bahamas.

We stop here for a while because a friend, Joey, told us to go check it out and jump in the Thunderball cave nearby. Turns out, the Thunderball Grotto, an underwater cave, is a big deal, it is on the cover of our Cruising Guide and if you Google it you will find out that it is the most exciting snorkeling destinations in the Bahamas and that one of the James Bond movies was filmed here in 1983, Never Say Never Again.

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We jump in as we would never say never to an adventure like this one! It is truly amazing, an unforgettable experience (one can feel Sean Connery’s presence everywhere in the underwater cave).

Maya

Maya

The cave is beneath a small hollow island just next to Staniel Cay, a dark chamber carved by the sea under the rock.

Inside the grotto

Inside the grotto

We go at high tide, even though everyone recommends to go at low tide, and so we have to dive to access the grotto through one of three small passages between the boulders (at low tide the passages are exposed and you don’t have to dive).

Viktor

Viktor

We are welcomed by hundreds of fishes who are not at all afraid of us, as they know very well that here they are protected by law.The Fish doesn’t think because the Fish knows, everything.

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 Inside the grotto, the high ceiling above the pool of crystal clear water is pierced by holes and sunlight sends illuminated beams, like spotlights, beautiful underwater. I suppose, one can climb the hill from outside all the way to the top and jump in the pool of the cave from the big hole in the center. Joey, is that what you meant when you said „jump in the cave“? We were considering it, but we didn’t do it…

Mira

Mira

We all loved the experience, especially Maya who has become a snorkeling addict and Viktor who had fun filming with the small underwater camera. The pictures, not the best quality, are stills from the film.

Maya

Maya

 

Viktor

Viktor (smoking seaweed)

 

Ivo

Ivo

 

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Arizona Dream- This Is A Film (lyrics)

This is a film about a man and a fish
This is a film about dramatic relationship between man and fish
The man stands between life and death
The man thinks
The horse thinks
The sheep thinks
The cow thinks
The dog thinks
The fish doesn’t think
The fish is mute, expressionless
The fish doesn’t think because the fish knows everything
The fish knows everything

 

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Strawberries and Champagne on the Beach

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December 30th, 2013

Shroud Cay is one of the many uninhabited islands in the archipelago of the Exumas, some 3 miles long and 1.5 mile wide. The low flat rocks and sand dunes of the island are covered with thick impassable mangroves, a population of short and very resilient trees and shrubs adapted to saltwater and the relentless tides of the sea.

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A web of tidal channels cross the island from east to west, like salt rivers which empty their riverbeds in the sea and fill them again every few hours, switching direction.

At some places the channels are deep and narrow, carving their way through rock and vegetation.

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Further they spill their waters over vast sand dunes, completely exposed at low tide and shallow at high tide.

The only way to explore the place from one end to the other is by kayak. A dinghy would not go through the shallows and even our brave kayak, Agent Orange, had some difficulties at times.

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We start at low tide, at the west end of one of the channels, Maya, Ivo, and me. All is completely silent and still. The roots of the mangrove trees, like dark fingers of dragons or giant chicken feet, are exposed.

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The vast sand dunes in the middle of the island are now dry, only faint streams of blue water allow us to continue across.

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The water is completely transparent and clear like in an aquarium; crabs, yellowtails, small nurse sharks and sting rays swim around us.

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We get to the other side of the island.

The sea to the east of the Exumas gets deep, there are not many anchorages, and with prevailing east winds and big waves coming all the way from Africa, it is a lot more dangerous and difficult to sail, so cruisers usually keep on the west side, protected by the east winds and waves by the islands, where the water is shallow and calm.

Our tidal river has brought us to a vast white-sand beach, completely deserted, where the only footprints are the ones left by our feet.

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December 31st, 2013

Here is what might have happened on this beach on December 31st, 2013:

A guy named John Collins, or John Dillinger, or John Johnson, proposed to his girlfriend Susanna, on New Year’s Eve.

John, born in a small town in Georgia, or in a small town in Pennsylvania, or in a small town in New Jersey, is about 30-35 years-old, college graduate, passionate about American Football and fast cars. He has a handsome little job as an executive assistant in a small corporation in east Florida where he lives in a nice second-floor apartment, since two years now. As a next logical step of his comfortable life development, John has decided the time has come to settle down. First marriage, immediately after that mortgage, and then, maybe after a few years, a kid. Plus, Susanna is a nice girl, 26, blond, good-looking, and fun. She would make a good wife and with the income from her receptionist job, they will do pretty good.

So John takes out his Master Card and organizes everything to the minute detail eight months in advance. He charters a luxury yacht for four days. A beautiful 48-foot Jefferson with two 210 hp engines, three double staterooms, outdoor speakers, and a nice little deck where Susanna can sunbath in her bikini. He has thought of everything: an affordable ring with a small diamond, a bottle of champagne, Dom Perignon 2003, chocolates, strawberries, he even buys a beach umbrella and a small cooler. He is ready to propose.

Susanna looks excited to go to the Bahamas on a luxury yacht with John for New Year. She posts photos in Facebook of the boat and the sea so that all her 682 friends can be jealous.

John is sure she will say “Yes”. She cannot possibly say “No” with all these preparations and expenses from his part.

John finds the perfect place: a beautiful secluded beach on the east side of an uninhabited island in the Exumas. There is no way they will be disturbed by anyone here; all cruisers go on the west side. He is planning a very romantic afternoon on the beach. He will set everything beforehand: the umbrella, the cooler with ice, the beach towel, maybe he should bring chairs? No, no chairs, a beach towel so that they can lay on it, chat, and make love after she says “Yes” and after the champagne and the strawberries. Like in the movies.

December 31st, 2013, they get to the beach a bit later than he has planned as she was busy texting with a friend, and then couldn’t find her sunglasses.  

They sit on the towel (John brought one of the boat’s white towels as he forgot to get a beach towel, the only think he forgot) , but the umbrella keeps falling because of the wind. They chat and kiss. She gets irritated when he starts talking something about all the plastic garbage that the sea has brought to the beach and how there is no one to clean it, even though this place is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. She hates garbage and she loves the environment, but this is not the time to talk about it.

Then he pulls out the little red box with the ring and the ice-cold champagne from the cooler and she is really surprised. She thought the champagne was for New Year?

“Susanna, will you marry me?”

Her face becomes all red, like the strawberries. It’s all perfect: the beach, the ring, the champagne.

“Oh, John…wow” is all she can say with her shrill voice. She tries on the ring, wonders how much it costs, they kiss, drink a bit of the champagne, she tries the strawberries and then the chocolates, but they are not her favorites.

“These are your favorites, that’s why I bought them.” says John.

“No, my favorites are the chocolate truffles, not these.” says Susanna.

“No, I remember you like these.” says John.

“Maybe is your ex who likes them, not me. You still think about her, don’t you… You think I don’t know she called you yesterday.” says Susanna.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” says John.

“You know what, here is your stupid ring and you can bring the rest of your stupid chocolates to your ex, I’m off.” says Susanna.

January 1st, 2014

We celebrate New Year alone on the boat with a nice dinner and a movie, nothing special. We forgot to buy a bottle of champagne and so we have no reason to stay up until midnight. There are no other boats in the anchorage, and it is just like any other night.

The next day, January 1st, 2014, Ivo and I take the kayak for another trip through the mangroves and channels, this time in high tide. 

Everything is different. The roots of the shrubs, the sand banks are submerged. We don’t have to walk across any shallows.

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As we get to the beach on the east side we discover a white towel, a beach umbrella lying open and crooked on the sand, and a small cooler with strawberries, chocolates (two of them half-eaten), and a bottle of champagne, Dom Perignon 2003, half empty. Everything looks abandoned; there are no people dead or alive and no boats nearby.

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We have no idea what has happened here not too long ago; we can only imagine. There are so many possible scenarios. One thing is sure, they left suddenly, in a hurry.

We wait for a while; we explore the hills, the shallow pools with hot water formed by the tides, the beach. There is a bunch of plastic debris on the sand: a broken bucket, shoes, bottles. It is incredible how much garbage accumulates washed by the sea on such beautiful deserted places, spoiling them.

As the afternoon advances it is time to go back to the kids and the boat.

We are now faced with a dilemma: leave the umbrella, cooler and towel on the beach, or take them.

The people might come back to look for their stuff. But why did they abandon them like that, the umbrella open in the wind, the champagne half full getting warm, the strawberries about to go bad, the chocolates uneaten?

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It looks like they left suddenly, affected by something, never to return. In that case, this stuff will simply become part of the rest of the garbage on the beach.

We decide to act responsibly and do the right thing.

 

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We eat the strawberries and the chocolates, we drink the champagne, and we take the umbrella, the towel and the cooler with us.

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There, we did have champagne for New Year after all, and an adventure!

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If the owners return later looking for their stuff only to find the green parts of the strawberries scattered about and two pair of footprints in the sand, too bad! They should not have abandoned their stuff on a public beach like that and I am sure next time they won’t.

On our way back, champagne in our system, we are pretty excited and happy, as well as a bit guilty.

The beach umbrella immediately proves to be very useful. With the wind about 10 knots coming behind us we use the umbrella as a sail and we get back to the boat at an incredible speed, sailing with the kayak through the mangroves, using the paddles only to steer.

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Note: if you know John, the owner of the stuff we appropriated, and if he wants them back, tell him we are willing to return them and we’ll share a bottle of wine when he comes to retrieve them.

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Allens Cay’s Iguanas

Viktor with iguana  Allens Cay , Exumas Islands, the Bahamas

Viktor with iguana
Allens Cay , Exumas Islands, the Bahamas

From Chub Cay we sail east, past the island of New Providence, without stopping in Nassau, the big, crowded, polluted, crime-ridden capital of the Bahamas, to Allens Cay in the Exumas.

Someone, whose name we don’t remember, whom we met only once on the beach in Chub Cay, has left a detailed Cruising Guide to the Bahamas on the steps of our boat in the morning of December 25th. Or maybe it was Santa on jet-skis who did it? In any case, the gift is greatly appreciated and we are using it every day. It tells us where is what and how to get there. It also tells us a lot of other useful information not only about the places’ geography, facilities and attractions, but also about their history, climate, and other particularities as well. But there is a downside to the cruising guide phenomenon. Everyone goes to the same place recommended by the cruising guide and it can get really crowded. Like Allens Cay.

As we reach the tiny anchorage near the tiny uninhabited island, we find eight other boats already anchored there. We drop the hook with just a bit of chain as we are too close to the other boats. The reason why this place is so popular is the iguanas.

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The cruising guide says that this is the one and only Bahamian island where the critters can be found and admired; everywhere else they have been extinct. (But it is not true; later we find them again on a another island many miles south from Allens Cay.)

 

Allens Cay's iguanas with Fata Morgana

Allens Cay’s iguanas
with Fata Morgana

 

The lizards proliferate on the island thanks to the cruisers and the tourists who come here in big numbers every day brought by speed-boats to feed and photograph them. The biggest local attraction.

Tourists visiting the iguanas on Allens Cay.

Tourists visiting the iguanas on Allens Cay.

We wait for two days for most of the boats to leave, and visit the fat iguanas only when there are no tourists around, which is very rare.

Viktor and Mira with iguanas.

Viktor and Mira with iguanas.

 

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Mira and Viktor with iguanas
Allens Cay

 

A sign on the beach explains that the iguanas are wild and protected, approach them with caution and do not bring your dogs. But they are not really wild, if you ask me. They are like zoo animals used to people and entirely dependent on them for food. Only, they are not tame and one even bit Ivo mistakenly taking his pinky toe for a piece of bread. Since then, Ivo regarded them with mistrust and hostility.

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Soon, we get really disappointed with the place, thinking that the Exumas would be less crowded. The anchorage in front of the next island south, Highborne Cay, is literally full with boats; we count twenty at least, and not even sailboats but big luxurious mega-yachts, which bring with them all sorts of noisy contraptions for fun-having like jet-skis, inflatable air-chairs and speed banana-boats, and even tiny one-person inflatable submarines, and they just zoom around the anchorage all day. This great motorboat presence and activity we explain with the proximity of Nassau, about thirty miles northwest, and the holiday season.

Highborne Cay anchorage

Highborne Cay anchorage

We keep going south and only twelve miles later we find what we have been looking for: a protected anchorage where we are the only boat, an uninhabited island with channels formed by the tides cutting across the mangroves from west to east and vast sand flats in the middle exposed at low tide and flooded at high tide, a beautiful secluded place not even mentioned in the cruising guide (because there is no marina, no bar, and no ‘facilities’ there).

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Chub Cay And The Swimming Pool

Sailing to Chub Cay

After Great Harbour Cay we sail south to another of the Berry Islands popular among cruisers for its strategic geographic location between Florida and the Exumas: Chub Cay.

(On the way there we catch a good-size mahogany snapper, same as the ones we were catching near Cuba a few months ago but smaller, and we have an excellent supper of white tender fillets fried with garlic lemon and pepper, and white rice on the side.)

Ivo with a mahagony snapper

Ivo with the mahogany snapper

 

Chub Cay

Although Chub Cay has undergone major renovations in the not so distant past: new docks, expanded marina and entrance channel, refurbished restaurant, 57 newly-built vacation villas along the beach, and a 20,000 square foot three-level members-only clubhouse and pool, we find it almost completely deserted.

 

The swimming pool

The swimming pool

 

The Fun Pool

The construction of the clubhouse with its spectacular 360-degrees view of the island, its private bar, restaurant, and trophy room has been abandoned after the crash of the global economy a few years ago and the huge yellow building like an empty shell, without windows and doors, its dark interior full of construction materials instead of trophies and memorabilia, is standing uninhabited on its shore overlooking the perfectly protected anchorage. Strangely though, we find the magnificent fresh-water pool on the beach in front of the clubhouse functioning, full of crystal cool water, surrounded by palm trees and beach chairs, inviting us to jump in. And we do not refuse.

 

Maya and Vick

Maya and Vick

 

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Viktor

 

 

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Maya

Maya

 

Every day for three days we return to the pool to chill and have fun, and there is no one even to ask if we are aloud or not. There are no people, no locals (no settlement on this island), no tourists, no cruisers, but us and another Canadian boat with three young guys aboard waiting, like us, for a weather window to cross the Northeast Providence Channel to Nassau.

 

Maya and Mira

Maya and Mira

 

Thus, we spend Ivo’s birthday and Christmas in complete isolation from civilization, the weather perfect, sunny and peaceful, swimming and snorkeling, eating coconuts we find fallen on the beach and lobsters we find under rocks in the shallow waters not far from the boat.

 

Ivo and Maya with coconuts

Ivo and Maya with coconuts

 

Maya with coconut

Maya with coconut

 

Lobster on the table

Lobster on the table

 

We feel somehow privileged to be here, like VIPs, or like millionaires who own a private island with a handsome pool maintained by some mysterious invisible people. Aah, it’s a nice feeling…

 

Mira at the pool

Mira at the pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great Harbour Cay, West Side

On the west side of Great Harbour Cay is the settlement, no sand beaches but mangroves. We anchor in the little shallow harbor in front of the main pier.

Here, life goes on as always. The Bahamians go about their business taking their time as they always do, mowing loans, painting walls, buying groceries in the small store, drinking beers in the bar. Fishermen scout the shallow waters in their small motorboats looking for conch and lobster, women prepare delicious fragrant meals in the small houses, kids play in the streets, roosters torment everybody with their hysterical chants all day and night.

Old house in Great Harbour

Old house in Great Harbour

On Wednesdays, the entire population of the village, about seven hundred people, gathers on the pier near the church, not for a religious celebration, but for the most important event of the week: the arrival of the mailboat.

Mailboat

Mailboat

As there is no agriculture, no industry, and nothing is made or produced on the island, everything arrives here by the mailboat from the capital Nassau. The mailboat brings tomatoes, potatoes, onions, milk, eggs, ham, soda drinks, beer, computes, furniture, cars. Whatever people need the mailboat brings it. So they wait and expect it, and celebrate the arrival of new things each Wednesday.

The unloading of the mailboat

The unloading of the mailboat

Unloading the goodies

Unloading the goodies

On Saturday, this particular Saturday, there is another event organized by the local casino Island Luck to celebrate Christmas, and we are invited as is everyone on the island.

As we arrive on the small dusty plaza in front of the casino building around six in the afternoon, we find huge speakers already installed, reggae music booming, two tables arranged with all sorts of bottles, giant coolers full of soda drinks and beer, and another four tables completely covered with food. There is green salad, potato salad, roasted chicken, ribs in sauce, cooked ham, rice and beans, everything unbelievably tasty. All this: food and drinks, as much as you want, free of charge! The casino has paid for everything. And this sort of thing doesn’t happen often in the Bahamas…

Ivo with three beers?

Ivo with three beers?

The place gets filled with people. We are the only foreigners and the locals look happy to have us at their party. We drink and eat and dance with them, have tons of fun, and Maya makes new friends like always.

Maya&friends

Maya&friends

Back on the boat we can still hear the music, people dancing and laughing all night till the morning, when only the chants of the roosters remain and the faint smell of a small fire burning.

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Great Harbour Cay. East Side

The Berry Islands, Bahamas

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The Berry Islands, which owe their name to the abundance of thatch berry trees found here, is a 55 nm chain of small cays in the form of a crescent on the eastern side of the Great Bahama Bank. The biggest one is Great Harbour Cay and this is the first island after Bimini we explore on our Bahamian journey.

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We drop the hook on the eastern side of the island so close to shore we can jump in the water and swim to the beach. And that is exactly what we do. It’s a beautiful seven-mile-long creamy -colored beach, no big hotels and not a single person in view. The only sign of civilization are the luxurious waterfront properties spread evenly along the ocean side. But they are all closed down, with boarded windows, vacant.

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In the evening we see lights coming from one of the houses, the one closest to our boat. It is a charming one-story home, freshly painted, not as big as the others around it but with a nice swimming pool surrounded by yellow flowers and palm trees. The next morning we decide to pay it a visit and meet its inhabitants.

CarriEarl

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As we approach, we start wondering: is it a hotel or a house? There are way too many beach chairs around the pool, a bar loaded with all sorts of bottles and glasses, as well as lots of tables on a terrace prepared for guests, like in a restaurant, so maybe it is a hotel?

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On the other hand, the place is small; there is a cozy living room, a sofa and a Christmas tree in the corner, with paintings and family photographs decorating the walls, souvenirs, little toys, and other memorabilia you only find in private homes.

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Is this a house or a hotel?, I ask the man and the woman we meet in the sunny terrace. They say with a smile and a British accent: it is both.

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Angie and Marty came from England eight years ago and bought the house which they turned into a small hotel with a big personality not too long ago, with only three guestrooms. Hotel CarriEarl, a Bahamian Paradise with a British Twist. And even the rooms are not exactly what you would expect from hotel rooms, each one has its own hue and domestic ambiance.

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I imagine staying at CarriEarl would be like visiting friends or family, an experience much more intimate and secluded than staying in a big hotel. And it is not only the size of CarriEarl (cutest little thing) or its location (waterfront in paradise), or the way it is decorated (homey perfection, makes you want to move in and stay forever), or the food served in the restaurant (homemade freshly baked goodies with vegetables, herbs, and coconuts from the garden in the back), or the bar overlooking the beach (name your poison) which make this place so precious and unique. It is the hosts, Angie and Marty: the most generous, hardworking, open-minded people capable of enlightening a gloomy day, who have endowed CarriEarl with a soul.

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Meeting Angie and Marty that day changed our entire experience on the island. We were welcomed to use their internet and bikes, and we even get invited to a free dinner in exchange for a few pictures I take of their place.

"Dobre Doshal! Dobar Wecher!" A sign on the board welcomes us in Bulgarian!

„Dobre Doshal! Dobar Wecher!“ A sign on the board welcomes us in Bulgarian!

 

We get treated to delicious pizzas Marty makes just for us, juice for the kids, rum punch for me, and Guinness for Ivo. And for desert: vanilla ice cream and a homemade coconut-lime cake Angie has baked with the coconuts from her garden! Maya and Viktor are thrilled; they don’t want to leave CarriEarl. Ever.

Maya and Viktor enjoying drinks at the bar.

Maya and Viktor enjoying drinks at the bar.

 

Our Island Adventures

For the next couple of days we borrow the bikes in the morning, peddle around the island from one end to the other, and return in the afternoon. The island is flat, a car passes on the road every half an hour or so, and there are quite a few things to explore. Biking here is a sheer pleasure. We love it!

Ivo with bike

Ivo with bike

 

We discover the shores, the settlement on the west side, a perfect marina entirely protected from storms, a small cave dug by the sea, and the abandoned derelict once famous Golf Clubhouse. We get to know the island with its big old cedars and tall palm trees tired of the constant winds coming from the Atlantic; its remoteness and tranquility in the tropical Bahamian winter.

Mira standing on the rocks near the cave.

Mira standing on the rocks near the cave.

 

It is “off season” now in the Bahamas, they explain, and so there are not many visitors in Great Harbour Cay. The luxurious vacation homes are all empty. The entire east side of the island with its beautiful sand beaches is deserted. But it is not just the season’s fault.

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Once in the 1960’s, after a $38 million investment, Great Harbor Cay became a private tropical haven for the rich and the famous, a hideaway for a very privileged few. Golf course designer Joe Lee fashioned an 18-hole championship golf course on rises of land overlooking the sea.  A magnificent multi-story clubhouse offered sweeping panoramic views of the island from its wooded hillside. Today, the clubhouse’s carcass is slowly decaying, nature reclaiming what’s hers.

The golf clubhouse in ruins.

The golf clubhouse in ruins.

 

Here Cary Grant, Brigitte Bardot, Jack Nicolson, Ingrid Bergman, and Hugh O’Brian, along with the Rockafeller clan and others from the social elite enjoyed the beaches, the golf course, waterfront mansions, and the unspoiled beauty of the island paradise. But the glory days are over now and with the global economy gone sour, there is not much going on in Great Harbour. Yet, we love it here the way it is, remote and quiet, a seven-mile beach reserved just for us.

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But after a few days, the east winds pick up and it becomes impossible to stay anchored on this side of the island, so we move to the more protected west side and there we discover the other ‘face’ of Great Harbour Cay: the local settlement with its unique tropical vibe.

* If you are planning a vacation in the Bahamas; if you are looking for a secluded perfect paradise experience, and if you still don’t know which island or which hotel to choose, go with CarriEarl, you will not regret it. You can visit Hotel CarriEarl’s website here for more information and to make reservations.

 

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