Welcome Back to our New Blog Series (and to its new Friday home): Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s, where our favorite Travel Planning Aficionado shares her wealth of knowledge and experiences about traveling the world! After every trip to a new destination, Jamie gives us her perspective as both a traveler, and a travel advisor, through a quick but comprehensive list of what to do or not do at each vacation location!
Since, as many of you who follow along know, Jamie had an incredibly busy travel month during September, we saved one of her trips to revisit in October, so each place Jamie went would get enough of a spotlight and not be rushed. Therefore, today’s blog will be all about Jamie’s time in the Bahamas on The Exuma Islands!
So Let’s Go to The Bahamas! But First…
Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s for The Exumas
Top Favorites and Jamie’s “Must-Do” Experiences
Tour the Exuma Cays by Boat
If you’re not familiar, The Exumas are a series of islands within The Bahamas, just East and South of Nassau. They are divided into three main areas: Great Exuma, Little Exuma, and the Exuma Cays. While Great Exuma and Little Exuma are popular with tourists, the Exuma Cays are mostly private islands owned by some of the world’s wealthiest people. Tours can be taken privately or with a group, though if you’re on a private tour, you get to decide where to go and what to see, and of course the tour guide will make suggestions whenever needed.
You can explore all around the Exuma Cays on your boat tour, taking in the most brilliant shades of teals and blues in the Caribbean (and visible even from space!), and also ogling at the insane mansions of the rich and famous on many of the private islands. Some of the islands are even available to rent, at the bargain price of $100,000 (or more) per night! At least by touring these gorgeous islands, you’ll know where to buy your own personal slice of paradise when you win the lottery, since the Bahamian government really does allow you to buy an ENTIRE island!
Half-day Boat Tours are also available, but Jamie does NOT recommend cutting the tour to a half day; there is simply too much to see, and you’ll miss out on so much by limiting yourself to half the time.
Swim with the Pigs
If you’ve heard of The Exumas, then you’ve probably heard what they’re most famous for: Swimming with the Pigs! The pigs of Big Major Cay Island are a bit of a mystery; the island is uninhabited and the pigs aren’t native to it, but it’s unknown exactly when and how they got there. Possibly sailors who never came back for them? Or they swam over from a nearby shipwreck. Whatever the case, the pigs of The Exumas have fully embraced Bahamian Island life, and thoroughly enjoy the attention of visitors who come to spend time with them! As a signature Exumas experience, swimming with the pigs is not something you should miss!
Experience Island Wildlife
Pigs are not the only animals deserving of attention while you’re in The Exumas. The Islands are full of interesting Wildlife and Sea Life for visitors to interact with or enjoy from afar (sometimes interactions are not possible to keep certain animals safe and healthy). In addition to Swimming with Pigs, you can also Swim with Sharks, depending on your nerves and bravery! You have nothing to worry about, of course, as swimming with docile nurse sharks is completely safe.
Although you can’t swim with them, you should definitely make time to see the sea turtles. Their gorgeous shells are far more beautiful than any tortoise shell glasses or accessories you’ve ever seen, and just being close enough to see the beautiful patterns on their backs as they glide through the turquoise waters is a sight to behold. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to swim with the turtles since our human body oil and sunscreen are not healthy for them to be around.
Another Island animal who loves to say hello to humans is the Iguana! The Iguanas in The Exumas are HUGE, and though they look a bit like mini-dragons, they are very friendly and love to come right up to greet visitors on their boats as they pull in. They might even let you pet them! Experiencing interactions with the Sealife and Wildlife of the different places you visit is such a wonderful way to learn more about where you are and the animals who call that place home!
Explore The Sandbars and The Grotto
Two of the most beautiful Natural Wonders of The Exumas are the Sandbars that can be found around many of the islands, and also the Grotto (Thunderball Grotto, in particular). Relaxing on a Sandbar for a day, maybe with a picnic, or searching for seashells, or just soaking in the sun (or all of the above) is an experience like no other. Depending which Sandbar you’re on, you could go the entire day without seeing anyone besides whoever is traveling with you, and it feels like you’re on your own stretch of sand out in the middle of the ocean. The peace and tranquility are truly unparalleled.
Then after you’ve experienced the wide open space of the Sandbar, you’ll find quite the opposite at Thunderball Grotto. The underwater cave system is a fantastic place for diving, snorkeling and discovering marine life. It is worth noting that you need to be aware of the tides while visiting the Grotto, as entering and exiting during high tide does require diving equipment; check with a local guide if you have any questions about tide times.
Go to the Pig Roast at Chat ‘N’ Chill on Stocking Island
Every Sunday, the Stocking Island Restaurant, Chat ‘N’ Chill, hosts a Pig Roast that has become a Must-Do event since it started in 2001. The atmosphere is laid back but also super fun, with stretches of beach to relax, or play games on, or both, and volleyball courts for some friendly competition throughout the day. The food is the main event, of course, with traditional cuisine and tropical drinks served, including conch burgers, a local favorite that you should definitely try! And after you get your fill, make sure you head over to feed the sting rays, who swim around next to the restaurant (on their own, free and uncaged) waiting for leftovers!
However, when planning your Sunday, don’t assume that “Pig Roast” means it’s just a dinner time event. The fun takes place over the course of the whole day, so plan to arrive early, between 10-11am, just in case, since the boats back to other islands don’t always run late (which is typical for Island-Time, as seasonal run times listed aren’t always exact or correct). Jamie and her family didn’t head out for this event until late in the afternoon and missed most of it having to leave early with the last boat, so Jamie definitely recommends getting there early and hanging out for day, as locals in-the-know do!
Top Tips that Jamie Learned Along the Way
Spend a Full Week or More
You might not think relaxing into Island-Time would be an adjustment, but it actually is for many people. When you’re used to rushing around within a tight schedule of work meetings, school drop-offs and pick-ups, keeping track of all the extra-curriculars, and somehow getting everyone to the dinner table at the same time, it can take a few days to shake the feeling of having to Do All The Things, even on vacation. Like anywhere, it takes some time to get the lay of the land and figure out where and how you like to spend your well-earned vacation time, so you don’t want to have to pack up and leave as soon as you get into your vacation groove. A full week will give you just enough time to really settle in, although even with that, you’ll be planning how to get back before you even leave!
Be a Tourist!
While sometimes it’s best to try to blend in during stays in big cities like London or Paris, there is no need to pretend you’re not a tourist while you’re in The Exumas. The touristy things, like Swimming with Pigs and Sharks, going on boat tours, and stopping for dozens of pictures everywhere you go, are what will make your time in The Exumas the most memorable and enjoyable! So live it up as a tourist while you’re on the islands!
Be Open About Where to Stay
The Caribbean has some of the best All-Inclusive resorts in the world, and there are absolutely some great All-Inclusive options in The Exumas, but they aren’t the only options. Depending on what kind of vacation experience you are looking for, there are plenty of options for hotels and All-Inclusives, as well as rental properties throughout the islands. Rentals can range from a quaint beach cottage to an entire island all to yourself, and as always, your Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor can help you figure out the best option for your personal needs!
Rent a Car
One of the best parts about traveling anywhere is getting to learn first hand about cultures different from your own, and one of the best ways to see everything the islands have to offer is by renting a car to be able to go out exploring whenever you want! This is especially true if you are renting a house as well; car services get expensive if you have to take them everywhere you want to go, so renting your own car will probably save you money over the course of your trip. Plus, the freedom of coming and going whenever you want allows you to maximize your vacation time without ever waiting around for when the next Uber can get to you.
Top “Must-Don’t”s, or Things Jamie Would Do Differently
Don’t Miss Out on Local Culture
As just mentioned, one of the best parts of travel is getting out of our own bubbles to experience all the world has to offer. Even if you’re staying at an All-Inclusive Resort, no matter where you are, you should always try to make time to venture off the resort property and out to experience the local culture at least once throughout your trip. The traditions and food and art and ways of life show us how much there is to appreciate about our differences, while at the same time reminding us that we’re all not so different after all; really, this is the true beauty of travel, isn’t it?
Don’t Rush Anything
When you take a vacation to the Caribbean, you’re probably going there to escape the hustle and bustle of your everyday life, so do yourself a favor and leave that hurried mindset behind as you fly off toward paradise. Not only will this help you relax into vacation mode, but it will also hopefully keep your expectations more on par with island-time. Bahamians are almost always operating on island-time, meaning things move at a more relaxed pace, listed opening and closing times are sometimes more “approximates” than strictly adhered to, and island life is meant to be savored instead of hurried. If you arrive with expectations of quick service and everything happening exactly on schedule, you will cause yourself unnecessary stress and also kinda miss the whole point of island life, anyway.
Don’t Forget Your Favorite Snacks
The delicacies and traditional cuisine of the Bahamas should definitely be on your list to try, but with that being said, if you plan to have some quick breakfasts or lunches in your hotel room or at the house you’re renting, you might want to stash some non-perishable food into your luggage to have some staples on hand for meals (if you’re staying at an All-Inclusive, this isn’t necessary unless you will go crazy without your nightly Hershey bar). Popping by the local grocery store in the Bahamas is not the same as having food delivered to your resort at Disney; much of the food in the Exumas is imported, and therefore pricier than what you’d pay for the same items at home, so if there’s a cereal your kids really love for breakfast, or a before-bedtime treat you just can’t live without, plan to bring it with you. Note: though things like packaged cereal or cookies should be fine, there are restrictions on what foods can be brought in and out of certain countries, so double check what is allowed before you pack!
Don’t Skip Shirley’s Fish Fry
Shirley’s Fish Fry was one of the most highly recommended restaurants for Jamie and her family, but unfortunately, they ran out of time before getting to do everything on their list (see Tip #1 about spending a full week!). Even if you don’t eat fried things, or are gluten free, the menu has something for everyone, and Jamie and her family were never steered wrong the whole time they were in The Exumas, so they were bummed not to get to try this gem of a restaurant! Don’t make the same mistake and miss out!
Don’t Miss Moriah Harbour Cay National Park
Another recommendation Jamie and her family missed out on was a visit to Moriah Harbour Cay National Park. This protected park is home to a vast array of sea life, as well as a variety of birds and other animal habitats. Moriah is a nature-lover’s paradise, and will be at the top of Jamie’s list for the next time she’s in The Exumas.
And…That’s a Wrap on Jamie’s “Do”s and “Don’t”s of The Exumas!
Ready to Plan?
Now that you have all of Jamie’s suggestions for living your best Island-Life in The Exumas, are you ready to plan your own Bahamian Vacation? Contact your Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor today or email hello@LOTMV.com
Looking for more of Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s?
So far, we have:
A new list comes out the Friday after Jamie returns from her latest trip!
And don’t forget to check out our Inspiring Itineraries as well, featuring a Perfect Plan for your next vacation, and highlighting a new destination each month!
Contact your favorite Love of the Magic Travel Advisor or email hello@LOTMV.com to start planning today!