Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park was created in 1958 as a land and marine protected zone. The park covers an area of 176 square miles and is managed by the Bahamas National Trust, who are responsible for all 27 national parks in the Bahamas. The park is 22 miles long and extends out approximately four miles on either side of the cays. Its purpose is to provide a replenishment area for the wildlife native to the Bahamas and to educate the public. Fishing is prohibited in the park and the penalty if caught is steep, with a $500 fine per person on the boat as a starter. The most severe punishment sees offenders having to leave the Bahamas within 48 hrs.
Our first stop in the park was towards the northern boundary at a park mooring off the west coast of Shroud Cay. There were not many details on Shroud Cay in any of our charts or guides but it had been recommended to us as a beautiful destination so we decided to visit. We were not disappointed – golden sand beaches and brilliant blue seas. This is the Bahamas after all! It was here that we had our first experience of the remora fish. As I was throwing some lettuce cuttings over the side, I saw these sizeable fish come and try the lettuce out. I have to admit to being pretty alarmed at first as we were still getting used to marine life around the boat, but we had great fun getting their attention by splashing the water.
The following day we headed ashore for a spot of snorkelling. Unfortunately the only sign of the enormous ray that we had seen from the beach was the massive imprint it had left on the seabed. Stewart and Eleanor swam off round the headland in the hope of tracking it down but had no joy. We then took the dinghy inland for a look at the mangroves before returning to the boat for our first batch of freshly baked bread. I was a little dubious about the oven onboard but it did not disappoint and we are now very excited about the prospect of daily fresh bread.
From Shroud Cay we sailed to Warderick Wells, which is where the Park HQ is located. We moored alongside our old friend, Igor, the Ukranian American we had met in Allen Cay and caught up on his progress. The harbour at Warderick is stunning and there are a few trails across the islands so we decided to go and explore. Boo Boo Hill is the highest point at a dizzying 60 ft above sea level – just as I was thinking about maybe, just possibly, breathing a little heavier, we reached the summit. But what a view! We had a full 360 on a clear day and could see for miles. There is a bench at the top dedicated to one of the park wardens and we could have sat there for hours taking in the seascape. I also managed to get 3G coverage for a very brief period if I stood in the right spot so we managed to at least get the odd weather forecast. At the summit there is also a pile of pieces of driftwood which sailors have placed there with their boat names on – cue task for Stewart with his ship’s knife.
At Warderick we also bumped into a couple we had originally met when we had first arrived in Bimini. Tony and Carna run a dive business in Cozumel in Mexico and Tony was kind enough to give the girls an excellent snorkelling lesson in exchange for some movies. Tony was explaining that they were doing really well but didn’t want to expand their business as, at the number one spot on Trip Advisor, he thought it would take him further away from diving and the customer. It would also mean that he would not have the time to pursue his desire to get away and sail more. We decided to check out their reviews:
It’s just about the best Trip Advisor review I’ve ever seen!
After five days at Warderick, we decided to continue South to Cambridge Cay where we again picked up a park mooring. Stewart and Eleanor dived to check the anchor only to find us attached to a massive lump of concrete, which in turn was attached to a massive concrete ball. I am not sure the size can be fully appreciated in the photo but it was HUGE. Fortunately with the aforementioned concrete, came a little bit of sea life so we had a lovely time snorkelling and seeing that – including our first queen angel fish, much to the excitement of the girls. We enjoyed a trip ashore and a scenic, windy walk along the ocean side of the island.
Exuma Park was absolutely beautiful and we did see plenty of marine life but we had been expecting a little more, bearing in mind it is a national park. You need to know the good spots but we had a lovely time.