We experienced the pigs and the grotto, what more did the Exumas have in store for us…
We motored around the corner to Pipe Cay by the old DECCA station, a concrete dock
used in the 1950s for British Navy supply ships. Oddly enough people refer to the pillars, which are just 4 steel I-beams sticking out of the water, as dolphins. On land there are several abandoned houses and fun trails to follow. We followed the trails to the other side of Pipe Cay and it was a desert. When the tide goes out it’s nothing but mushy sand. The anchorage we settled in was beautiful, ‘gin-clear water’. Mike & I went snorkeling and we spotted a lemon shark. Mike continued snorkeling and caught two lion fish which we panfried for dinner! Score!
Compass Cay Dundas Caves
We motored over glassy shallow water through conch cut. Despite the motoring, it was one of the more surreal and memorable days out on the water. We passed a marina on South Compass Cay (near His & Hers Cays) and radio-ed in to see if they would collect the two trash bags we had in our cockpit locker which were developing an odious funk. They said ‘sure for $25/bag’. $50 to drop off trash? No thank you, we’ll keep moving along. We continued to Dundas Rock and anchored near a mega power yacht. We found ourselves in 30 feet of clear water drenched in coral reefs all around. We were very cautious of where we anchored then immediately dove in. The reviews mentioned caves so we swam closer to the rock unsure where the cave entrances were located. By swimming close to the limestone wall we found 4 caves in total, all with easy ledges to swim under to explore the caves. Each cave was far larger than thunderball grotto in Staniel Cay. The rock formations looked smooth and eerie, stalactites and stalagmites dropped from the ceiling or stood tall from the floor. We expected to see bats but didn’t find any. It was an incredible experience and one of my favorite places to explore! If you do make the trip, just know it’s difficult to anchor your dinghy as there is so much coral growth, please don’t destroy it.
We moved over to Compass Cay N anchorage and had a heck of a time trying to get the anchor to stick all the while not sticking our but in the channel or running aground. It took forever but we finally settled and watched a barracuda sit under our dinghy. I named the barracuda Bartholomew. We’re decently sure he was looking for an easy snack out of Raymond. Raymond was the remora that now lived under our boat. Mike loathed the free-rider but I kinda liked seeing Raymond every day, I wanted to see how long he’d stick around. As you can see, it’s becoming evident Mike and I have been together in a confined place for a very long time.
Compass Cay is also known for its’ bubble baths’… at low tide, it’s less impressive but still nice. Pools collect on the banks side from crashing waves on the windward side. Very picturesque. We even saw a crab in a conch shell making its way back into the ocean leaving a trail in the sand.
O’Brien & Bell Island
For the day we anchored and explored the underwater sea park by O’Brien. We ventured a snorkel on the plane wreck, it’s a Cesna about 20 feet down with the cockpit in decent shape. The wreck should definitely not be attempted at or near max ebb/flood, our endurance of a 5 minute snorkel lay testament to that. The underwater park was terrific. Mike and I had a blast snorkeling the area looking for groupers. We ate lunch and spotted Johnny Depps house from our anchorage and admired the sheer beauty of the location. We continued up, skipping Hawksbill Cay, to Warderick Wells. (I’ve read that Hawksbill is home to some wells and ruins from loyalists, the Russel family, who made Hawkbill home.) At Warderick Wells, instead of grabbing a mooring ball, we went West to Malabar Cay. One of the reviews reported excellent snorkeling. It took us a few attempts but we found some good coral patches and fish. For the first time in a while, no shark sightings not even the adorable nurse shark kind.
A paradise not to be missed. There are hiking trails all around the island, blow holes, crystal clear water, curly tailed lizards & adorable hutia scattering about the woods. The Exuma Land & Sea Park headquarters are located here and provide really interesting material on the marine and terrestrial life on Warderick Wells. The rangers continuously plant and promote the growth of mangroves, weeds, trees, and corals. In the 17th -18th centuries when privateers / pirates combed these waters they also cut down the local forests; stripping islands like Warderick Wells dry and turning it into the Bahamian desert-like island with small shrubs we know it today.