Set in crystal-clear cerulean waters, the Exuma Cays are a dream come true for snorkelers, divers, kayakers or just vacationers with a curious mind. With diverse aquatic & bird life, there are a bevy of critters to observe on these Bahamian Out Islands that are unlike any you would witness back at home.
There's no better place to get up close to these creatures on a luxury vacation than at the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park. The park, which was established in 1958 & was the first of its kind in the world, offers a glimpse into a marine environment that has essentially never been touched, as fishing was prohibited. Here's a glimpse at what you'll experience on a visit:
Warderick Wells Start by checking in at the Visitor Center, which is set on a point overlooking Warderick Wells. You can check out some of the educational displays, pick up a souvenir T-shirt or just sit on the deck & watch the tides change. Be sure to check out the Emerald Rock Mooring Field, which is south of the park visitor center. The Wall Trail offers breathtaking views of the sound, while Beryls Beach boasts a perfect spot for taking a dip.
Little Wax Cay Because of dying vegetation, this cay is inhabited by the Hutia, the only native Bahamian land mammal. You'll be lucky to catch a glimpse of these creatures, as they're endangered. In fact, these mammals were believed to be extinct until a small colony was discovered in the Plana Cays. After being distributed throughout the park, there is now a growing population in two locations.
Shroud Cay This uninhabited cay features an archipelago of rocks set amidst a mangrove where lobster, conch, sea turtles & many other kinds of fish are plentiful. Because the water is shallow, it's easy to see a variety of aquatic life. However, this also means you need to be careful to keep your dinghy at an idle speed & be wary of a rising tide. That way you won't disrupt the marine nursery's delicate atmosphere, nor will you get stranded there.
Visitor tips Keep in mind that anchoring is prohibited anywhere in the harbor. Fishing, shelling, lobstering & conching are also not allowed in the confines of the park. For the safety of the fish, don't attempt to feed them – they have plenty of natural food sources available.
The whole mission of the park is to preserve the organisms in these waters, so that means no human contact – even with the coral.
If you've never been snorkeling before or are still a beginner, the park recommends using a flotation device or glass-bottom bucket to hold onto while swimming to safely observe life underwater. The park office provides charts that will help you navigate the reefs.