Places to Paddle tm
Canoeing - Kayaking - Rafting

 

Exuma Island Chain, Bahamas

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Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Douglas Montgomery DMon707@aol.com with
    Photos by Matthew F. Hudson (Copyright:2000 A Fool's Imagination.com) http://a-fools-imagination.com
  • Date Submitted: 1/2002
  • Location: Georgetown, Great Exuma to Normans’ Cay, Bahamas
  • Class: 1 to 4
  • Distance Paddled: 110 nautical miles
  • Water Level: not applicable
  • Water: salt (ocean)
  • Wildlife: all the usual suspects of the tropics
  • Special Regulations: Property owners are at odds over whether kayakers can camp within 100 feet of the tidal zone. We encountered no hostility during a two-week paddle, but we didn’t camp on Hall’s Pond Cay. It has been torn up for development and is covered with no trespassing signs.

Entry

  • Directions: From Nassau, we took a mail boat overnight to Georgetown. For an easier trip, you can fly directly to Georgetown from Ft. Lauderdale, and then put in on the north end of Great Exuma Island, avoiding the exposed coast of Great Exuma. This cuts 15 miles off the trip and makes it a class 1 to 3 trip, avoiding the exposed coast of Great Exuma. We stayed at the Two Turtles Inn, one-hundred yards from the mail boat landing at Georgetown. We put in off their pier. Any hotel with water access will do. The advantage of Two Turtles is that it’s relatively cheap at $100 per night-- the Bahamas are pricey!
  • Fee: No fees are charged for independent kayakers entering the Exuma Land and Sea Park. Commercial tour groups are a different matter. Then it’s a dollar per foot of kayak per day.
  • Description: Two Turtles Inn pier
  • Parking:
  • Facilities: Inns, mail boat, fuel (gasoline or alcohol) in Rollieville (so you don’t have to take a taxi all the way to Georgetown).
    You should carry a week’s worth of water, although there are decent resupply points along the chain. We could find no fuel for our Bluet stove, but plenty of denatured alcohol in the marine supply stores for our back-up alcohol stove. A gallon-can of alcohol lasted us the whole trip. (We have encountered difficulties flying with our gasoline stove and fuel cans, so we leave it at home. To fly without worries with a gasoline stove, the stove must be brand new and the fuel cans scrubbed so that there is no fuel odor.)
  • Handicap Access:
 

Exit

  • Directions: Norman’s Cay is accessible by mail boat and air charter.
  • Fee: none
  • Description: Our take-out at Norman’s Cay was a white sand beach 50 yards from the airstrip.There is a very nice resort there, expensive at $200 per night, but no attitude, or you can camp on the beach north of the resort. We arranged an air charter back to Nassau from Norman’s Cay as we were paddling north. It is certainly possible for experienced kayakers to paddle the last fifty miles to Nassau, weather permitting, as the Exuma chain continues north from Norman’s key. A charter flight for two cost us $300.00.
  • Parking:
  • Facilities:
  • Handicap Access:

What We Saw

This is obviously a folding kayak trip because of the air transport involved. For international trips, it is helpful to buy a tourist guide (book) as well as charts. We used a Frommer’s guide, and the Explorer Chart Book we purchased from Bluewater Books and Charts was filled with vital information.

Kayak travel through the Exumas is the best way to experience the Exuma Land and Sea Park. This was one of the world’s first “no-take” zones for marine life, and while we observed poachers (right after the ranger’s patrol boat departed), sea-life is prolific. It is the first time I have observed whole communities of conchs grazing in shallow lagoons. One snorkeling site off O’Brien’s Cay, called the “Sea Aquarium” is just what its name implies. Take snorkeling gear! April is the best month to visit-- late in the northern season. We sailed (spinnakers) about half the time, thanks to the prevailing easterlies.

The best resupply point is Staniel Cay, which has two grocery stores and a hotel (!). Don’t expect to find anything as high-brow as granola in the stores, but they will have Fruit Loops. Little Farmer’s Cay has a very small inn and a restaurant. Black Point Settlement on Great Guana Cay also has a restaurant and small store. Other small stores probably exist at settlements shown on the charts. You will probably encounter no other kayakers, but there will be plenty of yachts. Yachties are generally very friendly and generous with items you may need.

The Park Headquarters at the north end of Warderick Wells Cay has no food or water, but nice exhibits. Warderick Wells Cay is a great place to camp and hike, with trails winding through mature hardwood forests.

After Warderick Wells is the "Wide Opening"-- a five-mile crossing through reefs and small cays without places to camp. Tackle the Wide Opening at first light and in fair weather.

If you choose to start this trip from Georgetown, as we did, be prepared for surf landings, tide rips and breaking waves along the exposed coast. Be prepared to go up to a mile offshore to avoid some difficult spots. The reefs and breaking waves between Flamingo Bay and Rollieville can be particularly obnoxious.We found a calm landing for our first night’s camp at Ocean Bight on the south side of Saltpond Point, not a very scenic or pristine spot, but safe. Earlier in the day we had stopped for lunch near Hooper’s Bay. The surf there was deceptively powerful. After launching my partner, it took me a half-hour and all my strength (and some luck) to get off the beach. It would have been smarter had we lunched at sea!