Under sails on a direct course to paradise
Eleuthera and the Exumas: Exklusive destinations beyond the mainstream
When you hear the word Bahamas, are you thinking of huge luxury hotel compounds and casinos right behind palm-fringed beaches? Around Nassau, that’s quite true. But they do still exist, the real beauties of an enchanting island world. Off the routes of the big cruise ships, the true magic of the Bahamas is revealed: More than 700 islands, only 30 of them inhabited, are waiting to be explored. Most of them belong to the sparsely populated Out Islands, which – in contrast to the big islands like New Providence, Bimini, or Grand Bahama – can only be approached by smaller ships. The unique culture and ecosystems of these islands could be preserved to a large extent – which makes them a dream destination for the SEA CLOUD SPIRIT. The new three-master is one of very few ships that can reach this paradise at all. And with Eleuthera and the Exuma Cays, two of the most exclusive archipelagos are part of SEA CLOUD CRUISES’ most recent and definitely unique travel program. Casting off from Miami from February 21, 2023, onward, the SEA CLOUD SPIRIT will head for this dream destination three times altogether. The German travel blogger Katrin Bachmann (https://beforewedie.de) went there and shares here her insights into what’s in store for the guests of the SPIRIT.
East of Miami, the paradise begins
Snow-white beaches, glowing red starfish, butter-soft sandbars that only appear at low tide, and turquoise waters so clear you can count the sea snails on the ocean floor with the naked eye – welcome to the “real” Bahamas. Eleuthera and the Exuma Cays are not only a true paradise for sun-seeking beach fans, but also for sailors, and nature enthusiasts. The islands offer an incredible number of opportunities to spend entertaining days on the water. From the white sandy beaches around Eleuthera and its neighboring islands to the breathtaking turquoise waters of the Exumas, here you will find everything your heart desires.
“This is one loooong island” …
… that’s probably the most accurate description of Eleuthera Island. It is a full 112 miles long and, in many places, only just over half a mile wide, in some places even as narrow as a stone’s throw. From north to south, the Queen’s Highway winds through small colonial towns and pristine nature, past white beaches and shimmering blue lagoons. Eleuthera is located about 50 miles east of Nassau and thus not only seems an eternity away from mass tourism; it’s actually also far from the “well-sailed” paths of the cruise giants. Nowhere else clash the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea quite as impressively as here: Close to the famous Glass Window Bridge, only a few (admittedly very robust) rocks separate the roaring deep blue Atlantic from the calm turquoise bay of Eleuthera.
The small isle of Harbour Island, famous for its unusual pink beaches and pastel-colored colonial buildings, is located a few minutes off the northeast coast of Eleuthera. Only about a third of a mile from its northern tip, Russel Island and Spanish Wells offer you a taste of Bahamas history: Spanish Wells used to be the last stop for Spanish ships to replenish their water supplies before heading back home across the Atlantic.
Die Exuma Cays – the untouched natural beauty of the Bahamas
Leaving Eleuthera behind, we continue into the vastness of the Bahamas’ Out Islands. At the southern tip of Eleuthera, the landscape already seems more and more surreal: Lined up like pearls on a string, the islands of the Exuma Cays snake from north to south over an area a good 125 miles long, each one blessed with whiter beaches than the one before. Most of the 365 magical islands that belong to the Exumas are uninhabited. The waters around the archipelago are much too shallow for conventional cruise ships to enter them. Which is just one of the reasons that this stretch of land is not only one of the most exclusive places in the Bahamas but also features the most untouched nature. The landscapes here are breathtaking – snow-white beaches, crystal clear water, exotic animals, and an underwater world that is second to none. Here, you will look in vain for tourist crowds.
Of swimming pigs and sharks to pet
Nevertheless, the Exumas are not entirely unknown, because they have a few famous inhabitants: the swimming pigs. Far away from the populated islands, the pink piggies live on their very own island; and yes, they really do swim in the turquoise sea. As soon as the small boats approach the bay, the hungry hogs paddle towards the guests to pick up their daily treat. Nobody knows exactly how the animals ended up here; they are definitely not native to the area. One thing is certain however: over the years they have become the undisputed highlight of the Bahamas. But even without the pigs there is plenty to discover. For example, the tame, naturally harmless nurse sharks at Compass Cay, which can also be petted for a small donation of food (and are far less bristly to the touch), or the reddish-colored, endemic Bahamian iguanas that also claim entire islands for themselves.
However, these highlights are not to be found above sea level on the different islands. They are everything that makes up the Exumas – above and below the water. Not without reason, they say in the Bahamas: “Only if you have experienced the Cays from the water, have you seen the Bahamas”. Fancy joining in?