My family and I experienced in one day what it took Ridge and I two weeks to do. We made it from Georgetown to Compass Cay…and we did so in less than eight hours. People can hate on these touristy day trips all they want, but this was the best option for our visiting family to see everything that they had hoped to see. In less than eight hours we would swim with sharks, see celebrity private islands, snorkel the Thunderball Grotto, feed the pigs at Big Major and have a Bahamian style lunch in Black Point. We chose Coastline Adventures out of the Barraterre Exumas as our tour guide group. The morning of our scheduled trip, we awoke at 6:00 a.m., made coffee and packed our bags and brekkie and began our first of two trips from the boat at Monument Beach across Elizabeth Harbour to Government Docks, where a van for Coastline would pick us up and then transport us to the north end of Great Exuma. On the first dinghy trip across Elizabeth Harbour it was myself, dad, mom and Ridgey…we would arrive at Government Dock totally drenched, and about 10 minutes prior to our scheduled pick up time. I HATE being late for anything so I was having a mild panic attack at this point because Ridgey had just turned around for dinghy trip number two with Jenny and Mike and still had to make it back across Elizabeth Harbor, turn off the generator at the boat and be back to us before the van arrived. They had very strictly said be at Government Dock by 7:10 a.m. and this seemed impossible. The van arrived around this time and Ridge, Jenny and Mike were, to my surprise, making a pass by us in the dinghy headed towards the dinghy dock. They had made it back to the area in record time, but still had to tie up the dinghy at the designated dinghy dock and run to Government Dock. This whole process took longer than the dinghy trip across the harbor. The van waited for about 10-15 extra minutes (seemed like an hour) for them and when we saw them in the distance walking towards us, we decided to start moving and head them off. When we did this, they all started booking it towards us like we were leaving them. Hehe quite comical. Once we picked up the final passengers of the van, we headed north towards Barraterre. The ride took about 45 minutes’ total and when we arrived at the dock where our boat was tied up, we were promptly checked in and sent on our merry way. This tour in particular included unlimited beer, soft drinks, waters and two types of mixed drinks: Goombay Smash and Bahama Mamas and also fresh conch salad for a snack. Our first stop was outside a private island that was in the process of being turned into a resort. A gentleman by the name of Mr. Frye owned it and several other surrounding islands. The resort he was building had different rental homes that were from different parts of the world. Already built was the Bali style hut, a Mexican adobe home and a Greek style mansion with more to come. Another island owned by Mr. Frye was covered in Palm trees that were shipped in from Jamaica (unlike most islands here) and there were homes being built that were partially underground (not sure how that works being so close to sea level but im sure they looked into that). After checking out Mr. Fryes property, two of the crew jumped off the boat and went diving for our snack later on, the conch…and they grabbed lots! After a couple more celebrity private island stops and a cave stop, we hit our first big destination: Thunderball Grotto. Everyone was invited to go inside and snorkel the grotto and the company provided snorkel gear to those that needed it. When Ridge and I came here by ourselves, this was one of my favorite stops! I didn’t go this time because my dad decided not to go, but everyone else went and they loved it!
I highly recommend a stop in there to snorkel if you are in the Staniel Cay area. After leaving the Grotto we headed on to a private beach oasis where we took some photos while the crew prepared our conch salad. It was great! As we finished up at the private beach, we headed towards Compass Cay to swim with the nurse sharks. My sister was SOO excited to see this place, I honestly think she was the first to jump in with them—no fear. The size of the nurse sharks can be intimidating, but they are friendly and it was such a cool experience.
After we finished up with the sharks we headed to Big Major (aka Pig Beach), where we were given slices of stale bread to feed the piggies. They enjoyed the bread thoroughly, but what most people don’t know or think to bring is water. These pigs don’t have keepers…they rely on food and water from tourists like you and me. If you bring water, they will drop whatever they are doing and swarm you when you fill their bin—they even fight over it. It’s actually quite sad. So, if you are in the area or plan a trip to Big Major to see the famous swimming pigs, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE bring some fresh water for the piggies, they will most certainly appreciate it. After visiting with our pig friends we journeyed on to Black Point for a Bahamian style buffet lunch. This was optional and it was an additional charge of $20 per person. You are more than welcome to pack a lunch and picnic at the dock as well. We opted for the buffet which was stocked with coleslaw, rice and peas, mac and cheese, salad, bread, some incredible tender chicken, fried fish, fried shrimp, ribs and desserts! I ate two full plates and it was worth the money—trust me. You were given ample time to eat and chat and then we were on our way back to Barraterre. The ride back was a bit bumpy at times, but at 30 knots, we got back in no time. It was a cool experience for our visiting family who got to see parts of the Exumas they would have otherwise missed due to time constraints. For those cruisers who have families visiting that want to get around, but are lacking on time, this is a wonderful option. The price per person was $215, and this included the shuttle from the Government dock to Barraterre, the boat trip, and unlimited water, soft drinks, beers, Goombay Smashes and Bahama Mamas. The only thing that was additional was the $10 it costs to visit the sharks at Compass Cay and the buffet lunch that I previously mentioned. Even though Ridge and I had done a lot of what we saw on the trip already, it was worth it just to spend the time with family and see their faces light up seeing the different shades of blues as we traveled north. If you have friends or family that have a lengthier holiday scheduled, the best way to go will by via private charter. That way you can experience the different places on your own time and you don’t have 20 other people with you. There are several charters out of Georgetown but I have heard wonders about http://www.bahamascatcharters.com/index.html and highly recommend them.
Visit Coastline Adventures website for more details at http://coastlineadventuresexuma.com/