Our morning started early with a cab ride with our trusted cab driver Big Noch (taxi #56) to a dock on the other end of the island. This drive still takes our breath away every time. The views are just stunning, and it is an entirely different perspective than from being out on the water. The shades of blue, the small local stores and restaurants, to the friendly waves from the locals in town. We often say that we could call this place home.
We arrived at the dock and promptly met Captain Marvin and were onboard his boat with no time to waste. We quickly passed by a local woman who was selling jewelry and other handmade crafts and promised her that we would be back knowing that it was her sole source of income.
The next thing we knew.. We were off for the day…. We had Captain Marvin in command and were there to kick back, relax, and enjoy another family adventure together. Cruising through the Exumas on a 22’ Formula with a new 200 HP Yahama outboard, making our way to our first stop…. Swimming in the Thunderball Grotto, located just west of Staniel Cay. This is great for snorkeling, with a wide variety of marine life and underwater caves to explore. The grotto got its name from the 1965 James Bond spy film “Thunderball,” which was shot there. Captain Marvin suggested this as our first stop to be ahead of the other boat tours that generally stop here as their second or third stop of the day. After a nice two-hour boat ride, we had arrived, pleased to find that there was only another group of 4 swimming in the grotto and they were getting ready to leave. This left the entire cave for us to explore all to ourselves. We would recommend trying to time your arrival at or near slack tide, however on this day we arrived as the tide was coming in. This made a fun lazy river effect through the grotto; however, we wouldn’t recommend this if you are not a strong swimmer. We spent about 30 minutes exploring the underwater caves and decided that we were ready to move along to our second stop. The stop that the kids had been looking forward to the most…. Swimming with the pigs!
We made our way to Pig Beach. Big Major Cay is uninhabited and the pigs are not native to the island. It is still unsure how the pigs ended up making this beautiful island their home. There are several stories from being left by a group of sailors who planned to come back and cook them, or that possibly the pigs swam from a nearby shipwreck. There are now approximately 20 pigs and piglets that live on Pig Beach with daily visits from tourists and natives. Upon our arrival, the larger pigs that we call Momma and Papa started swimming with excitement towards the boat. They know that these daily visits mean yummy snacks for them. Captain Marvin was prepared with packs of crackers for us to feed to them. Unfortunately, this is also the time that we missed one of those great photo opportunities because we were laughing so hard. The pigs were so excited and snorting like crazy. One of our daughters was trying to get off the boat without a hungry pig chasing her for crackers. She jumped in with her flip flops on, they, of course, did not stay on her feet and she made her way to shore. Sacrificing her flip flops to the pigs, shouting for someone to grab them. Probably one of those moments that you had to be there to see to fully appreciate the humor, however, we were rolling with laughter. As we ran out of crackers to feed the pigs, we just relaxed on the boat and in the water. Watching the kids petting and having photo ops with the pigs, Captain Marvin offered us some delicious Rum Punch. You can tell that Captain Marvin aims to please his guests. Rum Runners were terrific and there was plenty of bottled water on board for the kiddos. We had a great time getting to know Captain Marvin and thoroughly enjoyed our conversations. He has a great sense of humor and is fun to be around.
It was time to load the kids up and head off to the next stop… Swimming with the Sharks! This is Jordan’s favorite part of the day. We were headed to Compass Cay Marina. Here you will some marina services, but mostly dock space for those coming to visit the sharks. There is a $10 per person fee for swimming with the sharks and no cameras are allowed. You are only allowed to use the phone camera. We were slightly disappointed to find out this “new rule” this year as I like to document our family adventures. Captain Marvin was there to the rescue and offered to take our camera back to the boat so there wouldn’t be any memories missed. That was extremely kind and thoughtful of him. The kids and Jordan spent about an hour swimming with the sharks while I sat up on the dock watching, taking photos/videos with my phone and pointing to where the larger sharks were for the kids. As a Mom, watching the kid’s experience is sometimes way more enjoyable than being in the water exploring (keeping in mind that we have been here before for me to experience it). As other tourists came to swim with the sharks and left, watching the large yachts come and go, we had to tell Jordan it was time to go. We had other islands to visit, and Jordan would stay with the sharks all day without hesitation.
Lunchtime…. We made our way to Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Bittersweet as we were all hungry and ready for lunch, but that also meant that it was the halfway point to our day of adventure. Staniel Cay Yacht Club was fantastic. Freshly renovated with the bar area of the restaurant keeping to its originality with the remaining portions of the restaurant looking like a 5-star resort. We did not have time to look around the entire property, but renovations were extensive, and the lodging looked nice. We were seated a large high top table that would seat our family of 6 and of course Captain Marvin. We, of course, asked him for his recommendation of items for lunch, and he gave us several things that he would choose from as the “top picks.” From burgers, chicken sandwiches, to conch fritters. Captain Marvin ordered the conch and was so gracious to make sure that everyone that wanted to try it had some. Everything that we ordered was amazing, and we were surprised to find the prices extremely reasonable considering the location. We would definitely go back if we had the opportunity.
With our full bellies and another cup of rum punch, it was time to head to Iguana Island (Allen’s Cay). This is where you will find the Norther Bahamian Rock Iguanas, but most refer to them as the Exuma iguanas. There are three cays were these can be found, Allen’s Cay, Southern Allen’s Cay, and Leaf Cay. Allen’s Cay is the most significant and where most visit them. These iguanas are considered endangered and one of the world’s most endangered lizards. These iguanas can get rather large and can also get pretty old in age. It is estimated that they can live up to 40 years. These iguanas have become so accustomed to being fed that it is actuated changed how they behave. It is best to limit what you feed them to fruits and veggies. Most opt for lettuce or grapes on a vine while trying to avoid feeding them anything that has sand on it as they cannot digest it. These iguanas are not shy when it comes to food. They tend to have their own personalities and will frequently take food quickly and dart off. We have seen iguanas fight over food, push each other out of the way, and jump for food. They are definitely and site to see and worth the stop. Out from sun up to sun down as they prefer to spend their days sunbathing on the white sand. What an amazing day!
Our next stop would be a swim with the turtles. We made a short stop at Farmer’s Cay as we worked our way back towards our starting point for the day. Here we found locals that would join us in the water and make noises with the conch shells to get the turtles to come up to us and get a snack. Much to our surprise, this year they requested $5 per person, but we were happy to assist the locals earning a living and getting the turtles to swim up close. Jordan was able to catch some fantastic video footage swimming with one of the turtles. Click here to see that footage.
It had come to the end of our adventure for the day with Captain Marvin. We loaded up and headed back to the dock. As we enjoyed that last one hour boat ride, Captain Marvin made sure that we had another rum punch for the way and the kids had plenty of water. It was a beautiful trip back as the sun was starting to get lower in the sky, and the water sparkled as it danced.
When we arrived at the dock, there she was, that local that we swiftly passed by in the morning and promised that we would be back. She waited for us and was excited to see our return. We always prefer to buy gifts/souvenirs from local artists to support them. She had beautiful shell jewelry, figurines, and handcrafted handbags. It was a great wrap up to the end of our day.
We said our goodbyes to Captain Marvin and thanked him for his kindness throughout the day and for showing such us a fantastic time on his boat. Another astonishing journey in the books for our family, tired kiddos, and another story to share.