Do you ever sit in front of your computer drooling over the “top 10 must see travel spots” that overwhelm your facebook feed? Do you ever look at the pictures and wonder if anyone actually ever travels there, or is it just one lucky photographer working for National Geographic that is allowing us all to dream. These “must see” articles seem to be domineering social media these days. I recently came across LOOK’s latest media campaign, focusing on exotic sailing locations. Well, I can say that we know of a few destinations, that we have visited personally. And so, although they are not at the far reaches of the world, I have decided to do yet another mini-series highlighting some of the exotic sailing locations that we have visited, that are right in your backyard. So to speak. They are actually a little ways from your backyard, but in the sailing community, the Caribbean could be considered North America’s backyard.

   The first sailing location that I would like to write about is Staniel Cay, Bahamas. For many cruisers leaving the States this upcoming season to sail into the caribbean, you will most likely be making a stop in Staniel Cay. And I believe it is well worth it. Even if you are only stopping for a few days, like we did, you have ample time to take in, what we believed to be, the highlights of the island. In, and around, this island we quite enjoyed:

The Swimming Pigs (Big Major Cay, next to Staniel Cay, within a dinghy ride)

   I mean, you are not going to come across this many times in your life. Actual swimming pigs. And not ones that just swish around in mud puddles. These hogs (yes big hairy hogs, not cute “Babe”-like pigs) will leave the beach to come and meet your dinghy that is floating out in the bay. They have gotten quite used to all of the cruisers coming to gawk at them, so be prepared and have some food on hand to share with them once those ginormous beasts have paddled all the way out to you. I feel like after such a workout they deserve a snack. We fed them cabbage, which we threw towards them. I had no desire for any of them to come “that close” to our dinghy that one of their piggy hoofs might catch the side of our inflatable and sink us. We also had a cute and pudgy Arias that may look like a yummy snack to a carnivorous pig. So we hucked cabbage instead. I have also heard of some of the braver cruisers bringing their dinghy to shore, on the beach of Big Major Cay, where the pigs live. But during our visit there were piglets running around on the beach, so I didn’t think it wise for us to go for a beach stroll and piss off big momma pig. 

Thunderball Grotto

   Whether you are a James Bond fan or not, this place is totally worth checking out. And once again, bring food! Before entering the grotto it is good to check the tides and make sure you go on SLACK TIDE, to make your entry easier. It was a bit scary going under the first lip (underwater) because you don’t know what to expect or how long you will have to swim underwater before you reach air again, but it’s actually only that one lip. We even had our 2 year old, in a life jacket, do it. Once you are inside there is a huge amount of space, so even if you are there at the same time as other boats you wont feel like you are at a paid tourist attraction looking for elbow room. The current inside is surprisingly strong, nothing insane, but I just didn’t expect it to have such a pull. 

   The food that you bring is to feed the array of colourful fish that inhabit the Grotto. If you don’t feed them something yummy they may opt to nibble on your toes, which is a totallly creepy feeling. We just sprinkled the crumbs left at the bottoms of our cereal bags into the water and the fish were our best friends. I spent most of my time sitting on one of the ledges with Arias, looking at all the fish, while Eben and Kurtis adventured around and pondered jumping through the hole at the top of the grotto. I convinced them not to, since we didn’t know if it was doable, but we later saw a youtube video of someone doing it, so I have a feeling that a return visit is soon approaching.

   For a good laugh, picture this. When we visited the grotto I was 7.5 months pregnant. Big. We dinghied over to it, everyone jumped in the water, swam into the grotto, and marvelled at the beauty of it. After about an hour there, we started getting chilly and decided to head back to the dinghy. This is when it clicked for me…I had never gone from the water back into our dinghy with a belly this size. I usually just hoist myself up the side of the dinghy and pull myself in (imagine that usually looking pretty athletic), but now with this baby inside of me turning me into a manatee, hoisting myself was not a possibility. Instead, Eben and Kurtis had to get into the dinghy and then grab me under my arms and hoist me up and in, I went from “athletic mermaid look” to “beached whale look”. We all had a good laugh about how not a single one of us thought about this scenario occurring until it actually did.

I wouldn’t let them jump through the grotto hole so they found another mini rock formation to jump off of!

Secluded Beaches

   We went to Staniel Cay about mid-way through the sailing season (around February) and although there were plenty of boats around the island, there were still a ton of beaches that no one seemed to occupy other than us. We had a blast on our white-sand, turquoise water, secluded beaches. We would bring food along with us, have picnics, and spend our time beach combing, sand castle building, critter chasing, and sunbathing. ALL BY OURSELVES! It is picturesque, lets you feel like the Swiss Family Robinsons, and it’s free! What more could you ask for? Oh, but do watch out for sharks, not big scary whites, but there was a nurse shark that was quite intrigued by Eben and Kurtis snorkling near the beach.

   And if you have any landbased needs, such as the local drinking hole, getting rid of your accumulated trash, seeing other humans, or getting a non-boat cooked meal, you can always head over to the Staniel Cay Yatch club. There you can find a nice cold beer and oogle over all the pictures of a young Sean Connery and crew from their time spent there filming the James Bond movie.

   So if you are island hopping down the chain, Staniel Cay is definitely worth a stop and has left some beautiful memories engrained in my mind, minus the “beached whale look”, that one is stuck there from sheer embarrassment.