Most yacht charters in the Exumas stop at Staniel Cay, a paradise in the middle of the beautiful Exumas.
The Exumas are a stretch of 365 islands to the southeast of Nassau. In the center is Staniel Cay. To the east is Exuma Sound where deep water reefs lie and fishers head for deep sea catches. To the west are the shallow waters, where yachts sail between the islands and snorkelers enjoy the amazing underwater life around the reefs.
Staniel Cay was established in 1783 and gained popularity in 1956 when the Staniel Cay Yacht Club was founded. A small group of residents live on the island year-round and run an assortment of businesses that cater to visitors, including shops and restaurants. While many guests arrive via water, some choose to fly into Staniel Cay Airport. The beaches of Staniel Cay extend nearly the entire length of the island, allowing you to stake out your own little slice of paradise.
The Staniel Cay Yacht Club
Yachters are well-acquainted with the The Staniel Cay Yacht Club’s full-service marina, but it is also a boutique resort with 14 bungalows and a clubhouse with a restaurant and island bar. It’s a popular meeting place for locals and yacht charter guests alike, and a favorite spot for celebrities who want to get away from it all. The yacht club is a great starting point for yacht charter groups to explore all that Staniel Cay has to offer.
Snorkelers love Staniel Cay, especially the very popular Thunderball Grotto. Located just west of Staniel Cay in the Exumas, this hollowed out rock attracts visitors from across the globe. This spectacular location has has been featured in several Hollywood films, including Ron Howard’s Splash, two James Bond movies (Thunderball and Never Say Never Again) and Jessica Alba’s Into the Blue.
At low tide, you can swim in through the maze of entrances and underwater pathways into the hollowed out bowl and see a spectacular array of colorful fish, sponges, coral and other exotic marine life. The rock overhead has eroded, allowing in rays of sunshine that light the entire space. Thunderball Grotto is filled with grouper, lobster, snapper and angelfish, but you may also spot a sea turtle or an octopus during your adventure. Bring some bread crumbs along and the fish will surround you, giving you an up-close view.
During high tide, there are five entrances to Thunderball Grotto that require you to dive underwater, and two further entrances that do not require you to dive underneath the surface. At low tide, you can snorkel into the area, although a mask and snorkel are optional when the water level is low. The wonderful thing about Thunderball Grotto is that you don’t have to be a diver to experience its stunning natural beauty.
Big Major Cay/Pig Beach
The uninhabited island of Big Major Cay is the “Official Home of the Swimming Pigs,” and has become a must-visit destination for yacht charter guests to the Bahamas. The island is home to a family of adorable pigs that spend their days sunning on the sandy beach and swimming in the surf.
Although these pigs are feral, they are very friendly. When you arrive at Pig Beach, they will run from the shade to greet you, hoping for a treat. Join them afterward for a dip in the sea for an experience unlike any other in the world.
The family of approximately 20 pigs and piglets survive on this uninhabited island because of its three freshwater springs, and the food provided by visiting Bahamians and tourists. It is not known how the pigs came to live on the island, as they are not native to the area, but they are now one of the Bahamas’ most popular attractions. They have also inspired a children’s book and a song.