Rum Cay and Conception Island
These Bahamian Islands just keep getting better.
Picture a three mile long curving beach of the finest powdery sand. Turquoise water laps at the shore, palm trees overhang the beach, a few homes sit tucked back behind the low limestone layers that line the back of the beach. Anchor your yacht a few hundred yards offshore and take the kids to the beach. You have the place to yourself, all day. A half mile walk along the beach and you find the marina, a few small rental villas and a nice bar. Nicely hidden, friendly and welcoming.
Back from the beach is a small network of roads, a couple of stores and some local homes. A small neatly kept white and blue church, a little government building and medical clinic. Perhaps there are three hundred people on the whole island. We are lucky, the weekly mail boat just arrived, bringing fresh fruit and veg so we are able to stock up, at surprisingly reasonable prices for these islands.
We stay for three days, the anchorage isn't very protected but it's good enough for us to weather a small front that brings winds from all directions during our stay. Once the wind came back east we set off for Conception Island, an uninhabited national park some twenty miles north west. It's windy and overcast when we get there, but we pick our way in through a few coral patches and anchor in more crystal clear water, there is just one other boat around and once again we have the most beautiful beach in front of us. Maik and I take the kids for a walk despite the grey weather, and we find a trail through the the other side of the island, just a few hundred yards wide at this point. The Eastern shore is more wild, the soft limestone etched into curves and hollows by the constant nagging of the atlantic waves. The winds also bring flotsam to this shore, the beach is littered with the depressing evidence of our littering of the oceans. Plastic in all forms lines the beach; bottles, buckets, poles, nets, barrels, mouldings from an Audi dashboard (?!), shoes, ropes and much more. One day, when the oil has run out, these beaches will be picked clean for their precious hoard but today, it's sad to see.
Yet the line of garbage cannot really detract from the stunning beauty and loneliness of the place, it just heightens the contrast between the natural inhabitants of the island and the advanced civilisations to windward....
The next day is much, much nicer - the wind dies and the sun comes out and we walk, swim and just play on the Beach. Gesa and Maik wander off to walk a trail that leads around the east side of the island whilst I look after the kids. It isn't the toughest childcare duty - they scoot off to the rock pools and spend two hours creating an 'orphanage' for snails and hermit crabs. I get a chance to sit and relax and occasionally check that their blonde heads are still visible on the rocks over there.
In the afternoon, we get in the dinghy and go for a big adventure. We motor a mile and a half down the shoreline to a point where the sea creeps inside the island to form a network of shallow creeks and sandflats. Mangroves line the edges and the shallow warm waters are a perfect home for turtles, rays and sharks. The landscape is outstanding, very different from anything else we have seen, and we see many turtles, a few rays and a couple of sharks scooting away from us across the shallows. It's beautiful, and only the gradually declining sun forces us back to the boat before darkness.
The next day, we snorkel on the reef and the kids continue their snail and crab tending. Just off the beach I see a barracuda in the shallows so get my mask and swim out to have a look. He swims away and I follow, he's mid sized, about three feet, and nice to watch. I look at the reef fish as I go too, until I look up and note the the barracuda has stopped, turned and started to follow me. Now I know they hardly ever get close to people, but he's looking mean and I think I'm in his territory. I swim back towards the beach and he follows me. Who's the boss now?
Later, Maik and I note another dark shape in the shallows, this one is a ten foot long shark cruising around, very neat to see. We also saw a dolphin in the bay, and a group of three maybe dolphins, maybe pilot whales. The range of wildlife at the island was fabulous.
Now it's time to head on towards Georgetown, where Maik has a flight booked on Saturday and we can restock in a decent sized town which is apparently a mecca for cruising sailors. We'll enjoy the company and activity for a while, I'm sure, then head on for quieter cays after a few days.
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