Travel Memories of a Caribbean Cruise 

The charm and challenge of the Exumas

A Caribbean cruise! A holiday in the Bahamas! The idea conjures up images of lounging on the promenade deck, sipping a cool rum punch while your luxury ship glides past tropical islands in a warm, turquoise sea. But, depending on your choice of boats, not all Caribbean cruises are equal.

It is day twelve of our two-week cruise from Georgetown to Nassau and from the cockpit of a klepper kayak, my numb butt two inches from the briny, the view is very different from that in the tourist brochure. Sitting in the trough of a six-foot swell Betty and I can see nothing but water and sky. We brace, let the wave slide under us, and for a moment, suspended on its crest, we can see the other four boats of our flotilla and the low profile of Norman's Cay far in the distance. For over an hour we have been battling a head wind which has now grown strong enough to send wisps of spray streaming off the tops of the waves. In the lead boat Bob, our Ecosummer guide, is signaling that we are giving up on Norman's Cay and heading for shore – the third time so far that we have had to abandon our planned destination and take refuge from the weather.

Bob picks a spot protected by some off-shore rocks and slides expertly onto the beach of Little Wax Cay. We follow and are glad he is there to steady our boat as the receding wave tries to suck us off the beach and back into the surf. Getting out of a folding kayak with a spray-skirt around your middle and a five gallon jug of water between your knees is not a graceful manoeuvre but one by one everyone makes it ashore without dumping. By now we've become an efficient working team – it takes six people to carry each of the heavily loaded double kayaks. Straps in place, all together – "one, two, three lift!" Within minutes of hitting the beach our five boats are safely parked above the tide-line and there is time to relax and stretch cramped muscles before setting up camp.

Little Wax Cay, is one of 365 small islands and Cays that make up the Exumas Chain which stretches for 120 miles through the central Bahamas. Like most of the other Cays, Little Wax is uninhabited and except for a few curious iguanas and skitterish curly-tailed lizards we have the beach and the island to ourselves.

It has been almost two weeks since we flew into Georgetown on Great Exuma Island and began our Bahamas adventure. After checking in at the Peace and Plenty Beach Inn we met Bob and Gabriel, our two guides, our English friends Linda and Richard, and the other four travellers who had signed on for Ecosummer's 14-day "Complete Exumas" trip.

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