Friday, August 5, 2016

Travel Diaries: The Exumas

What a week we had in the Bahamas! It was honestly one of the best vacations I may have ever taken, aside from traveling in Europe. A good portion of that was due to the beautiful views, our location, etc., but I also loved being with my family and Stephen, basically unplugged for the entire week. It was a week with very minimal makeup and lots of side braids, and it's safe to say it was hard to get back into the routine of getting ready for work!

My Uncle Wendell has a beautiful boat that more often than not remains in the Bahamas, and he graciously let us vacation on it for the week - and what an amazing week it was! Everyone absolutely loved a week aboard the Murphy's Law, which is where we spent most of our time. I kept my phone in airplane mode, and while our boat had wi-fi for the occasional snapchat or instagram post, I distanced myself from emails and communications and it honestly was a great decision. Out away from larger islands, we also had very little connection, which I actually ended up enjoying. I did take photos with my DSLR the first few days, but even that got cumbersome and I realized I took fewer pictures each day. I snapped a couple of sets blog pictures while there, but strayed away from that for the most part as well, spending time with my family and enjoying the beauty that was around us. 

Day 1   |    Albany Bay
Our first day was travel day, but by a little after one, we were on the boat getting the tour and headed to the pools and beach at the marina. What a gorgeous place! When we turned the corner and the pool opened up to a gorgeous beach, I didn't think it could get much better, but the next day I was proven wrong. We spent the day in the sun, drank some incredible drinks, and finished up the day with hors' douerves on the bow followed by the most incredible dinner.

Speaking of dinner, the crew on the boat is incredibly talented, and Chef Jonas prepared delectable meals for every sitting.  Each day greeted us with an incredible breakfast spread, a fun lunch - think panini stations and quesadillas - and the most amazing dinners and desserts. Jonas is a baker, so all the bread we ate was fresh made, including the banana nut bread "appetizer" before breakfast and the pita for our greek grill day. I was seriously spoiled when it came to food - I can assure you that my Monday felt a little different when I was making the 40 minute drive to work instead of drinking my coffee outdoors with the smell of a huge breakfast awaiting me. 

Day 2   |   Warderick Wells
I was up early on our first full day, as I really think I was too excited to sleep. I grabbed a cup of coffee and went out to the bow, where Morgan, my brother's girlfriend joined me. We hung out, taking in the views before a few more people decided to make an appearance. After a great breakfast, we all slipped into our swimsuits to start the day in the water. We went jet skiing and swam for a good part of the day, and then we took the smaller of the two tender boats over to the little beach. Our captain then arrived with Island Sunsets. For anyone looking for an amazing drink, check out the recipe here.
 The view as we pulled into Warderick Wells Cay
Once back on the boat, we showered and prepared for an amazing dinner. We were all inside when Stacy, the chief stew came in and told us we should check out what was swimming off the stern, and when we got out on back deck, there were lots of reef sharks swimming around! Reef sharks are farily harmless, but it was still funny to think we had just been swimming where they now were.
Days 3 - 4   |   Sampson Cay
Oh, Sampson Cay. What a gorgeous place. We stayed in Sampson two days, taking the tender out to various islands. Our first day in the area, we took the tender over to Compass Cay, where we hung out with nurse sharks. We then headed over to Big Major, where Pig Beach is located. This was too much fun! We brought along some scraps for the pigs but had a cooler of beer and water for ourselves. Turns out the pigs love the beer as well - with one crack of a can, they would hold their mouths open for a sip. So funny.

Our fourth day started off with another wonderful breakfast. We had tried to snorkel the day before at a location called The Aquarium - right beside Johnny Depp's island - but a few boats were already there so we decided to try later, but when we arrived, there was a perfect spot to anchor and we all hopped in the water. There were so many gorgeous fish! I wished I had an underwater camera or my brother's GoPro, but no such luck.

We concluded our last night in Sampson Cay with karaoke. There was a karaoke machine on board that Morgan, my sister and I had been trying to break out, to no avail, and finally, everyone gave in. It was absolutely hilarious and we had the best time trying to sing some of our favorite songs.

Day 5   |   Shroud Cay
What a fun place! While in Shroud, we headed over to the crash site of a drug plane off of Norman's Cay, the island that the notorious drug lord Carlos Lehder took over. I've heard a variety of reasons as to why it crashed, but it was fun to snorkel it - you could even stand on one of the wings as we were there at low tide. It was so strange but such a neat experience. 
After a great lunch, the captain took us on the smaller tender over to the mangrove river that winds through the island. Shroud is at the north end of the Exumas Land and Sea Park (a good portion of the Exumas is protected as a national park), and so this river was so peaceful and relaxing. The best part? It's a natural lazy river, and you can float towards your destination depending on which way the current is going. Lucky for us, the current was heading towards the pristine beach that opens up at the end of the river, so we hopped out of the boat and floated on noodles until the current changed. Once we ended up at the beach, we played football in the waves and just took in the scenic views. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip, and we even saw some sea critters, like a sea turtle that was floating along underneath us.

The sunset for our night in Shroud was incredible. Morgan and I took our drinks out to the bow and just enjoyed the view as it was our last night out on the water. We ate dinner on the back deck - it's incredibly nice to eat outside in July with no bugs or humidity!

Days 6 & 7   |   Atlantis, Paradise Island
Saturday morning was spent with our normal routine - coffee, breakfast, etc. We spent the morning traveling from the Exumas back towards Nassau, and we arrived to the Atlantis a little after lunch. It was stormy when we first got there, so we opted to go to the straw market before heading over to the pools. The pools weren't terribly crowded from the earlier storm, so we found a nice spot in the welcomed sun and eventually I hopped in the wave river with my mom before heading back to the boat to get ready for dinner.
For our last dinner, we ate at the Bahamian Club instead of on the boat. I'll have to say that while the food was good, I missed the intimate setting I had come to love about being on the boat for our meals. I loved being able to sit around the table with just my sweet family. We did end up heading to the casino for a little while, but when I lost money that could've easily bought me a great pair of shoes, I headed back to the boat. 

On Sunday, our departing day, I woke up borderline depressed. As soon as I my feet hit the floor, I realized it was the day we were going home. I wandered upstairs for my traditional morning coffee and once everyone was up, we gathered at the table for our last breakfast. We packed up some of our things so it would be out of the way of the crew as they were preparing for the next group of guests to come aboard, and we ventured out to Aquaventure at Atlantis. Most of my time was spent in a lounge chair and in the wave river. I generally love this wave river, but this time around, I managed to get flipped out of my tube and hit my head on the rock wall. This was proceeded by my mom freaking out, a lifeguard jumping in from his perch on the wall, and a little boy filming the whole thing with his GoPro. #casual. I left with a souvenier bump on my head but no complaints after the wonderful days we had.

We packed up, bid farewell to the crew, and finally headed back to North Carolina, and I was very sad that it was time to leave. As I mentioned before, the views were incredible and the experiences were amazing, but it was just so nice to be unplugged and away from the real world with some of the most special people in my life. 

This is an extensive post, but I love having this blog to document travels. I'll be sharing a Top 5 list of favorites in the Exumas as an abbreviated version, so stay tuned for that!

A few Instagram accounts to follow:
  • The Swimming Pigs - check out some of the swimming pigs of the Exumas, including our chubby friends from Pig Beach
  • StaySeaLove - Stacy is the chief stew aboard the Murphy's Law, but she is also an artists. Check out her artwork, travel photos, and surfing photos on her instagram!
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