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Warderick Wells Cay: Shark Greetings, CONCHservation, Boo Boo Hill, Vacuuming the Sheets and The Aquarium

Two nurse sharks greeted us as we moored on the “horseshoe-shaped” lagoon at Warderick Wells Cay in the Exuma Park. Norma got so excited that she could hardly attach the boat to the mooring ball on the northern field inside the protected section of the Cay. The two sharks kept on going under the boat and particularly between the stern and the dinghy. (A new crew member is certainly in order in the future.)

Warderick Wells Cay is a very special place, horseshoe shaped; there are two large sand spits in the middle and mooring buoys around three quarters of the cay. Stunning to see and even more stunning to watch people park their dinghies on the sand bar at low tide to walk their dogs or have sundowners!

The water by the shore is pristine clear and clean. The sand is like powder.  We snorkeled a little by the shore and were simply enjoying ourselves being in shallow water, hoping of course, that the two sharks were not interested in visiting us again. (They did not.)  

In the tiny office which served also as a shop for the Exuma Land and Sea Park, I noticed something that I had never seen before during our Exuma explorations. Let me back up a moment. In Bimini and in Great Harbor, we saw mounds and mounds of discarded conch shells, so many that they could fill a warehouse if piled together. Each pile could fill an average-sized living room.  

Discarded conch shells were also scattered along trails and other parts of areas we saw. When we had our conch salad at Bimini, I took pictures of some of the shell mounds. The best conch salad was freshly made before our eyes in Great Harbor by a man who used to cook at restaurants but who now made fresh conch salad for tourists like us who heard about his conch salads with fresh lime juice and tiny diced peppers along with the onions, tomato and conch. (I made a video of him cleaning the conch.)  

In front of us were two boats bringing their fresh conch and killing the tiny beasts inside the shells and providing the chef with the freshest conch we would ever have. I asked one of the boatmen if he ever worried that they would run out of conch, and he replied. “We have been doing this for 135 years, and we will continue to do so.”  I thought to myself—but with level of consumption, how could the conch species? (just like the lobster crisis I predict for  Maine’s lobstermen.)  Then here,

at Warderick Land & Sea Park, I saw these tee-shirts and realized that I was not the only one who worried that catering to all the tourists might deplete the treasures that the sea provides.

It was a windy few days, and Allen practiced his harmonica playing and we both read and relaxed and looked at the lovely starry skies at night. 

The jetsam placed atop Boo Boo Hill is decorated with boat names and crew lists

Poison wood leaves and bark is coated with an allergenic substance, don't touch it

One of the highlights of being at Warderick Wells Cay is taking hikes around the park. The favorite hike is up to the highest point called Boo Boo Beach. To get there, one must have sure footing across the blackened coral stones and carefully follow the yellow and red painted marks on the stones and past the "Poison Wood". It can be tricky. When we got to the point where we saw the sign Caution Quicksand, Norma balked and refused to go any further. “I am not stupid,” she quipped. Allen was furious and mostly disappointed. They returned to the beach. 

Soon Norma saw a group of guys coming back from the same walk, and she asked them about the quicksand. “It’s only about 5 inches high, and it’s not a problem,” they said. Norma immediately changed her mind and back they went on the trail. Crossing the quicksand was not a problem since it was so shallow, and the path to the site was easy to climb. 

The sign at Norma's right hand reads "Caution, Quicksand"

At the top, however, was one of the most beautiful sights imaginable on both sides of the cay. You could see the horseshoe-shaped waters with sand bars and boats of all sizes on mooring balls in the northern mooring field inside the park. At the top, you could see the wild dark turquoise blue sea and waves making huge blowholes of sea spray against the massive coral rocks.

This conch died of natural causes

At the top of Boo Hoo, is a pile of boat gear, shells, driftwood, and all sorts of stuff with boat names either engraved or painted on. It’s quite massive and a great joy to see.  We found names of several boats that we had encountered, and with the magnificent views up there, we had a fabulous day!

SAND: In addition to the incredible deep turquoise and crystal-clear Bahamian waters where you can see your anchor below the boat, sand here in the Exumas  is like powder. It is most often a very light beige or totally white and can be seen from nautical miles away along the Exuma shores.  The powdery texture of each sand nodule, however, sticks to your skin and your footwear and bathing suit and hair. I find sand in almost every crevice, especially between my toes. 

Of course, we rinse our shoes, and I do laundry and air out towels and swimsuits each time we use them, but the sand persists. It’s in the dinghy, in our snorkeling gear, our water shoes, stuck to the sides of the dinghy, to the dinghy bag and snorkeling gear bag and dinghy anchor bag and between our toes! The sand here is ubiquitous, persistent, and clingy. Of course, the sand is now in the boat. 

VACUUM: Showers and sponge baths don’t matter; the sand is like miniature pebbles of sticky glitter. So what do I do?  I vacuum our sheets. Yes, each morning, we wake up with sand in our bed, miniscule amounts at times, but like the princess and the pea, I am very uncomfortable sleeping when I feel any grit on our gorgeous teal Egyptian silk sheets.  So I vacuum the sheets. Sure I change them when I can, but the only method of sleeping well is to vacuum the premises.

THE AQARIUM: We left Warderick Wells Cay and went to moor at Bell Island where we found one of the most beautiful dive sites in the Bahamas: The Aquarium. Snorkeling there is like being in a huge natural aquarium. The fish are all around you, all kinds of fish, and hundreds of them: the small stiped ones, the iridescent blue ones with yellow tails, the stiped light blue ones, the big blue with yellow stiped ones, etc. We even saw a medium-sized loggerhead turtle swimming around. Such majesty!

The coral varieties and entire landscape along the designated reef is breathtaking. Before I even noticed the fish, my eyes darted from the huge coral bowl to the massive swaying purple fan corals to sea anemones and tubes, brain coral of many colors, and sea grasses and greenery tucked inside and around the outside of  many-shaped shells, cliffs and limestone reef structures.

Amazing! I went in for about 20 minutes or so, but Allen stayed longer to be eye-to-eye with so many fish. I danced with them, above me, below me, around my arms and legs and face. Allen said it’s a small reef with thousands of fish and aptly named. The beauty of the Exumas is not just the water and the beaches, but it’s also the sea world underwater that can take your breath away.

This is being posted from Staniel Cay, our next destination and our first taste of (civilization) in a few weeks. Plan A: Snorkle in Thunderball Grotto, where scenes from the 007 were filmed. Later, LAUNDRY! and playing with Carolyn and Gino on Dolce. See you next time.

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Norma you paint such beautiful pictures with your words. What an amazing adventure. Best wishes. Irene


We spent a lot of time at Staniel Cay. Really is civilization. Make sure you stay for the grocery barge arrival. Enjoy your time there.

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