Top 10 Bahamas Bucket List: The Exumas

The Exumas are a district of The Bahamas with sapphire blue waters and tons of things to do! Find out what to do, where to eat, and where to stay, or live!

When I was a kid, I started to get obsessed with the Bahamas.

There are so many reasons for it! It wasn’t even that far from my house – as in not 12 hours by plane – but it felt like a whole new world of magic and vacation. I used to dream every day about parrots and sapphire blue water. To get even more dorky, the theme from my Bat Mitzvah was Tammy’s Tropics and it was filled with palm trees, hanging parrots, and tropical drinks. Seriously, my mom is an artist. I’ll have to get her to find/share photos of that gem. (if you can excuse my bangs in the photos) When I was a teen and we had Internet, I used to Google: Exuma house rentals. I’m not kidding I had it all figured out to live there after college! I was going to have a banana or coconut stand and live on the sand and sapphire blue water.

I had so many other dreams, like living in Japan (unfulfilled) and California (fulfilled) but I still think about the Exumas.

I’m sand and sea obsessed. It’s a little funny that my adult obsession with mountains and cabins and moose even exists, because my Bahamas obsession is ancient and strong! I especially loved to read about Exuma – a district of the Bahamas consisting over 365 islands (cays). The largest of these islands (cays) is called Great Exuma and it’s 37 miles in length – joined to Little Exuma (another island/cay) by a small bridge. They all have a lot of history, and each offers a unique Bahamas experience. Years ago I started a list of things to do in Exuma, and I continued it recently when Cassidy and I started planning a large trip – just the two of us. I believe our time to go is coming sooner than I even think. Maybe 2018!

My Top 10 Bahamas Bucket List: The Exumas:

1 – Basically, nothing. I know, right? I want to actually be unplugged (at least for an hour? a day?) and spend some time lounging around a pool or beach. Bonus points for renting a house with a pool. I heard the islands don’t get crowded!

2 – Chat N’ Chill at Chat N’ Chill! Bonus points here that I heard you can swim with stingrays! I’d like nothing more than to talk to people and find out what drew them to the Exumas to live or vacation. I know I’d talk their ears off!

3 – Take a boat tour. These are family friendly, although I am thinking this will be a trip for Cassidy and me only.

4 – Photograph wildlife. This is something I do wherever I go, but I’m particularly looking forward to iguanas, swimming pigs, nurse sharks, and starfish. I would practice my underwater photography, of course, to get the whole picture.

5 – Swimming with pigs! And I promise I wouldn’t feed them my food! I love loud, snorting pigs and someone once described it to me – that they greet you like dogs! They are on Big Major Cay and I heard that they are taken to shelters when hurricanes are coming. Ah, for the love of pigs! This would be such a joy to me.

6 – Snorkel at Thunderball Grotto. A few people have told me to do this! It’s a marine cave that snorkelers and experienced scuba divers can enjoy at low tide (for the snorkelers). I’d love to be able to say I snorkeled in a cave! Total bucket list.

7 – Eat at Shirley’s. This is a quintessential Bahamas fish fry shack. I’m thinking the smell of coconuts and fresh seafood.

8 – Spend a day at Tropic of Cancer Beach. It’s named after the meridian line that runs through it but there’s often no one there (why?!) and the views are supposedly breathtaking. This is where I see reading a whole book or too between swims.

9 – Swim with Nurse Sharks! I’m one of those special people who is not afraid of sharks. Trust me I have my fears, but not sharks! Plus, they’re docile. I want to head to Compass Cay in the Exumas and both pet them and swim with them.

10 – Take a romantic stroll along the Sandbar at Musha Cay. I keep reading about how stunning it is and a MUST SEE. I’d love to sit back and enjoy the miles of sapphire blue. I want to feel the soft sand under my feet and listen to the sounds of the waves. The sandbars shift and contain unique marine life. I can’t wait to take it all in!

Ultimately, I’m having so much fun pre-planning our trip! I love that I have covered some places to eat, some places to stay, and some adventures. What I’m wondering is if you’ve been there? What are the best things to do in Exuma? We have a few trips lined up for 2018/2019 but I’m feeling like right now is an important time to travel. Our kids are getting older, we have tons of pet care for our dogs, cat and chickens, and we have six grandparents we can line up to watch the kids. And who knows? I think we’d love to come back as a family and then I’ll be writing about all the family-friendly things to do in the Exumas. I’d love to hear more about YOU! Have you been there? What did you do while there? What should I do? You know I’m obsessed with relaxing, although I need a nudge to do it, and you know I love scenery and wildlife and conversation.

And ice cream, of course, and lots of it!

What is there to do in the Exumas? So much! Tell me more!

P.S. This post is NOT sponsored by the Bahamas – I just wish it was!

How I Honeymooned Your Father, Part XVII: Last Song

If you’re just tuning in to our Alaska adventures, here are the links to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X Part XI, Part XII, Part XIII, Part XIV, Part XV, and Part XVI. Where did we leave off last? Oh, boy! Talkeetna! We spent 24 hours there, making lemonade out of lemons, by ziplining after our Denali Flight Tour dreams were all squashed by the weather. We had a locals’ dinner, a tourists’ dessert, and then went looking fruitlessly for moose, but fruitfully for adventure – like abandoned earth stations and tales of severed moose heads. Sometimes I have something so deep-rooted and burrowed that I want to say, but I don’t know how to say it. I’ll let Eddie Money say it, but pretend it’s me.

I may not have his obvious charisma, but this is about more than Talkeetna. It’s the whole thing. It’s the whole life. It’s dreams and magic and little girl wishes. There’s nothing I can say to make you understand, but it’s ok. I imagine you get it anyway. It’s about that hollowed out feeling from things beginning and ending. And how every ending is a beginning, and every beginning is an ending. It’s about how nothing is ever as it seems, or how you imagined it when you wanted it for SO LONG. That’s ok, too. Sometimes the reality is even better. Achier. Breakier. Heartier. It has grooves & heights. Peaks & dips.

It can knock you off your feet, and make you lightheaded and dizzy.

Now bear with me, because this post could easily be two posts, as it is two or more stories, and I’m even adding two songs for you. We woke up on our last day at Grace and Bill’s Freedom Hills B&B and went to the main house for breakfast. It was awesome to sit with other guests and talk about Alaska land, Denali, and bull moose. There was spotty WiFi but I remember taking a shower and then making a video for work out there in the wilderness. I was even wearing a lumberjack shirt. During checkout, Bill suggested we go back to Anchorage through Hatcher Pass, therefore bypassing Wasilla – easily the ONE place in Alaska I wasn’t completely captivated by – but we were only on the main road once. I’m certain there’s beauty there.

Hatcher Pass wasn’t shabby, though! It was an old road for the gold miners! So cool! #TheMoreYouKnow

It was foggy and drizzly, with cold wind gusts. We went to check out a lodge on a mountain out there – boasting warm soup and awesome views – but it was closed! I didn’t take a lot of photos, other than the ones above. It was hard conditions for it and I was tired and overwhelmed. Sometimes the world is almost too beautiful? Magical and barely touched – like a watercolor. It was like that, but also cold, rainy, and windy. I was numbed over because of all the beauty and emotions.

I wouldn’t kick this view out of bed:

Our flight was a red-eye, so we had the whole day to explore. We headed to Anchorage – and had dinner plans later with Erika and Steve. Remember them from the beginning of the story? They’re our family and they had given us our first moose, first soup, and first warm bed in Alaska nine days previously. It was probably around late afternoon now, and I had to tackle Anchorage’s WiFi for a blog post first. Yes, even on vacation, but it was only one or two! So I went to a McDonald’s while Cassidy decided to go back to Eagle River to explore the visitors center. Well, while I smelled french fries I didn’t ever intend to eat, he was seeing what he thought might be his last moose of Alaska. We all know smartphones don’t zoom in so well:

Holy cow, though! Not cow. Holy bull! He did a solo hike and saw his second bull moose of all time on a secluded bog. In Alaska. MAN. And it was his favorite moose encounter of the whole trip, and maybe of forever, although we saw our first moose in the wild together in 2004. She might have favorites rights for all time? I don’t know, though. What makes me happy is that Cassidy’s favorite moose encounter actually became his SECOND favorite. That’s right. With only a few hours to spare left before our flight, we somehow topped that together. He picked me up from the dreadfully WiFi-ed McDonald’s and we went back to Powerline Pass. We weren’t there long, because of dinner reservations, but can we say worth it?

Worth it.

Then we rounded a bend, with minutes to spare, and Cassidy said, “Oh, hello!” There was our last bull moose of the trip!

That looks close, right? It was. I was balking a bit, and I went to warn two incoming runners about the moose so they’d change their course. They saw the look on my face and said, “Don’t worry! Anchorage moose are different from the ones outside the city. They have more tolerance for people coming close to them.” That does NOT mean I recommend getting close.

He looked at us curiously, but mostly minded his own business. I had the luxury of distance, although this is NOT my zoom lens. This is just a 50mm. My rented zoom was already packed in my suitcase, and ready to be checked at the airport.

I had to go black and white for at least one!

Oh my. Well that’s it for moose! We made it to our dinner reservation just on time, and guess what I ordered? That’s right. Salmon. We showed Erika and Steve all of Cassidy’s pictures and told our stories in chronological order. Then, the airport:

I took that same photo on our first day there – after landing at night – and I felt like I had grown so much in nine days. The things I had seen, and not seen. The things I had done, and not done. I felt like something inside me had been sleeping.

We boarded the plane and had someone sitting in between us, which seemed fitting. It was dark and I leaned my head on the cold window, thinking of everything I wish. I wish I had taken more photos. I wish I could break through a shutdown. I wish I could do it all over. I wish I could feel it all over. I wish I could feel.. in general.. when sometimes I can’t touch that raw part of myself. It’s frozen over. Our plane’s satellite radio kept playing one song, and these days, I can’t listen to the song much.

Whenever I take a deep, altering trip, there’s always one song that makes me think of it the most. It’s almost a treat to revisit it in small doses, and reopen the heart and sound waves – to let it all come back rushing towards and through me.

I’m back there now. I’m forever there, in the middle of dreams dying and coming alive. Ending and beginning. They all meet in the middle. I’ll never forget that silent and endless night in the sky – and the brightness I found on the other side.

It was always leading me here:

*Endnote – my mother-in-law took that picture, bringing our kids to meet us in the middle of a parking lot in Sturbridge, MA, after ten days apart. The photo is 100% candid – showing our sleeplessness, sweat, tears, and LOVE. Thank you for reading.