After a detour to Great Exuma, we returned to Conception Island to experience what some people consider to be the premier national park in the Bahamas. The whole island is a 2600-acre park, but the underwater part of the park increases the protected area to 30,000 acres. In the morning, we took a Zodiac tour in the mangrove lagoons, where we learned about mangroves, turtles, queen conches, and rays. Next we went kayaking and standup paddleboarding in a part of the lagoon that is too shallow for the Zodiacs. After lunch, the weather was quite bad, but it improved rapidly. We were still able to snorkel on a beautiful coral reef and take a walk on a gorgeous beach.
National Geographic Sea Lion
After another calm night at anchor on the Exuma Banks, we awoke to a light breeze and gentle seas. Wind and tide dictate all that we do, showing how intimately tied the Bahamian Islands are to the weather. As the sun broke through the distant cumulus clouds, the waters shone with a full spectrum of blues. Most everywhere we have been on this voyage has been in shallow waters, and we have the delight of seeing the seafloor during our travels. This gives us the privilege of peeking in on the lives of the fish, nurse sharks, coral, and other marine animals that are often obfuscated by more turbid waters. The weather obliging us thus far, it looked like a great day ahead. In the morning, we set out via kayak and Zodiac to explore a cut going through the whole of Shroud Cay. This winding channel drew us in with its beautiful waters, urging us further as its serpentine curves dictated our route. Red mangroves lined the sides as far as the eye could see. Yellow warblers sang from their branches, green sea turtles darted below us, and a lemon shark swam by in the shallow waters. Approaching the windward side of the island, we encountered the “washing machine,” a tidal cut where the channel meets Exuma Sound. Many of us hopped in the water, floating down this strong current before it deposited us safely on a sandbar. It was a delight to experience this natural playground and to cool off after a morning in the sun. In the afternoon, we spent time enjoying the pristine white sandy beaches offered by the Exumas Land and Sea Park. It was pleasant to relax, to take in the scenery and landscape around us, and to get lost in the gorgeous blue waters. Some of us took a walk up the eastside of the island as a few white-tailed tropicbirds circled overhead. These seabirds use small crevices in the limestone to nest, a feature that is plentiful in the Bahamas. From Camp Driftwood, we took in a view of the surrounding cays. We spotted Norman’s Cay, the site of a drug smuggling operation in the 70s and 80s. The DEA monitored the situation from Camp Driftwood. The Bahamas has a rich and diverse cultural history on top of its captivating natural history. We returned to the ship for cocktail hour and dinner, a wonderful end to another incredible day in the Bahamas. We look forward to tomorrow with anticipation, knowing the Bahamas always delivers.