Despite the roaring of the trade winds, we experienced a pleasant night at anchor in the lee of Hawksbill Cay. This uninhabited island in the Exumas chain was our destination for the day. The island’s beauty lay bare in the morning light along with the glowing blue waters around it. Like many Bahamian islands, people have used Hawksbill during different periods. After the Revolutionary War in the United States, many people loyal to England fled to the Bahamas, taking enslaved persons with them in hopes to continue operating plantations. Many of these attempts failed after a few seasons in the harsh climate of the Bahamas, and Hawksbill Cay shows the ruins of one of these attempts. Now a site for visiting yachts and ships like ours, the usage of Hawksbill Cay has changed many times in the area’s rich history.

After some smartphone photography tips from National Geographic photography instructor Kim Nesbitt, we set out for the island’s beaches. Some of us explored via kayak and stand-up paddleboard. The rising tide allowed us access to the mangrove channels in the interior of the island. Other guests took to the trails, exploring the flora and fauna of Hawksbill Cay. We found a diverse group of reptiles on our outing, including endemic anoles, brave curly-tailed lizards, cooperative brown racers, and darting whip-tails to name a few. The plant communities changed as we left the coasts and made our way towards the interior of the skinny island, showcasing the biodiversity of these small islands.

As the day’s heat intensified, the cool Bahamian waters beckoned us. We donned our snorkel gear and explored the shallow waters of the mangroves. Small fish and other aquatic creatures find solace in the roots of the red mangroves, which offer protection from the predators in the open sea. These are crucially important habitats, and it was enlightening to explore them.

Once we concluded our operations, we returned to National Geographic Sea Lion for our evening’s recap and cocktail hour. The light dimmed as the sun began to set, a beautiful bookend to another wonderful day in the Bahamas.