From the sounds of my recent stay in Staniel Cay, The Bahamas, it would seem like it’s a luxury holiday: pink cottage above the water, three courses for every meal, our own little boat to take out ourselves and a dock where there was always at least one luxury sailboat. But it didn’t come with the luxury price tag.
Truth is, Staniel Cay Yacht Club is a really reasonably priced stay for what you get. Sure, it’s not budget or a cheap backpacking trip, but for two people working full-time, it’s totally doable.
All of this I’ll go into later, but I wanted to show that as you get a skiff included in your accommodation, you spend no money on tours or trips elsewhere. That being the case, I want to convince you more why Staniel Cay is worth visiting and what these things are that you can do with absolutely no extra cost to your holiday if you stay at the Yacht Club.
(It’s starting to sound like it, but believe me, this is not a sponsored post for Staniel Cay Yacht Club: I genuinely loved it this much.)
The Famous Swimming Pigs
Nobody really knows how the swimming pigs of Big Major Cay got there, and I’m a little suspicious of the whole scenario to be honest – I mean, they’re pigs. On an island. That swim. And their numbers aren’t out of control… hmm… But, they are super cute and it’s a wonderfully weird sight to behold. Just please watch out for the adults, they’re crazy when they sense food around. Seriously.
Read more: Visiting the Swimming Pigs of The Bahamas
Named after the James Bond movie of the same name, Thunderball Grotto is an underwater cave only a few minutes’ boat ride from Staniel Cay. You access it at low tide (the Yacht Club has a tide chart in the bar) so you can swim into the cave without your head being entirely submerged under water – a happy thing for me considering I’m not exactly a difficult person to panic when it comes to beneath the water.
Inside is mesmerising. The cave is rugged and sharp but somehow welcoming, with a huge hole directly above shining light straight down (apparently some people jump into the cave from there). Snorkelling with the fish is incredible – when you catch them on a good day – as so many are curious, nibbling at your feet or facing you head on, locking eyes. The light streaming in from the underwater cave openings is like something out of The Little Mermaid – completely magical.
Sandy Cay/Random Sand Bars
Spending time on a sand bar has something luxurious about it. Maybe it’s the contrast of white sand being teased by lapping shades of blue… or maybe I’ve seen one too many Sandals adverts. Or maybe it’s Maybelline. Sorry.
Really though, I was lucky enough to pop champagne on Sandy Cay sand bar on my birthday and it was an incredible portion of the day. At Staniel Cay Yacht Club (and I’m very sure wherever else you stay) they’ll give you a map so you can locate Sandy Cay or any of the others. It’s pretty easy, just make sure you don’t get your boat’s motor buried in sand… it becomes more Castaway than James Bond when you’re digging hopelessly at sand to become free again.
Swim with Sharks
So there’s one big place to do this where everyone seems to go and it’s all over Pinterest, and that’s Compass Cay. It’s about half an hour’s boat ride from Staniel Cay, and yes, they have plenty of nurse sharks that you can swim with, but you have to pay $10 to dock there. Although it looked awesome from all the photos, Staniel Cay has its own community of nurse sharks and you’re allowed to swim with them, too. So… why bother going to Compass Cay if you’re already in the vicinity of exactly what they can offer you? Without the journey and price tag.
Wait until the leftovers from the catch of the day have been cast into the waters which the nurse shark are keen to suck up (really, they kind of suck up their food rather than bite it aggressively) then don your snorkelling mask and get in. After a bit of shock of ‘oh my god I’m near a shark, everything in society has told me to be scared of this’, it’s really, really fun. They’re beautiful and as long as you just let them get on with things and don’t interfere, it’s all good.
Bike Around Staniel Cay’s Beaches
Riding a bike around a paradisaical island is very pleasant and serene. It allows you to take in the laid back vibe that I’ve always seen come with an island. We visited Pirate’s Trap Beach (pictured above), which was a lovely secluded spot, and Ho Tai Cay Beach, which was very picturesque… once we managed to find it (sorry to the man’s private property we invaded but you’re welcome for helping lift your very large and heavy boat motor onto your truck).
I used both a kayak and a stand up paddleboard during my stay in Staniel Cay and I loved it. By far the clearest, most peace-inducing water I’ve ever had the pleasure to look into while exercising. If I could do this every morning for the rest of my life, I’d be a very happy, lucky girl.
You can also take a boat out for 30-45 minutes to get to an island filled with iguanas and snorkel amongst a sunken drug plane – we didn’t do either of these (the former because of lack of time and the latter because we actually couldn’t find it…) so I didn’t feel it would be right for me to do whole sections on each! Keeping it real and all that…
All I can end on is to express just how beautiful the Exuma Cays are and how in love with Staniel Cay I became, very much due to all these amazing things I did around the island.