Snorkeling Our Way To Georgetown Part 2: O'Brien's Cay
We woke up to an incredibly still anchorage - barely a gust of wind and the blues were even more magnificent than they had been the previous day.
After taking Coffee to shore and saying goodbye to Scintilla, we picked up anchor and headed out in to the Exuma Bank. We were motoring (as I said, no wind) and though we were in 30-40 feet of water, we could see the bottom perfectly! As in, each small starfish, each piece of grass perfectly! It was truly unbelievable. About 20 minutes after leaving the anchorage, Aaron was on the bow when I abruptly pulled a 180. As he worriedly came back to the cockpit, I pointed out why I had turned - two nurse sharks resting on the ocean floor in 35 feet of water. We glided over them and they slowly moved away, so I turned back south and continued on our way.
Without the wind, and with no cover in our cockpit, we were both in our bathing suits and slathered in sunscreen. It was very hot but we were so fascinated by the water around us we didn't notice too much.
Our destination for the day was O'Brien's Cay which is in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We had chosen this cay because it is home to two great snorkeling sights: another plane wreck and a place called the Aquarium. We motored for about 6.5 hours, basking in the sunshine and perfectly calm water. I suppose we didn't reapply the sunscreen often enough because we both burned, in some awkward areas (backs of the knees anyone?).
To reach O'Brien's Cay, you have to go around Bell Island which sits in front of it to the east. You exit the Exuma Bank and enter a channel with sandbars on each side. You then bear to port (north) to pass the eastern side of Bell Island, needing to stay pretty close to shore to avoid the vast shoal to starboard. Fun fact: Bell Island is owned by Aga Khan and he has a pretty impressive shop along with a small resort that you pass by.
Once you pass his place, you come to one of the craziest channels we've seen. To pass through the narrow channel (probably only 25 feet wide; and our boat is almost 11 feet wide!), you basically have to aim straight at a large rock, and then turn at the last second. It was a bit harrowing but we took it slow and had no problem. From there, you turn starboard and come around the northern end of Bell Island and shortly afterwards reached our anchorage.
We attempted to take Coffee to shore on the Bell Island, but it's actually designated as an Iguana Research Area so we quickly left and went to another beach. Once he was taken care of, we dropped him back off, picked up our snorkel gear, and dinghyed straight over to The Aquarium. We pulled up to the dinghy mooring and got ready. It was close to slack tide (the current can really rip through here) so we didn't have too many issues with that. We didn't really know what to expect but as soon as we got in the water, we understood how it got its name. It is essentially a wall dive where the wall is curved and shallow. Hundreds of fish were instantly visible as well as a large variety of coral. Since this has been a park for over 50 years, the underwater environment is pristine and it was a joy to snorkel. We probably would have stayed longer but it was already almost 4 and starting to get cold.
We dinghyed right over to the other mooring, about 100 feet away, and Aaron jumped in to check out the sunken plane. This one was much smaller than the one at Norman's and was nose down, practically resting vertical underwater. There wasn't as much growth on this one but it was still pretty cool and he even spotted some eagle rays nearby.
We returned to the boat and warmed up a bit before enjoying an evening looking at some pretty fantastic stars.