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1238 pics, 12 days and 3 islands--Trip report part 2

Glastonbury...
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1238 pics, 12 days and 3 islands--Trip report part 2

Picking up where I left off on part one of my trip report.

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Nov 11th Pics

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Being that it was still too rough to dive the reefs on the ocean side of Stocking Isl, we again go to the sheltered cove on the SW side of Stocking Island across the harbor from G-town.

There is this dive site called Mystery Cave that is just a few hundered yards from Angelfish Bluehole where we dove the previous day.

This bluehole goes down to 70 ft. This time we do NOT go any deeper into the cave and are always in an area where we can not only see light, but can surface immediately in an emergency.

There are a TON of fish at the entrance (20ft deep) and a bit further down we see a stingray or two. It is interesting look into the side passages of the bluehole too as there is no shortage of marine life there either.

When we return later that morning, I decide to arrange a rental car and go explore Little Exuma. I make my way across the bridge where the ferry is and find the enterance to a nice beach that I had marked the night before when I was on Google Earth.

WHen I reach it, sure enough there is not a single person in sight anywhere along the 1/2 mile stretch. With the wind being very strong out of the Northeast, I quickly notice that I am being sprayed with fine drops of seawater even while 10 yards or more from the water!

No wonder it was too rough to take the boat past the cuts!!

After spending about 90 min there, I continue SE and go looking for Tropic Of Cancer beach. Having been there before in 2010, I figure I know the way, but my memory is wrong as I thought it was along the main highway. (I later found out you have to make a few turns off the main road to get there)

Oh well.

I hike up a short trail to a monument near Williamstown and get some more pics about 80 feet above sea level. Such nice view of the blue water!

Nov 12th Pictures

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I decided to take the day off from diving as it was still rough (Ughhh) outside of the harbor as I'd already dove what was inside of it.

Instead I rented a boat from Minns and went in search of some sandbars in Elizabeth Harbor as it was coming up on low tide an hour or two later. Even in the protected harbor, it was still rough and I had to take it slow even being in a 19' Whaler. I make my way straight across to an area about 1/2 mi south of Chat N Chill and then hug the coast down the harbor where it is most sheltered from the wind.

Eventually I find what looks like a sandbar, although it is still about 8 inches underwater so I do my best to anchor the boat into the wind with the hull remaining over the deeper water. Once secure I walk around the area for about an hour and as I'm making a circuit in knee deep water or less, I notice an exposed area of sand about 80 ft long and 15 ft across located about 100 yards away. Since its the start of Low Tide, I still have time until it is covered again.

I then get back to the boat and motor it around to a spot about 50 yrs downwind of it and walk/swim over to it. The water is chest high to start, but then quiclly gets shallower up to my knees making walking easier.

I made it uneventfully and just chill for a while there. I wish I had had a few Kalik's with me but no such luck.

From there Jeff and head on over to Chat N Chill and have a Kalik followed by a Sands. After that, I get some more shots "Corona Style" of a Kalik bottle right on the edge of the water along the beach. I then go off and check out the ocean side of Stocking Island Beach.

As luck would have it, this beach is VERY CROWDED with a mob of 6 people in sight!!

Hey...........that is very crowded for a beach in the Out Islands!!

Before ending the day, we take to boat to one last snorkel spot where there are a few reefs on a beach about 1/4 mile southeast of Chat N Chill.

Nov 13th pics

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Again, its too rough to dive on the ocean side as the relentless Northeast wind continues :-(

This is starting to drive me mad!

I'm kicking myself even more because 10 to 14 days in advance one of the more reliable weather models (GFS for those familiar with Meteorology) was showing a strong high pressure area south of Nova Scotia Canada with a pretty tight isobar gradient to its south.

Not only that, but the GFS was consistent in showing this on a run to run basis, even well over a week beforehand. In hindsight I should have insisted to Jeff that we change plans and dive out of Hawks Nest on Cat or Cape Santa Maria on Long Island where a NE wind is sheltered much better. Something for all of you to keep in mind when planning a dive vacation between October and May.

At least you can learn from my mistake!!

So once again we dive Angelfish bluehole one last time down to 90 ft, but do not go in past that point having learned my lesson 3 days earlier about not diving in an overhead!!

That afternoon we go and explore the long sandy beach across from the airport just before it gets dark. I walk a bit over 3 miles up and back and get some much needed pictures. Looking off in the distance there are a lot of rainshowers so i make sure to use my waterproof camera even though it is dry where I am (knock on wood).

We finish off our stay on Great Exuma by having dinner at a nice local spot on the opposite side of Lake Victoria from "downtown" G-Town.

The next day its 143 miles of flying off to Nassau where we will do 8 tank dives over 4 days.

Nov 14th pics

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We get a bit of a late start departing G-town as it takes us longer than thought before to load the plane. As soon as we start her up, I ask the control tower at Exuma Intl if they have our flight plan in the computer to Nassau and luckily they do. Finally good to go!

After running through the checklist on plane to make sure everything is working, we depart on the southeast runway and then make a 180 left turn on course to Nassau. This has got to be one of the most beautiful routes in all of the Bahamas as the path between G-Town and Nassau happens to take you right along the entire necklace of the Exuma Chain!!

Sooo beautiful!

As nice as the view is, I don't have as much time as I like to savior it because we have our hands full making sure we remain clear of the clouds as we are flying under visual flight rules (VFR) even though we are both qualified and equipped to fly under instrument flight rules (IFR)

Not only that, but there are some substantial cloud buildups (towering cumulus clouds) with rain coming out so we have to dodge and weave a bit to avoid the worst of it. Out here, there is no weather radar like is in the USA and no air traffic controllers to give you advisories so avoiding the bad weather is done on a visual basis on your own.

Like you've gone back in time 50 or 60 years in time!!

We fly through a pretty heavy rainshower at 1000 ft about 5 miles south of Musha Cay which reduces the visibility quite a bit. Even though we get soaked we actually have an exceptionally smooth ride. Free planewash courtesy of Mother Nature!!

The heave rainshower is only 3 or 4 miles across so in less than 2 minutes we are out of it. Then just north of Staniel Cay we enter a lighter shower again which only slightly reduces visibility and lasts all but 45 seconds. Once passing over Wardwick Wells Cay, it becomes sunny which allows us to climb up higher which is a good idea as the last 30 miles to Nassau will be over the open ocean. Even though we have a liferaft, vests, etc onboard, it still better to be fly higher as this simply gives you more time to deal with any problems in flight.(engine issues, etc).

As the Nassau air traffic controllers are steering us to land we fly over the same area to the SW of New Providence Isl where we will be diving the next day. I can see where the underwater wall drops off as the color changes suddenly.

Pretty soon we made an uneventful landing to the East (runway 9) at NAS and taxi to Executive Aviation about a half mile from the airline terminal where we park. We are able to quickly get a cab to the Atlantis where we will be staying for the final 3 nights. When we arrive we are pleased to learn that they have upgraded us from the Beach tower to the Coral for no additional cost! Yeaaaa! This also saves us a ton of walking as its pretty far from the enterance.

We spend the rest of the afternoon by the pool and enjoy some much needed Rum Punch! When I am ordering my second drink, much to my surprise I am asked for ID. I just assume that they want to make sure the name on my DL matches the name on my Credit Card, but the lady tells me that she wasn't sure about me age!!!

OMG, you have no idea how FLATTERED I was! That almost never happens in the USA when I'm buying alcohol, let alone somewhere where the legal age is only 18!

We spend the remainder of the day taking in all the Atlantis pools and landscape. Even though Nassau/PI is far from my fav place in the Bahamas (Rum Cay takes the crown for that), I am still liking the Atlantis despite the sky high price on everything.

Stay tuned for the underwater world provided by Stuart's Cove next...........

Glastonbury...
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1. Re: 1238 pics, 12 days and 3 islands--Trip report part 2

OK......picking up where I left off...........

Nov 15th pics

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We are all set for the Stuart Cove bus to pick us up as we set off for a 4 tank dive day!

Our first dive is along the wall about (3 miles southwest of Stuart's Cove) down to about 70 ft. On this one, we see a turtle, your typical snappers, angelfish, etc. The coral looks pretty healthy.

Along the upper part of the wall around 50 ft (wall starts at 40) we all pass through a swim thru passage which is on the tight side, but hey.....none of us get stuck! Not something I would try along, but with 6 others there to help if I get into trouble, I dont have much to worry about.

After about a 45 min surface interval, we dive an (artificial) wreck about 45 ft down. More of the same fish are found here, but most excitingly, there is a barracuda hanging right along the bow. I love those things but they still put me on-edge (much more than sharks by the way) as they always look like they are in attack mode even when resting!!

We then return to the dock for an hour before setting out on the 2 tank shark dive that afternoon.

The first of the two tank shark dive involves just observing them naturally along the wall. They are not really thinking about food at this point, which makes more of a realistic snapshot of how they behave in their natural habitat.

After another 30 min surface interval, we do the most adrenaline rushing dive with the sharks which involves the 12 of us sitting on the sandy bottom about 40 ft down in a circle. In the middle of the circle, the divemasters bring down a bait box and the feeding frenzy starts! For well over a half hour straight, they keep feeding these wild untamed beasts! I get bumped at least 5 or 6 times as they are passing to and from the food. One even passes just 3 inches right over my head which i am able to get on video!! This is awesome to say the least!!

Glastonbury...
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2. Re: 1238 pics, 12 days and 3 islands--Trip report part 2

Nov 16th pics

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At first I'd wanted to do another full day (4 tanks) of diving, but I opted instead for just the morning as I wanted to hang out more poolside at Atlantis.

Just like the previous day, I wanted to use enriched air while diving (32 or 36% oxygen instead of regular air which is 21%). This would allow more time at depth and less Nitrogen load.

Since I wanted to go deeper than 100 ft on the first dive (to see if there was any difference in the intensity of the ambient light that deep vs 50 ft), I opted for the first tank at 32% as it would be too dangerous to use 36% on a dive that deep as you could get oxygen poisoning (the exact opposite of altitude sickness) using a mixture that rich that deep.

Our first stop is Pumpkin Patch along the same wall that we dove the previous day and once we moored, I briefed the divemaster that I was going to be in the 100 to 120 ft range. He was fine with that.

I start down the wall at 40 ft and keep dropping slowly making sure my BC is fully deflated. Once I reach 120 ft I slowly make my way up at around 20 feet per minute while the divemaster watches me from the 70 range. He seems on-edge even though I am coming up--albiet slowly of course.

The safety and decompression stop takes care of itself as I do this in the beginning of the dive and then hang out in the 50 ft range for the remainder before doing another 5 minute safety stop at 15 ft just to have even more margin.

When I surface and get back on the boat, one of the ladies working aboard scolds me for going so deep and informs me that 100 ft is their limit. I apologise for putting them on-edge but was never told either verbally or in writing about this and just as well assumed that anything less than recreational limits (130 ft) was permitted.

That's the end of it and I just as well let it go.

Our second dive is only in the 25-40 ft range so I'm able to step it up to 36% oxygen which helps me off gas more easily too. We start out by diving one of the twin engine Cessnas which was used by Stuart Cove to film various movies several years ago.

Being that I'm a private pilot, i am eager to take a seat inside the submerged plane and have my pics taken. That idea is soon scrapped when I see a lion fish roaming in what was once the second row of seats.

We spend the rest of the afternoon poolside again at Atlantis and enjoy a few more (expensive) drinks.

___________________________________________

Nov 17th pics

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We bid farewell to the Bahamas today and hop a cab from the Atlantis to the airport where we pay our $25 departure tax and turn in our pink immigration form. Afterwards I call US Customs and Border Protection in Ft Pierce, FL to report our arrival.

As we are doing our walk around inspection of the plane, I am noticing a lot of building cumulus clouds with heavy rain and possible t-storms to the N and W which is the direction we'll be flying. Luckily, it looks like if I jog a bit NE before turning NW that we'll avoid them.

We depart to the southeast on Runway 14 and make a left turn on course to Ft Pierce. I ask the Nassau air traffic controllers if I can fly about 45 deg off course to avoid some mean looking cloud buildups and they approve that. Meanwhile off the right is a nice view of PI and Cable Beach.

Sure enough we clear the weather 15 miles later, but can see how bad it looks off to the left. It would been a rough ride-----or worse.....flying through that!!! No thanks!

We have fair weather scattered cumulus the rest of the way and get some NICE views of the Berry Islands along the way including Great Harbor Cay which is one of my top 5 favorite places in the Bahamas!

An 35 min later we pass over Freeport and I can see some more towering cumulus buildups near the Fla Coast. Luckily it looks like its isolated and easy to fly around. The radar that is streamed to my Garmin GPS also confirms this.

As I get closer to the towering cloud, it grows in intensity (both visually and according to my GPS radar) so I ask to turn 30 degrees left of course to deviate around it. I'm able to avoid it visually the whole time which is a lot safer than depending on radar which has a 5 - 10 min delay usually. Looking at it now 7 miles off to the left, it looks mean and fierce, but isolated with a lot of rain with tops of it boiling to well over 30,000 feet I'm sure!

Just like the thunderstorms near Nassau, getting around it is easy and not long after we are cleared to land at Ft Pierce and taxi to clear customs.

After offloading our bags we take everything inside the station and getting through it painless and easy. The guy working is courteous and professional and we are back to the plane 5 minutes later. We depart for St Simmons Isl, GA where we will spend the night. The flight is pretty mundane other than needing a slight deviation for some more towering cumulus clouds while passing over Daytona Beach.

Much to our surprise, it is COLD, even in Southern GA which being from CT is a shock. I know it does get cold down south, but I was still in island clothed so its a shock to my system!

____________________________________________

Nov 18th pics

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Our last day!!

We depart St Simmons island bound for Jacksonville, NC where our next fuel stop is planned. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has other plans as the wind is in our face a lot more than what was forecast so we have to cut it short so I act the air traffic controller for an new clearance to Grand Strand (N Myrtle Beach).

Upon reaching Hilton Head Isl, we enter the clouds and the remainder of this flight segment is flown on instruments as we are solidly in the clouds until about 2 min before landing. The wind has also picked up so its pretty bumpy coming in to land, but since its blowing parallel to the runway, landing isn't all that challenging.

We borrow the courtesy car at the airport to go get pizza in town and then refuel and make our way towards Melfa, VA where we stop again for fuel. As we depart to the North, we encounter more heavy rain and solid clouds, but its a pretty smooth ride with just occasional light turbulence. Just as its getting dark near the NC/VA line, it clears up. We are able to land at Melfa, VA under visual weather conditions where we taxi over to the self serve pump and get ready for the final segment of the flight back to CT.

Being that the weather is clear, everything is pretty uneventful and with about an hour left to go, we fly right over JFK airport which is always the routing the air traffic controllers give light aircraft flying up and down the east coast.

We land in Hartford just a 15 min drive from home at 9:45 that night and we are both very tired, but glad to be home again.

Even though the Bahamas is my favorite place in the world of course, I won't be returning for at least another year because I am now very eager to visit my 2nd most favorite destination on the globe which is Subarctic Quebec--specifically Scheffervillle and Nitchequon....about as opposite from the Bahamas as you can get in terms of climate, vegetation and landscape!!

In fact I like to call that are area the "BAHAMAS OF THE NORTH"!! Haha!

Edited: 7:53 pm, January 13, 2013
Mobile, Alabama
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3. Re: 1238 pics, 12 days and 3 islands--Trip report part 2

Thanks- loved your reports! Any idea who those huge yachts at Atlantis belonged to (unless I missed part of the report somehow)? Great photos in your travel log!

4. Re: 1238 pics, 12 days and 3 islands--Trip report part 2

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