By Kay Henry
We easily settled into our kayaks from the mother ship's ama after spending a quiet night anchored beside a remote cay. A large ray glided silently underneath my kayak and drifted up to look me in the eye. Then a bonefish exploded from waters in front of my bow, suggesting I better pay attention. Two oyster catchers danced on the edge of the long sandy beach while several royal terns flew overhead.
Welcome to kayaking in the warm, clear waters of the Bahamas.
Deserted white sand beaches beckoned, but we needed time in our boats. Circling Cormorant Cay, we gathered several conches for dinner, leaning down to pick them up from the short grasses in 1-2 feet of water. The water is enchanting--bright blue in the deeper sections, turquoise in the middle and totally translucent in the sandy shallows. Back to the boat for a quick lunch and an afternoon to spend snorkeling, swimming or watching underwater inhabitants such as starfish and sea turtles from the higher vantage point of a SUP.
We were paddling with Kayak Voyagersin the Berry Islands, a chain of the Out Islands, a short flight northwest of Nassau, the capitol of the Bahamas. These are a group of sandy, coral based islands, many uninhabited, covering about thirty square miles with a population of less than 800 people. We would move the boat daily to anchor in the lee of another deserted cay, motoring through channels in the shallow interior of the island chain.
Keith, our outfitter and boat owner, was knowledgeable about the history of the area and was quick to help with kayaking technique if asked. Our mother ship, Mirage is superb–70 feet of sleek hull where the cabins were located, joined to a slender outrigger from which we launched our water activities. The 26-foot-wide mid-section that joined the hulls functioned as the social and dining center for paddlers in the three guest cabins while Keith's wife, Camille, prepared fabulous meals in the adjacent galley. We even had solar panels to power the onboard desalinator for our fresh water needs.
Since Mirage only draws 2.5 feet of water, we could anchor far closer than sailboats to the cays, in sheltered waters. We had our choice of playthings, from composite sea kayaks to SUPs to snorkeling gear. This was far from roughing it, chilling in the Bahamian sunshine.
One morning we explored an abandoned estate on an uninhabited cay, where two peacocks still wandered around the courtyard walls. Was it the cleaning up of the drug business in the late 1970's that caused the abandonment of this place? What were the mysteries behind these once expensive dwellings?
During our 7 days aboard, we paddled above sea turtles, nurse sharks and many colorful reef fish while exploring the white sand beaches of a different island each day. Egrets, ospreys, plovers, terns and many other birds entertained us. We climbed to the top of small hills to gaze out to the deep channel where large cruise ships could sometimes be seen in the distance. Between islands there were mangrove tunnels to paddle through, coral gardens in which to snorkel and always deserted beaches to explore when we felt the need to set foot on land again.
With a small group of friends, this is a most relaxing escape from the clutches of winter just a short flight away from the east coast of the U.S.
Keith & Camille Klingele operate weeklong mother ship kayak trips in the Berry Islands, Bahamas and Southern Florida for 6-8 guests on their catamaran, MIRAGE. www.kayakvoyagers.com