Warderick Wells, the headquarters of the Exuma Land & Sea Park was easily one of the highlights of this winter’s cruising season! We loved Warderick Wells, and I’ve done posts already on the Haunted Island, BooBoo Hill, Hang on Noah and Hiding from Weather in Warderick Wells, but none of the posts show the true beauty of this dramatic desert island. Sometimes photos show it much better than words! Since I have hundreds of photos, these are only a representative sample, but I hope you enjoy and whet your cruising appetite to put The Exuma Land & Sea Park on your bucket list!
I guess I should fess up and admit that snagging mooring balls is NOT my forte! Prior to the Bahamas, I think we’d picked up a mooring ball maybe once or twice in the Bay Islands of Honduras. But that was very different. Warderick Wells has a very narrow channel of deep enough water to allow boats access — the current RIPS through the channel twice a day. So as I’m valiantly trying to pick up the pennant for the mooring (which I did successfully on my 2nd try), I grab the penant, quickly let loose of the boathook to get our line ready to thread through the eye. All was well and we got the lines threaded successfully. Then I looked back for the boathook…. hmmm…. nowhere to be seen. Luckily the boat in front of us saw it go overboard … and headed out to sea with the current … and rescued it for us in their dinghy. Whew — that might have been a problem trying to snag a mooring ball with the fish gaff! I might hurt myself! So we’re securely moored until we decide to give up our ball — number 14, which is my lucky number.
Here’s a closer shot of the whale skeleton – the whale was found in 1995 if I remember correctly. There’s another skeleton from a pilot whale that just died a couple of years ago by the park office – it died from ingested plastic. Please please please, do not let plastic go overboard — especially balloons, trash bags, etc. Not only does it kill whales, but it kills sea turtles and I’m sure other sea creatures. That’s my environmental plea for today.
Moorings at the North Mooring Field at Warderick Wells are single file by necessity. To get a mooring you must call the Exuma Park office on VHF channel 9 at 9 AM either the morning you want the morning or one day prior. You will be put on a waiting list and as boats leave, you’ll be assigned a mooring. The moorings are $15 a night – cheap for being able to stay at this gorgeous desert island in a rare surrounded anchorage protected from weather.
At almost low tide, the sandbar is a mere feet from your boat — especially on a day where the wind blows the stern toward the “beach”. Luckily the moorings have all been carefully measured for clearance and if they assign you a mooring, based on your boat’s size and draft, you will not bump the sandbar, although we questioned how carefully they measured until after we were there a few days and fit snugly.
That’s right, Warderick Wells is the headquarters for the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Apparently some years back, you could volunteer service to the park in return for a complimentary mooring. They don’t seem to be doing that anymore as we heard a couple of boats ask. But there was a boat there while we were there that just decided to pick one of the dozens of beaches and clean it up themselves. They hauled bags and bags of beach trash back to the park headquarters. I’m sure if you want to volunteer, pay your $15 and find a beach to clean up — everyone will appreciate it.
The dinghy resting on Rendezvous Beach, where the trail to the 1700’s Loyalist Ruins begins… By the way, if you’re like us and love The Exuma Land and Sea Park, you can help support it by becoming a member of the Support Fleet. Click here to go to the Bahamas National Trust website which explains the different ways you can help — scroll down almost to the bottom for the Support Fleet information. For a boat smaller than 40 feet, it’s $50 a year — with 2 nights mooring fees included and priority on the waiting list for moorings at any of the mooring locations — there are at least six. So I figure it was a $20 donation to help support one of the best national parks I have visited. If you’re so inclined, you can purchase your Support Fleet membership at the park office, which is what we did, or go online to register and join.
The curly tailed lizards are everywhere — apparently there are 27 species of curly tail lizards distributed throughout the Caribbean. If we’ve seen them before, we don’t remember where. They’re willing to pose for photos as they run to & fro amongst the rocks & sand.
Here’s the trailhead for the Exuma Sound Trail — of all the trails on Warderick Wells, this one is the longest and most demanding — but since the island is only a bit over 2 miles long, it’s not that arduous. The biggest challenge was walking on the uneven rocky ledges with sharp rocky edges. The entire loop of the island took us most of the day — from 11 AM until 4 PM — we took lunch and had a picnic at the Pirate’s Lair on the south end of the island. Great day! Great scenery!
Here’s David talking like a pirate at the Pirate’s Lair — the south end of Warderick Wells. The southern mooring field is in the exact bay where pirates such as Blackbeard, Ann Bonny and Mary Read hung out. There are even a couple of species of grass and palm here that are nowhere else in the Bahamas. The theory is that the seeds were carried in the pirate ships and when they came ashore to hang out, the seeds replanted themselves. Pirates could sail their ships into the bay, dark or light and be completely hidden from the shipping they were preying upon.
Another of the beautiful beaches on the inside of Warderick Wells — after hiking the bluffs/rocky cliffs side of the Exuma Sound side, the beaches on the other side are placid and calm… the trail went from beach to beach — each more beautiful than the next. Amazing!
This photo is from the highest point on Warderick Wells, looking back over the coastline. Note the pile of rocks that mark the trail … along with aqua paint blogs and yellow marks painted on the rocks in places where there’s no other option.
Great trail, great day, glad we had the opportunity to hike the Exuma Sound Trail and take the beach trails back — circumnavigating Warderick Wells. We highly recommend the day if you get the chance. But be sure to wear good shoes — that don’t mind hiking over pointy sharp rocks — my tennis shoes weren’t quite up to the challenge, altho’ we survived. Next time I’ll bring my real hiking shoes/boots to the Exumas — more hiking that I anticipated!
So visit the Exumas Land & Sea Park and do not miss the Exuma Sound hiking trail … and take a mooring at the south end if you get the chance. And if you take a mooring at the Emerald Rock mooring field, be sure to dinghy ahead to the beach and find the Loyalist Ruins trail … I love history as well as hiking!
Hope our photo essay has awakened a desire to cruise the Exumas on your boat! Enjoy! & hope to see you there!
Do you have a favorite Exumas Land & Sea Park memory or don’t miss? Please leave a comment and share! Cheers! Jan & David, s/v Winterlude