From the window of a Bahamasair twin-engine Dash 8, the 120-mile-long Exuma island chain looks like a turquoise thread floating in the ocean, so skinny that you wonder if there's room to land the plane. But from the helm of a 21-foot Sea Pearl expedition sailboat, with 80-degree sea spray blowing in your face, the string of uninhabited cays off your bow conjures a scene from Robinson Crusoe: deserted white-sand beaches, sky-blue shallows, and wind-battered limestone sea cliffs.
Just 30 miles southeast of Nassau's high-rise resorts, the Exumas (fly into Exuma International Airport near George Town) are among the last wild places in the Caribbean and perfect for a deserted-island sailing adventure. The tranquillity is startling as you skim over sandbars and coral heads, making camp on remote beaches inhabited solely by five-foot Bahamian rock iguanas. It's likely that the only time you'll see another soul is when you feel like pulling into a sun-bleached, one-dock marina for a frosty Kalik and a cracked-conch lunch.
Because the nimble, canoe-shaped Sea Pearl needs only a foot and a half of water to sail in, your trip tracks the calm, shallow western shore of the Exumas – averaging seven miles an hour in typical 10- to 20-mph easterly trade winds – instead of the rough, 8,000-foot-deep Exuma Sound. Spend a week navigating around palm-topped islets, spearfishing yellowtail snapper for dinner, and visiting the occasional windswept fishing town to resupply – or to book a room if you just want to get the sand out of your ears. Launch Gallery >>
Staniel Cay Yacht Club (Bahamas Day 6)
Breeze three miles north into Staniel Cay Yacht Club, where the trip ends. (You can return to Baraterre, but that requires about a 12-hour sail into the wind.) Swim with nurse sharks and Exuma's famous swimming pigs near the marina, before catching a charter flight back to George Town ($500 for up to five people). Out Island Explorers will tow the boat back to Baraterre for $600.
Credit: Alewx Mustard / Minden