Arriving At Staniel Cay Yacht Club
I smelt like a walking Easter egg due to the vinegar dousing after my fire coral incident. I was surprised they let me into the restaurant. Staniel Cay Yacht Club was one of the best restaurants in trickle of islands throughout the Exuma’s. Lunch was provided with our day tour and I could not have been more ready to start.
I chose a seat toward the end of the long table, right next to our captains. They seemed less excited about the food than us, but I suppose that’s what happens when you eat lunch at the same restaurant every day. A plate toppling over with fried-somethings was placed just in front of me. Though it looked similar to the fried cheese curds I’ve been missing from Wisconsin, I knew better than that. We were living the island life now, it had to be some sort of seafood.
“Conch fritters,” our captain stated, glancing over at me.
He must’ve sensed my hesitation in grabbing a bite. I know it may be odd, especially coming from a traveler who frequents islands, but I do not eat seafood. No fish, no crab, no sushi–nothing. To me, it all smells the same, which leads me to believe it all tastes the same. I think I can actually remember every single time I have eaten seafood, most of them forced.
- Fiji: Where the cooking class I attended made Fijian Kokoda
- Cancun: Where my gracious AirBnb host took us out boating and made us fresh ceviche for lunch
- Los Angeles: Where the host for this upscale sushi restaurant invited me over for a bite
The Seafood Fiasco
Maybe its because my hometown in the Midwest didn’t know seafood, or maybe it’s because the thought of me eating as-fresh-as-it-can-get and still not loving it makes me think about just how bad it could get. Either way, when seafood comes along, I have no problem skipping out on it.
“What do you mean, you don’t eat seafood….None of it?” our guide asked in disbelief.
“Nope,” I replied.
“What’d you get for lunch then?” he prodded, wondering how I could find something non-seafood on the menu.
“A Veggie Burger,” I said, as he shook his head in disbelief.
“You’re here, though! You’re in The Bahamas. You really should try just ONE. Just a little bit,” he urged me.
“You know what? Fine,” I replied, stabbing a conch fritter with my fork, dipping it in the mysterious spicy scarlet sauce and popping it into my mouth.
The captain watched closely as I chewed the fried bits. My unsure face soon transformed into a wince as I downed my glass of water, hoping to get rid of the taste. I can’t explain it, but seafood in any form, no matter how fresh it is, is not my cup of tea.
“Well, at least you tried it,” the captain replied, as the servers began bringing out our main dishes and setting them in front of us.
4. The Bahamas: Where the guide peer-pressured me into conch fritters
Where’s The Sunken Plane?
Lunch was over just as soon as it started and our guide knew that there was something in particular I was asking to cruise by on our boat all day: Pablo Escobar’s Sunken Plane.
I had seen many pictures of it while researching things to do in The Bahamas. It’s not everyday you can visit a sunken plane. Due to the shallow waters around the Exuma’s, this plane was in plain sight. Sorry, I had to do it.
Unfortunately, Pablo Escobar’s most famous sunken plane was a bit far away to visit on the Great Exuma Day Trip. It was closer to Nassau. However, turns out there are tons of sunken planes buried within the country. It just so happened that the closest one to us was a mere 500 feet off of the shore of Staniel Cay. In fact, you could see the large shadow of this monster from the dock.
Exploring The Sunken Plane
Jittering with excitement, I slid my snorkeling gear on and peddled out to the sunken plane. It was so well-preserved; I couldn’t believe it. Even the steering wheel, though not intact, was resting just as it would’ve been back when it was above water. Fish of every color had taken it over, each species claiming a different room of the mansion. A collection of yellow-striped fish swayed in the current underneath the wing, while a small black fish darted out of the seat and headed toward the steering wheel.
[See 0:47, 0:58 and 1:32 seconds in The Bahamas video above for reference.]
Though this sunken plane was in no way a natural beauty of the Exuma’s, it had provided a new meaning: It had created an entire ecosystem. I could’ve watched the tropical fish circle their palace all day, however, we barely had time for the stops actually included on the itinerary, much less for this one we squeezed in. After visiting the iguanas, the pigs, the sharks and Thunderball Grotto, there was only one more stop left today.
We arrived at the sandbar and the sun was still shining brightly. I stepped off the boat into the water. It rested just above my ankles. It was weird, a perspective that didn’t really make logical sense. I mean, we were maybe a mile off of the shore and yet, the water was extremely shallow. The sandbar gave a new meaning to walking on water.
This stop may not have been as adrenaline-rushing as some of our others, but there was something peaceful about having a blank canvas to end the day on. With my Bahamian beer in one hand, I reached into the water with my other, pulling out a sand dollar. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to discover these hidden treasures. As I looked around, I watched as other tourists held 2, 3, 4, even 5 sand dollars in their hands, seeing how many they could find before it was time to go back to the boat.
“Watcha plans for after?” the captain shouted down to us.
“You tell me,” I replied, ready for another local treasure.
“T’n’T,” he said back immediately, “T’n’T.”
Arriving At T’N’T’ Delights
As it turned out, T’n’T’ Delights was just a short walk away from our AirBnb. That’s the beauty of island life–no rush hour and no lengthy drives. After a quick shower and a dousing of insect spray (most of the sand flies come out at sunset), we took a stroll down Queen’s Highway and arrived at T’N’T’ in no time.
Our lunch at Staniel Cay Yacht Club already felt like it was ages ago and I was ready to grab some dinner with our local beers. Though the hut only consisted of about 5 bar stools, the locals were already swarming, filling up the extra benches and picnic tables scattered in the yard. We ordered two Philly cheesesteaks and a beer each, then made our way to one of the picnic tables. It wasn’t long before our captains arrived, joining us at the table. I soon found that everyone on the island was extremely close, though I’m not sure if that came as a surprise.
“This is my cousin. That’s my cousin. He’s my brother. And we not related, but we went to school together our whole lives, so we grew up together,” the captain continued on, pointing everyone out in the backyard.
Dominoes Is A Serious Game
We got up and followed him over to a small table, where four men sat surrounding each other. In the center of them rested a line of dominoes. One by one, they took turns slamming a piece down, shaking the layout and daring the next person to try to top their move. I’ve never seen a game of dominoes played so seriously.
“Watch this,” one of our captains said, looking slyly back at us, “I’m the King.”
He slammed his last piece down, roaring into the air, as the other players shook their heads revealing their last few pieces. I took this as my signal to go check on our food. We’d ordered about 30 minutes ago, and I was hoping our cheesesteaks weren’t just resting on the counter catching flies.
Learning The Local Culture
“Yours isn’t ready yet,” the cashier said, probably identifying me immediately as the only non-local in the crowd.
Walking back over to the games, the captain said, “Yeah, your food’s not gonna be ready for a while. It’s The Bahamas. If you get your food earlier than an hour after you order, then you’re not gonna wanna eat it. Island time, baby.”
We spent the rest of the night hanging out with the locals, ordering each other rounds and learning about each others lives. The Dominos King told us he lived right up the street, too, and was the proud owner of the only peacocks in The Bahamas, showing us pictures of his exotic pets. The other captain was waiting for his girlfriend to get off work from the clothing store down the street. He saved her a beer.
The thing about T’N’T’ was that it’s not a business that is all over the internet, hoping tourists will flock to it and spend their vacation money. In fact, I don’t think it even showed up on Google Maps when searching restaurants. It was a townie bar, meaning it opened and closed when it wanted to. If it’s a busy night, they might be playing dominos until the sun rises.
Our Last Night In The Bahamas
When the stars came out, we took that as our cue. Grabbing some roadies, we strolled down Queens Highway to take in our last night in Great Exuma. There was a nice French family staying in the AirBnb complex with us and they had already started a beach fire, inviting us to join. Happily accepting, we sat under the Milky Way, sharing our experiences from both of our first visits to The Bahamas.
A shooting star shot overhead, adding even more magic to the moment. As the waves crashed into the sand, I smiled, knowing we had done it again. No matter how far we explored away from home, we found a community of accepting people excited to meet us, and those shared moments are something you can’t put a price tag on. That’s what people call their Home Away From Home. However, lately, I’ve been realizing you can have an endless amount of homes away from home and I think I’ve been on a mission to build a city of them.
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