There’s tons of Bahamas islands, which is why I decided to attempt to see as many as possible in 24 hours!
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a private pilot, and just fly wherever you want, whenever you want? Well, that’s certainly the life for my good friend Ed, who flies back and forth from Palm Beach to the Bahamas up to five times per week! He either goes for fun, to visit friends, or to help people out if they’re stuck, and you’ll typically find him flying in board shorts and flip flops, without a care in the world.
I’ve known Ed for about six years, but wasn’t ever quite sure what the hell he did on all of these Bahamas trips…then one day, he and another pilot friend were asking how I got a visa to Cuba, and they started talking about flying through the Bahamas to get there. Naturally, my brain immediately jumped to, “Wait I wanna go”, and moments later I had a schedule of all the flights they were supposed to be taking while I would be in town in Florida.
I made it very clear that I wanted to see the damn swimming pigs, but that trip was scheduled for the day I was supposed to fly back to LA…so what do I do? Change my flight, and hop on board!
I was a bit worried at first when I showed up and realized that I would be co-piloting the single-engine Cherokee plane…but after the first take off and landing it was clear that he had done it a bazillion times. Plus he taught me how to do everything…just in case…and he wrote it off as, “Take your friend to work day.”
Anyway, his work agenda for the day included 5 scheduled stops at different islands in the Bahamas, but he was determined to show me the maximum amount possibly (including the pigs) in a 24 hour span, so we ended up making it to 8 in total!
Additionally we flew over (and by ‘over’ I mean his crazy ass when down low enough to the water to the point that I thought we were going to crash) a lot of other islands where you could see celebrity mansions, a sunken drug plane, sharks, and the awesome contrast of the ocean floor through the crystal clear waters!
Check it out:
First stop was Treasure Cay, which only took an hour to get to from Palm Beach. We landed smoothly on a runway where the only structures were the small customs office, and a fire truck hangar for the one fire truck and fireman on the island.
We stopped here because one of Ed’s friends was stuck on a yacht that broke, so he was bringing him a boat piece to fix it in Green Turtle Cay, but we had to stop here first to go through customs.
Of course Ed has friends everywhere in the Bahamas since he’s always there, so it was easy to get a boat ride to Green Turtle Cay to drop off the boat part, and then stop for an early lunch at a tropical little outdoor bar called Pineapples. The conch fritters were ridiculous and so was the rum punch the bright and cheery bartender lady made me, although I think she thought I was a little crazy when I asked for a bag to take the leftover food to the swimming pigs at the next cay.
The swimming pigs you typically see in photos are in Exuma, but story has it that the people in Abacos wanted their own swimming pigs, so brought a few over to an uninhabited cay which is dubbed, “No Name Cay”. We borrowed a Boston Whaler and went and found the piggies, although they were a bit spoiled, and made us swim to them on land instead of coming to the boat.
The little cay had hand-made signs up warning people that the pigs bits, and also to indicate areas for “Food” and “Water” for the pigs. There was one giant one and about five cute little babies, all of which absolutely loved my leftover conch fritters!
The next order of business was meeting up with a family that was vacationing on the prestigious Harbour Island. To get there, we had to land in North Eleuthera, and then take a ferry over to the smaller island since it doesn’t have a runway.
Since we were early picking up the family, we rented a golf cart for $30 to go “sightseeing in one hour” while we waited. Ed, who could double as a professional tour guide, brought me to see the pink sand where the fancy hotels are built, and where we stopped to eat at a chic little seaside restaurant called the Dunmore.
Then we went to see the “salt tree” which I didn’t understand the appeal of until I actually got there and saw how beautiful the white-painted branches look against the clear-blue waters that create a stunning backdrop behind it.
We also say the island’s “Haunted House” which is essentially an old mansion that burned down a long time ago, but its stone skeleton remains, and actually makes for a pretty beautiful space for events and weddings, although there’s a 0% chance I’d go there at night.
We brought the awesome and adorable family of four to Norman’s Cay in Exuma, which is known for being the headquarters of Carlos Lehder and George Jung‘s drug smuggling operation from 1978 to 1982. Ironically George Jung was just released from prison.
The once-heavily guarded island warned pilots not to land there during the drug days, which is probably why you’ll see the sunken plane in its bay. Norman’s Cay is also where the movie Blow was filmed with Johnny Depp, who portrayed the life story of George Jung.
Nassau is obviously one of the more well known islands in the Bahamas, and I had been to Atlantis a few times before, but we were meeting people in the opposite area. A place called Lyford Cay where many wealthy people have homes in the tropical paradise.
Everyone was fun and friendly, especially Ed’s friend (who could be his female counterpart) who picked us up from the airstrip and invited us to her house for some food.
Our final stop in the Bahamas was all the way back up north in Abaco where some more of his friends had spent a few days diving and fishing in Walker’s Cay. This was probably the smallest island out of all of them, and in fact, I couldn’t even see anything besides trees and water around the small, dinky runway.
We didn’t stay very long, in fact, we were so rushed to get out of there that Ed almost left his phone on the bench the customs lady was sitting at, because dark, pillowing storm clouds were quickly approaching the runway.
But, we made it just in time, with no turbulence or anything from the threatening storm clouds, and in just an hour we were back to the private airport in Palm Beach, all in one piece!