Warderick Wells Cay, Exuma Land & Sea Park

Next island: Warderick Wells, in the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park.

Warderick Wells is renowned as “one of the most beautiful anchorages in the world” in a cruising guide we read, and it absolutely is. (Really, Google it. It’s perfect.)

The Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park includes several islands in the northern/mid Exumas, from Shroud Cay (northern-most) to Cambridge Cay (southern-most). Johnny Depp happens to own an entire island in Exuma Park. Naturally.

Warderick Wells Cay is the heart of the Park, hosting the best walking trails, mooring fields, and the park ranger headquarters. We spent our first night in the Emerald Rock mooring field (moorings are $20/day), before moving to the ‘main’ or ‘north’ mooring field, closest to Park HQ. We lucked out because often there is a waiting list – literally days long – to get a spot in the north mooring field. Although, the snorkeling is much better around Emerald Rock.

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Boo Boo Hill is the highest point on Warderick Wells and a short walk from the main beach. An almost unreadable sign at the top of the hill reads:

Take Only Pictures. On a clear day you can see from here to eternity. The cairn on the top of the hill, the tiny cluster of park buildings and the tops of ship masts are the only unnatural objects that disrupt the island’s wild nature. The rule of the park is: Take only pictures and memories, leave only footprints in the sand. This cairn is one of the exceptions to the rule. Memories left by passing cruisers, offerings to the spirits for good weather or to placate the ghosts that inhabit the island, remind us of fellow travelers who love this special place […] Please leave only driftwood. As you look out over this paradise, please respect all you see by leaving it as you found it.

The hill is covered with driftwood offerings, inscribed with boat names, crew members’ names, years visited, and a lingering sense of all their beautiful memories. Alex and I had hiked the hill just after sunrise. It felt like no one else was awake, and that we had the whole island to ourselves:

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On Saturday nights, cruisers congregate for an informal Tiki Hut cocktail party on a beach by the main park office. Appetizers, music, story-swapping – it was the most social contact we’d had in weeks haha. We even met younger cruisers, Hannah and Roger on Hahnunnah and John and Jen on Elissa.

We also got up close and personal to the island’s hutia population – the dumbest rat-meets-guinea-pig mammals you’ll ever find. Hutia have no natural predators and almost went extinct once, until human intervention brought them to Warderick Wells and two other islands in all of the Bahamas (three islands total in the world). Our dogs want nothing more than to decimate the hutia population with all the blood lust their bodies are capable of producing. We opt to walk the dogs on a large sand bar in the middle of the mooring field to avoid any confrontation with the hutias…

Sunday, February 1 was Super Bowl Sunday, and our very own New England Patriots were playing. Alex and I were sure we were going to miss the game because, as far as we knew, the nearest TV was in Staniel Cay, a day away. And we were hunkered down in Warderick Wells, with no desire to leave a mooring in the most beautiful place in the world for a football game. (I guess we’re not ‘die hard’ enough haha.) Luckily, the park rangers were nice enough to host a Super Bowl party at their staff house. Problem solved!

Around 6:15pm, we joined 20-30 other cruisers for an awesome pot luck on the staff porch. Minimal football was watched, but everyone had a good time. Spoiler alert: the Patriots beat the Seattle Sea Hawks in a crazy/historic victory. A very expensive bottle of 2004 Veuve Cliquot champagne was passed around exclusively to Pats fans. There were four of us on the island 🙂

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