Located just 45 nautical miles southeast of Nassau lies the northern end of the Exumas, an archipelago of over 300 islands. There are a number of great places to visit throughout the Exumas, but if you would just like a small taste of outer island life, you can take the seaplane to Norman’s and Highborne Cays, the first two inhabited islands in the chain. The round trip from Nassau is less than an hour. The seaplane can accommodate up to eight passengers, and the trip costs about $2300 (plus 7.5% VAT).
Norman’s Cay has a dubious distinction in that it was the base for a well known smuggling operation in the late 1970s. A very enterprising Columbian drug kingpin named Carlos Lehder bribed numerous officials in the Bahamian government to look the other way while he set up business on the island. He constructed a 3300 foot runway to allow aircraft coming in from Columbia to land. The drugs were transferred to smaller aircraft and flown into the United States. Lehder built an empire on the island before he was shut down when the U.S. government put pressure on Bahamian officials to crack down on him. One of his early accomplices, George Jung, was played by Johnny Depp in the movie “Blow.”
Your day trip could include snorkeling the wreckage of an airplane that crashed in the bay during the drug smuggling period. After that the seaplane can take you to Highborne Cay, a privately owned island, where you can have lunch at Xuma’s Restaurant and then take a walk or swim on the white sand beaches. I visited there several years ago with my children. While we were on the beach a group of nurse sharks were performing their mating ritual in the shallow waters there. It was fascinating to watch, but if you run into the same thing – stay out of their way!
Cape Air – Providing seaplane day tripping adventures since 1980