Octopus’s Garden in the Shade

We must be back in the Bahamas. The water is such a bright turquoise blue that it hurts our eyes to look at it. We had to pinch ourselves a few times before we could believe that we had actually made it here. After a calm Gulf Stream crossing on the 19th and a glassy day across the banks, we had a good sail to Chubb Cay on the 21st, where we checked in with customs and immigration, and then to New Providence across the Tongue of the Ocean. We motored all night across the Exuma Bank and anchored just before dawn on the 22nd to the west of Highborne Cay.

Today we returned to a favorite spot from our trip two years ago, the “Octopus’s Garden” near the north end of Highborne. It is a great place to start: a coral reef in shallow water (6-8 ft) filled with interesting coral shapes and colorful reef fish, a short dinghy ride from where we are anchored in the protected cove. All the kids are experienced snorkelers now, so that makes it much more fun and relaxing for Jay and me, too. Rachel has a float and a tiny wetsuit, and I simply tow her behind me and hum through my snorkel to keep her happy. “I’d like to be…under the sea…in an octopus’s garden…in the shade…”

I’m always amazed by the water here, and I’m not just talking about the color. It’s so clear that you can count pebbles at 15 feet—depth itself is hard to judge because the bottom always looks close enough to touch. The banks are like a giant swimming pool, clean, clear, and empty. It’s actually a huge underwater desert, with a few oases of coral reef. The most you’ll see coming across the banks are starfish, jellyfish, sponges and the occasional sea cucumber. If you’re lucky, the Dolphins of Happiness will come to greet you, but more likely than not, you’ll see nothing but blue for miles and miles and miles.


But once you find a reef, there is more life than you can take in at one glance. In and amongst the heads of brain coral, star coral, finger coral, purple sea fans and tubular sponges swim nurse sharks, spotted eagle rays, damselfish, angelfish, parrotfish, squirrelfish, barracuda, snapper, fairy basslet, blue chromis, seargent majors, goatfish, butterflyfish, tang and triggerfish—you just have to hear their names to know that something amazing is swimming your way. We’re planning on spending as much time as possible over the coming weeks under, on and around these beautiful waters.