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2021: exumas spearfishing and sea kayaking expedition

November 2021

The idea was simple enough: We would kayak a loop through the Exumas archipelago, paddling a few hours a day, and spearfishing the rest of the day. The goal would be to find the most paradisiacal uninhabited islands, and eat fresh lobster while watching the sunset every night.

So Jack and I thought in 2016, bored one cold winter day and looking at satellite images of the Bahamas together.

The trip was looking to be quite expensive, between flights, $100+ hotels at the start and the finish, and the only kayak rental company charging >$1500 per week. Plus, the seasons to go were narrow, with summer and fall being hurricane season, and winter being too windy and chilly. It would have to be late November or March.

In February 2021, presumably on a cold day, Jack booked flights for November. I hadn't even been thinking of the Bahamas, and nine months out is too far to plan a trip for me. Especially during the pandemic. But Jack and Bruce were confirmed.

Eight months later, Suhei and I committed and bought our flights. We arrived in Exuma November 22.

We managed to negotiate the kayak rental down before our trip, to a more reasonable $275 for the week, for a tandem.

Pushing off the first day was exciting and worrisome. Our kayaks were loaded down with our gear and eight days of water, about 25 liters per person. The wind was a ferocious headwind, and it took an hour of hard effort to go the first mile.

We struggled against the wind the first few days. The islands had multiple open passes to the open sea, and huge waves and strong currents swept through these passes. The longest open water crossing through a pass, about two miles, was somewhat terrifying, with waves swamping the boat. Getting swept out to sea would mean instantly flipping, then desperately clinging to the kayak while trying to access the satellite phone to call for a rescue.

Fortunately, we survived the passes. The islands were incredible. The spearfishing... was just OK. Only Bruce, an expert freediver, managed to catch anything. I got one fish the entire trip, and Jack got maybe four. The reefs are fairly bleached in the Bahamas, and the marine life was not as vibrant and healthy as I'd experienced during our Polynesian Desert Island Survival Expedition.

The hardest and worst part of the trip was the mosquitos. In all seriousness, they basically ruined the paradise experience. Hordes of them come out at dusk and are active all night. Only in heavy wind with a very smoky fire could we lift up our headnets to eat, suffering only a few bites on our face. Sand fleas are present too, and were able to fit through our tent's mesh screen. We didn't sleep, at all, multiple nights, instead writhing and scratching our skin. Despite wearing all our clothes and multiple layers to bed, it was still truly miserable each night.

Locals said mosquitos are not normally so bad in November. I doubt any of them have camped on the islands we did, and so I doubt they know. Looking back, I would only do this trip again in March, when it's drier, windier, and still nice and warm. It's a tough trip, and my quest for the perfect paradise continues.

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