Visiting Great Exuma is the type of experience you could never duplicate anywhere else. Bahamians light up when describing the electric blue, deep turquoise and crystal clear waters surrounding the 365 islands and cays. The beauty of Great Exuma attracts travelers from all across the globe as the landscape is not just to be seen, but experienced as well.
The locals will tell you, anyone making a visit to their highly esteemed island must take in the James Bond 007 Thunderball Tour. Operated by Exuma Water Sports, the James Bond 007 Thunderball Tour is “one of the world’s most spectacular tours” allowing adventurous visitors to experience the beauty and hidden secrets of 150 islands and cays stretching from Great Exuma to Compass Cay. As destination experts, your Beach Bum Vacation team knew this was an experience not to be missed. The morning started out on an up beat, everyone stirring with excitement as we boarded the 35 foot, 600 HP sea rocket and took off on what we knew would be an experience of a lifetime.
Captain Ray Lightbourn along with his first mate and son, Justin were the perfect hosts. We’d be flying through the islands and come to a quick stop so they could point out a site of interest we’d never have picked up ourselves – a sunken plane visible through the turquoise waters here, a celebrity home there, the last lighthouse in the Bahamas and at one point Justin dove off the boat to grab a starfish resting just 10 feet below on the ocean floor for us all to see. Not only do they know the sites but they explain the significance of the landmarks which helped us all to better understand and appreciate the island history.
After an exhilarating ride and site seeing tour, it was time to get to the action. We started by pulling up to what seemed like an uninhabited island but as soon as we hit the shore, iguanas started descending from the hills knowing we were waiting for them with delicious grape kabobs. The friendly lizards were all too happy to entertain us by dancing and smiling for our cameras.
Among the next few stops was one of our favorites. The famous Swimming Pigs were just as anxious to see us as we were to see them. They paddled their way out to the boat and we jumped in for a swim with them. While we were having fun, these pigs were on a mission to eat as many rolls and turkey dogs we could feed them. As soon as our supply was out, they ditched us for shore, and we were off to our next exciting adventure.
The James Bond 007 Thunderball tour has attracted the attention of celebrities and national media crews looking to see one of the best kept secrets in the Caribbean, the Thunderball Grotto. As the ‘headlining act’ of the tour, we were excited to slip our fins on and dive in and see what all the hype was about. After a quick lesson on navigating through and under the rock walls, we swam with ease into the Thunderball Grotto. The most amazing rush of tropical fish surround you as you enter into the cave, and taking a rest on the inside walls allows you to marvel at the hidden cove of sea life inside the rock. Ducking through the passages makes you feel as adventurous as James Bond himself! After all, it is the location where the fight scene between James Bond (Sean Connery) and the SPECTRE henchmen was filmed in the 1965 classic Thunderball!
Throughout the day we enjoyed cruising along with plenty of refreshments, fresh pineapple slices and coconut cookies. For lunch we stopped at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and sampled their fresh specials including conch fritters, the mahi mahi sandwich and of course, the Goombay Smash! The day would have not have been complete without a sweet ending of home-made rum cake on a secluded sandbar out in the middle of the ocean. All in all it was a delicious, adventurous, beautiful day every beach bum should experience!
After living on Caribbean and Mariana islands as well as traveling extensively abroad, Beach Bum clients Melissa and Rick agree that the tour was the best they’ve ever experienced.
“Our Beach Bum, Robert, recommended that we take the 007 Thunderall Tour during our trip to Exuma to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Let me just say it was the highlight of our trip. We took lots of pictures and I display them on a digital picture frame in my office. People always ask about the “swimming pigs” and laugh when they see it! It is a tour that I also recommend and when I tell them about all the activities and experiences they are amazed. The beauty of the ocean and abundance of sea life leaves a lasting impression and wonderful memory to cherish for a lifetime. This has been one of my best days ever!!!!! I want to go again!”
Don’t just take our word for it, put it on your bucket list and contact your Beach Bum about planning your own trip of a lifetime to Great Exuma. It’s much closer than you might think!
Calling all Beach Bums! News Flash: we’ve discovered the Bora Bora of the Caribbean! Exuma, Bahamas, Sandals Emerald Bay Resort & Spa where the only thing missing is over water bungalows (don’t think we didn’t put it in the suggestion box! 😉 ). The one mile stretch of pristine powder white sand beach snuggles up to the most sparkling turquoise blue ocean I’ve ever seen! Zero beach solicitation, no crowds, no commercialization, a true tranquil, exquisite Paradise where service is second to none!
Located a very quick flight from Ft Lauderdale, Miami, or Atlanta (nonstop from Toronto, Canada also) Sandals Emerald Bay is a short 10 minute shuttle from the airport, which coincidentally looks like someone’s home, too cute! Just love the charm & simplicity Exuma exudes, not to mention the overly accommodating, friendly people who are obvious products of their Heaven-haven 80 degree year round temperature surroundings. It’s no wonder celebrities like Johnny Depp, Faith Hill & Tim McGraw, & David Copperfield have homes on the island! Spot the celebs’ oceanside mansions on the awesome “007 Thunderball Tour” available through your Beach Bum Travel Concierge via Island Routes Tour Co. A must do during your chilaxation on Exuma at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Opened in January 2010, Sandals Emerald Bay is the newest of Mr. Gordon “Butch” Stewart’s collection. I daren’t say that it’s also the one he’s most proud of by the ear to ear smile that comes across his face when talking about it & rightfully so! In 2011 Sandals Emerald Bay was votedBest Honeymoon Caribbean Resort by Bride’s Magazine. It is also the recipient of Travel Weekly’s 2010 Magellan Gold Award for Golf Course Design (a stunning 18 hole beauty designed by Greg Norman). The World Travel Awards voted Sandals Emerald Bay the Bahamas’ Leading Spa Resort, and it’s Red Lane Spa has earned the Six Star Diamond Award!
Speaking of awards, during our stay at Sandals Emerald Bay General Manager, Jeremy Mutton, presented Beach Bum Vacation with an Appreciation Award! Thank you Mr. Mutton, you & your staff’s hospitality was second to none. A+
Sandals Emerald Bay is perfect for couples. Looking to celebrate a new marriage or rejoice in a milestone, it truly is romantic, luxury, relaxation, secluded with everything included. It features two fresh water pools, including the Caribbean’s largest zero-entry pool with a fire pit in the center. There are couches, chairs, poolside cabanas with misters, and tables in the pool so you may lounge around in comfort. There are 6 delightful dining options including Il Cielo (Italian), La Parisienne (French), Bahama Bay (Mediterranean, Asian, Mexican or Italian flares throughout the week), Dino’s (Pizzeria, Pasta, Stromboli), Drunken Duck (British Pub), Barefoot by the Sea (Local Specialty), & Café De Paris (Patisserie). Let’s not forget, every suite includes 24 hr room service!
While it is a more quiet resort, there is still plenty of action. At Sandals, all-inclusive really means just that! Complimentary to all the guests are dance lessons, introductory golf and tennis lessons, live music, jazz performances and piano sing-alongs. If water sports are what you’re seeking; kayaks, windsurfing, hobie cat sail, snorkeling, scuba diving, or take out a paddle boat, all included. Social events such as White Nights, Opera Singers, Beach Parties, & Chocolate Late Night Buffets also keep you entertained.
One of my favorite experiences here at Sandals Emerald Bay was touring the golf course. Greg Norman designed this 7001 yard, par 72 Championship course, which features 6 Signature Oceanside holes. To me, that means nothing because I’m not a golfer, but trust me when I tell you that this course MUST be experienced. The beauty of the contrast between the green fairways and the turquoise waters, the peacefulness of the waves crashing against the rocky shore…WOW! A great place for a photo opp!
Sandals Emerald Bay is truly a luxury property in every sense of the word. Each room comes with personal Concierge service, and if you stay in a One Bedroom or more, you will get your own professionally-trained Butler, who will take note of all of your preferences and make sure you are always refreshed with a drink and stocked with everything you need to enjoy your vacation or honeymoon experience to the maximum. Stephen was our butler, he was absolutely AMAZING! Check out our phenomenal Prime Minister Beach Front One Bedroom Villa Suite, WOW!
BEACH BUM’S HIDDEN FINDS IN EXUMA: Check out Chat “n” Chill – a relaxing hang out on its own island just a short ferry ride from downtown Georgetown. Feed the friendly stingrays right from knee deep transparent waters, drink a delightful Goombay Smash or 2 😉 while relaxing under a palm tree, try the most amazing conch salad prepared by AJ right in front of you, or do absolutely nothing at all! Tell KB the Beach Bums sent you.
Catch A Fire Restaurant & Bar, offering an amazing ambiance Wed and Sat evenings for the most beautiful sunsets, musical entertainment, & the best curried lobster! Tell Tony & Neville the Beach Bums sent you.
Ryan and Denielle tied the knot in paradise in April and we have the inside scoop! Beach Bum Becky was instrumental in this amazing experience along with our partner, Real Resorts and their beautiful resort The Royal Playa del Carmen!
What some of the guests said:
The Royal Playa del Carmen was an absolutely beautiful resort. As we walked through the lobby and it overlooked the ocean I truly felt we were transported to paradise. The entire week was an amazing experience. The best part was watching our best friends get married in paradise. The wedding was absolutely beautiful. We wish nothing but the best for Denielle and Ryan and are truly grateful we were invited to share their special day with them in paradise!
Kasey & Rob
Ryan and Denielle’s wedding was spectacular! The resort was fabulous, as well. The planning that Beach Bum Becky and Ryan and Denielle did was so well done! There was a real “touch of class” throughout the ceremony and the resort.
Everyone that attended appeared to be very happy, especially the wedding couple! There was a lot of love that permeated throughout the group! Ryan has married a beautiful young lady whose beauty is evident both inside and out!
I could not be prouder of my son and the girl that he married! Her family is so nice and it is wonderful to have us all joined as one family now. It was one of the best experiences of my life!
Rick Paynter Father of the Groom
We want to thank this happy couple for the opportunity to share their Before and After the “I Do” wedding experience with us and wish them many years of joy! We hope to send you two on many more Beach Bum Vacations!
Please review the resort and overall wedding experience in as much detail as you wish:
Overall, our destination wedding was everything we could have hoped it would be and the resort was absolutely amazing.
The Royal Playa del Carmen is true paradise and I do not think that you can find better service anywhere. We’ve both been to several all-inclusives, and agree that The Royal Playa del Carmen was the best resort we’ve ever been to. The food & drink are plentiful, the service is the best you can get, there’s tons to do, and the rooms are fabulous. (One tip – spring for a swim up suite if you can! No “towel game” at the pool and we loved our suite! We would also order room service for lunch so we never had to leave the pool area!) Our favorite restaurant was Asiana for dinner, get the crepes at breakfast, and order room service – they’ll bring you anything you want! Venturing out to 5th Avenue is also a ton of fun – you cannot beat The Royal’s location!
My off-site wedding coordinator (Ana) and my on-site wedding coordinator (Lili) were both great – very detail oriented, organized, and friendly – exactly what you need in a wedding coordinator.
Our ceremony in the Oceanfront Gazebo was just breathtaking. The Royal’s staff set everything up for the ceremony and reception exactly how I wanted them, nothing was amiss! We loved having our own friend officiate the service so that we could write our own ceremony – for us, personal touches mean the most.
Our reception was more than we could have asked for!
Did anything drastically change from your original wedding plans once you arrived on property? If so, what was it and why did it change?
The only drastic change was where our cocktail hour and reception was held. Due to impending rain clouds, we moved our cocktail hour and reception from the beach to a covered patio and a ballroom. The location of these events was not as important to me as the outdoor ceremony in the gazebo, so the change was really not a huge deal, and actually turned out to be a better option!
What was your favorite moment of your wedding trip?
Besides our ceremony, my favorite moment was our reception. The resort made the ballroom into what seemed like our own personal club, and all of our guests had a great time with amazing food, personalized service (the wait staff was awesome!), and fabulous music. Seeing everyone have a great time made everything worth it!
Did you go on any off-site excursions or sight-seeing trips?
We did not do any for our wedding in Mexico, although several of our guests did (ziplining, ATV, bicycle tours, visits to the ruins, etc.). Everyone enjoyed the off-site excursions.
We did offsite excursions once we relocated for our honeymoon at Couples Tower Isle in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We enjoyed the Island Village shopping trip, Dunns River Falls, and the Catamaran Cruise.
What kind of feedback did you receive from guests?
Our guests absolutely fell in love with The Royal Playa del Carmen and the idea of destination weddings after they saw one for themselves. Many guests are already talking about return trips.
If you used a resort photographer, what was your experience and feedback?
We used an off-site photographer (Juan Navarro Photography) for both our wedding and a Trash the Dress session the next day. Juan and his staff are true artists and absolutely amazing. Juan was able to provide me with advice about the weather when I was stressing about it on our wedding day, and he also made sure to get every single shot I wanted. His team is truly dedicated to their work!
What advice would you now give to another couple going through the destination wedding planning experience now that you have returned?
Read the online forums – there is a wealth of information there! I got so many great ideas from those forums.
Stay in constant communication with your Travel Agent. I was so thankful that I had daily access to Beach Bum Becky by email (or phone if I wanted). It made my Type-A OCD Planner personality happy, lol. She always answered questions promptly and always let me know I was important to her. I always tried to keep her informed of everything that I could; it’s great to have someone who is able to back you up on things and help organize the travelers.
Research! I was able to save a lot of money by using an outside florist, bringing my own chair sashes, and by doing a lot of planning. Also, research outside photographers and videographers and be aware of your resort’s vendor fees. I had vendor fees for both my photography team (Juan Navarro Photography) and my videography team (Cancun Wedding Video) but it was worth every penny to know that I was getting the service and style that I wanted to capture our wedding day moments.
Be organized and document everything! It helped when I had my meeting with our on-site coordinator before our wedding. I had notes of how I wanted everything, diagrams, and table seating charts. I brought a suitcase full of stuff and Lili & her team took it from there!
Don’t let the weather stress you out! I let the weather stress me out for the days leading up to my wedding, even though I already knew the resort had alternate options if bad weather did come. Enjoy yourself, your wedding will beautiful no matter what the weather – plus, rain on your wedding day is lucky and cloudy days make for better pictures!
If you are going to do out of town bags, give them out before you leave! We did a “travel document pickup” meeting where we gave everyone their travel documents and gave out the bags. That way, less for us to lug down, and the guests could figure out exactly what they wanted to bring with them on the trip.
Do the Trash the Dress photoshoot! It was a lot of fun (although very tiring), and they are such original pictures that you can’t get at a “regular” wedding.
“Upon arrival at Sandals Emerald Bay we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by Jeremy Mutton, the General Manager of the resort. He personally drove just Karen and I to the resort. Wow! When we reached the resort grounds, the manager over the butlers was there to welcome us and whisk us away. Sandals Emerald Bay is as close to heaven as I could ever imagine! The water in the ocean is the brightest turquoise we have ever seen and the resort is amazing. We were upgraded to a Walkout Palm Bay Oceanview Luxury Suite that was gorgeous, we were conveniently located to everything! It was spectacular!
Becky, there is no question in our minds that the service we received is because of the things you and Beach Bum Vacation do for us. The friends we met fromMontreal and Texas all have your name and number now. They saw the special treatment we received and I am certain you will hear from them when they book their next vacation. Thank you for arranging our Beach Bum Vacations each year. As I have always said, you are the best!”
We just got home from the perfect vacation and have all the thanks to give to Beach Bum Nanda. My husband and I were looking for a unique honeymoon destination that offered sunshine and beaches, outdoor adventure, culture, somewhat of a nightlife/great restaurants, and an option that fit within our budget. After throwing several ideas back and forth to one another, we were unable to come up with a destination that “fit the bill” and were slightly stressing! So we reached out to friends for recommendations on good travel agencies, and were referred to Nanda with Beach Bum Vacation. From that point forward plans fell right into place, completely worry free! First off, Beach Bum Nanda knew to ask the right questions, enabling her to suggest a destination that offered everything we were looking for – St. Lucia! She was extremely thorough with all of her feedback, always responded in a timely manner, and really just nailed the perfect place for us. She made planning this trip so easy, which allowed us to be able to sit back and just get excited about our upcoming adventure. Beach Bum Nanda was a complete pleasure to work with and I will recommend her services to everyone!
Our honeymoon was truly fantastic! We would not have changed one thing. Perfect amount of relaxation, outdoor adventure and partying down. We are so happy we took the helicopter ride from the airport to the resort (suggested by Beach Bum Nanda); great way to kick off the trip with an exciting adventure! It was so cool to see the rainforest, volcano and beaches from an aerial view, and at the same time avoid the long, winding drive! Sandals La Toc Golf Resort & Spa was perfect for so many reasons. Many different and delicious restaurant options, rowdy and relaxing pools, great beach access, extremely friendly staff, guests were all on the same page as us, and overall just a great atmosphere. Our room was also perfect, we stayed in a Honeymoon Oceanview 2-Story Verandah Butler Suite. We loved having the indoor and outdoor lounging options (and even though I originally wanted an uncovered balcony, I am glad we went the route that we did because it rained a few nights and was fun to still be able to sit outside with a bottle of wine, listening to the waves, hanging with the hubby). The butler service was incredible. Donovan and Denver were both such great guys and provided outstanding service, it was a real treat having room service for breakfast on our balcony most mornings/lunch delivered poolside/late night food, the unlimited bar definitely came in handy, and it was just nice having them there to answer questions, check us in for our adventures, make our dinner reservations, get us checked in & out of the resort, etc. The few adventures we participated in (zip-lining, Land & Sea, and the sunset booze cruise) were all a total blast and made for a very well-rounded trip. Again, I cannot thank you enough, Beach Bum Nanda, for your recommendation of St. Lucia and for all of your help with organizing the trip. It is a vacation we will remember for the rest of our lives, not only because it was our honeymoon but because it was seriously just that wonderful.