Sea Turtles in St Barts
St Barts, more formally known as Saint-Barthélemy, is one of the most exclusive of islands in the Caribbean with a great mix of tropical charm and European sophistication. And just as it is a home to a diverse cultural mix it is also home to wide variety of wildlife. This is very much thanks to the government and their progressive protection policy with the establishment of the Natural Reserves which protect not just a number of species but their habitats as well.
For a small island it has 22 beautiful beaches all of them worth a visit and most of them teeming with a myriad of marine life among them all 6 of the sea turtle's species found in the Caribbean. These are ancient reptiles which date back some 200 million years to the age of the dinosaur. Being amphibian they managed to survive the ice age and while being threatened with extinction, due to the work here in St Barts and elsewhere, there is good hope for their long term survival. St Barts has the fortunate accolade as having proportionally more turtles than anywhere else in the Caribbean.
There are a number of places where you can swim with these awesome animals but one of our favourite spots is Anse a Colombier on the northwestern tip of the island. Here the turtles enjoy wallowing in the warm shallow water and feeding on the sea grass and other marine life that proliferate here. Occasionally you even see the magnificent leatherback turtle – quite a sight. The largest turtle in the world and one of the largest reptiles they can grow to up to ten feet in length and over 2,000 pounds in weight.
This beautiful beach is only accessible by boat, although it is possible to walk in, so it tends to be a little quieter than some of the others. As well as home to the turtles there are schools of brightly coloured fish and an array of coral reefs in the warm, crystal clear water making this a snorkelers' paradise. And with the most stunning of sunsets Colombier makes a lovely calm overnight anchorage onboard your luxury charter yacht.
Stingrays in Antigua
Situated on the eastern coast of Antigua is StingRay City and it is here you get the chance to swim, feed and play with the amazingly gentle Southern Stingrays. Some people refer to them as the puppies of the sea but for me they feel a little more like cats or kittens. Playful but very soft and silky-like - while you are standing they rub themselves around your legs not dissimilarly to the way cats do when you are in the kitchen. And just like cats they too want to be fed. The favourite thing on their menu is squid so come prepared and you will be rewarded. Just like cats sting rays love food and you will likely find yourself with two or three hopefuls in attendance so do wait to start feeding until you feel comfortable with having them around.
But there is no need to be scared of them. They do have a mixed reputation and of course famously killed the explorer Steve Irwin by piercing his heart with a sting but in reality they are docile, non-aggressive animals only attacking in self-defence. These stingrays are very social and, while still wild and able to come and go at whim, are very used to humans and are not threatened by us. Your guide will show you how to do the stingray shuffle (to make sure you don't accidentally stand on one when you first get in the water) and you will be amazed at how adorable these strangely shaped animals are.
Not many of us know much about these creatures so here are a few stingray facts:
• Stingrays are actually fish and closely related to sharks.
• They have been around for a long time. Fossils date back 150 million years.
• They find their prey not by their eyes but with their electro-sensors which allow them to detect the electrical current in other animals.
• Some stingrays "fly" through the water moving their flippers while other undulate their whole bodies.
• The largest stingrays can reach 6.5 feet in length and weigh up to 790 pounds.
Stingrays also love being petted. They are velvety soft, and standing in the warm shallow water stroking their bodies is a lovely feeling. They are gentle with enough intellect to be playful and this captivating experience will leave you with a big smile before returning to your luxury charter yacht to be pampered by your crew.
Whales in Dominica
Want to get close and personal with the huge sperm whale then the most reliable place in the whole world to go is the small island of Dominica, the northern-most island in the Windward Island Group in the Caribbean. It is a wild and enchanting paradise and with its volcanoes, waterfalls, rivers and lush flora and fauna it is no wonder it is nicknamed the "Nature Island".
And this doesn't even take into account the marine life including the dozens of sperm whales. These resident marine mammals, mostly adult females and their offspring feed, nurse and socialize on the protected west coast. The sea floor drops dramatically to several thousand feet close to the coast and this provides the perfect habitat for the largest carnivore on the planet.
It used to be possible to swim with these amazing creatures however this is changing in an effort to ensure the whales' long term welfare. It may be possible to get a permit and still get in the water snorkelling with them but even if not you do have the chance to see these mammoth mammals as they cavort at the surface.
There is also a huge variety of other marine life to see close to Dominica from Humpback and Pilot whales to 21 species of dolphins including the "false" Killer Whale, the Orca. And what better way to see all of these but from the comfort of the deck of your very own luxury charter yacht. This truly is the destination of choice for the marine life lover looking for adventure and unforgettable encounters.
And ... Pigs in the Bahamas?
Perfect white beaches and idyllic clear waters make the Bahamas a dream destination. It is little wonder that this is the playground of the rich and famous. But as well as the superstars and jet setters there is something very unusual taking to the water in Paradise. On the tiny uninhabited island of Big Major Cay in the Exumas there is a tourist attraction that everyone adores. Everyone, regardless of age, nationality, gender... finds these animals cute, delightful and totally unexpected. Yes, pigs may not fly but they can indeed swim.
There is a theory that it is the clarity of the water that enables these usually land-based mammals to swim here, and be assured this is not a little paddling in the shallows but a fall-on fast swim. But actually pigs have been known to swim elsewhere. They are one of the few animals that do not have sweat glands so it makes sense that they cool off by wallowing in the mud or water and know how to swim.
However, while they can swim we don't often find pigs on deserted islands though, so that begs the question ... how did these piggy paddlers end up in paradise?
Again there are theories: are these wee "babes" descendants of olden-day pigs that survived a shipwreck, or perhaps they were intentionally introduced by locals, early settlers or even swashbuckling pirates as a food source. It's even possible, although less likely, that they swan across from neighbouring inhabited islands. But how they ended up island residents does not really matter now. What is very clear is that since being there they have thrived with now more than 40 pigs calling the place home and lots of little piglets ensuring that their legacy will continue long into the future.
So how did these pigs become so successful? Pigs are very clever, and they have found that there is such a thing as a free lunch! And swimming out to anchored boats is just the ticket for a varied and delicious diet with very little work involved.
And it is clear that pigs have claimed this small slice of heaven as their own. "Pig Island" is proof to the persistence, inventiveness and pioneering spirit of the social and somewhat pretentious Pig.
So while you enjoy all the luxuries that your charter yacht offers, when you are next in the Bahamas do search out this island and tick off this most unusual experience of swimming with these amazing and adorable animals.
For information about the luxury charter yachts that are available in the Caribbean please contact the charter yacht experts at the Luxury Charter Group.