By Athena Mabon
From space, astronaut Scott Kelly was entranced by the Bahamas’ beautiful Exuma Cays as he orbited earth.
Tweeting that the image of Exuma never got old, Kelly marvelled at the myriad shades of blue that make up the Exuma sea –from exquisite turquoises and sea greens to cobalt blue.
“The strokes of your watercolours are always a refreshing sight,” he’d tweet, struggling for words to describe the beauty that nature, in the form of shallow sand banks, ocean canyons and crystal clear water, has blessed Exuma with.
This is one of the main reasons why Exuma real estate is so popular.
Ask any Exuma property owner what they like best about the islands and the sea and stunning white powder sand beaches will feature prominently in the answer.
Another important component is the quiet, laid back lifestyle that Great Exuma and the Exuma Cays (pronounced “keys’) offers.
Exuma soothes the soul.
It is a place to unplug and to rejuvenate. The hassles of everyday life tend to become insignificant as the human spirit starts to flow with the tide in perfect harmony with nature.
The Exuma Cays stretch more than 90 miles – from Beacon Cay in the north to Great and Little Exuma in the south, Great Exuma being the hub of Exuma life.
The first northern cay is not quite 40 miles from Nassau, but it’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
There are hundreds of cays and rocks comprised of both rolling hills and flat land and many more secret coves and bays and fabulous anchorages.
They are a favourite retreat for both Exuma home owners and residents of Nassau.
The Exuma Cays are home to the first national sea park in the world – The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park – and the snorkelling is fantastic.
The second home industry and tourism are the engines that drive the Exuma economy. There are several boutique hotel marinas scattered throughout the Exuma Cays while Great Exuma hosts a world class Sandals Resort at Emerald Bay, boutique hotels, a number of high end Exuma real estate gated communities and great little bistros, delis and fun spots.
There are a number of international banks, grocery and liquor stores and clothing and gift stores on Great Exuma.
There are no movie houses, malls or fast food outlets.
The Lucayan Indians are the first known settlers of Exuma. This peaceful group of people migrated to Exuma to get away from the aggressive Caribs.
However, the Lucayans were wiped out by the Spanish after Columbus made his landfall in the New World here in the Bahamas. They were taken as slaves and forced to work the fields of Hispaniola and Central and South America.
Things remained quiet in Exuma until the 1780s when British Loyalists fled persecution in American in the the fall-out from the American revolution.
A struggle over the Bahamas between Spain and England ended with the latter receiving rights to the Bahamas around this period.
The British Loyalists arrived in Exuma from a number of the southern state of the U.S., bringing with them slaves. More slaves were brought in from West Africa.
For their loyalty to England, the Loyalists received Exuma property grants and established cotton plantations. Most of their Exuma property was cleared using the slash-and-burn method to make way for cotton with the slaves working the fields.
Exuma flourished and George Town was established in 1793 with Exuma property offered for sale in 1794.
In the early19th Century, cotton failed with the thin topsoil on the Exuma land overworked and chenille infestation.
In 1883, the slaves revolted on the Rolle plantations in Exuma as they sort to shake off the horrible shackles of the past. That year, the Emancipation Act Was passed in the British Parliament. The slaves were freed on August 1st, 1838.
Much of the Exuma land became owned by the former slaves and their descendants.
Today, Exuma is a blend of the offspring of African slaves, Loyalists and second home owners– all living in harmony and glad to call Exuma home.