Milton’s Outdoor Program has traveled far and wide in search of adventure, while learning to appreciate the wonder and beauty of the outdoors. For the past four years the outdoor program has offered Spring Breaks trips that can only be described as out of this world — hiking and backcountry skiing in and around Yosemite National Park, hiking and mountain biking in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and kayaking and exploring in Belize. This March was no different. Eight Milton students along with Outdoor Program Director Matt Bingham and his wife Dr. Sarah Teele spent their spring break completing a self-sufficient sea-kayaking journey of roughly forty miles through Exuma Cayes in the Bahamas.
After a pre-trip Mexican dinner and overnight in Miami the Milton group flew to Nassau, Bahamas on March 23, where they met guides from Ibis Tours, a New York based adventure tour company specializing in kayaking along the Exuma Cayes. From Nassau the group took charter flights to the sparsely inhabited Staniel Cay (see map) where they “built” their collapsible kayaks and packed into them, a weeks worth of food, equipment and clothing. The next morning the group set off in six tandem sea-kayaks on a one way journey north.
For the next five days the group paddled or sailed kayaks along the western edge of the Exuma chain, stopping for snorkeling and a lunch break, while each night they made camp on a different island sleeping under the moonlit sky.
On the second day the group entered the Exuma Land and Sea Park, a Bahamian National Park. Day four brought the group to the park’s warden station, the first connection with civilization since the beginning of the trip. The group continued on, negotiating The Wide Opening, a section traversing eight miles of water with no landing; only one in three tour groups successfully cross The Wide Opening. Small islands provide minimal shelter from the strong wind, currents and large ocean swell that hit The Wide Opening from Exuma Sound to the east. Blessed with good weather the Milton crew made it across and was rewarded with a two-night stay at the next camp.
After a lazy day of kayak sailing races and a long snorkeling trip, it was time to finish the journey. Day six brought steady wind and fast sailing to Norman’s Cay, the last camp of the trip. Before hitting the beach, the group snorkeled around the submerged wreckage of a small plane, a reminder of the illegal drug trade that flourished on Norman’s Cay in the 1980s. The plane is home to a myriad of fish, corals and one resident octopus. Once on the last beach the group disassembled the boats and repacked their gear. An early-morning charter flight returned the gang to Nassau, tired but with memories of the amazing underwater wildlife —rays, nurse sharks, barracuda, lobsters, conch and numerous species of tropical fish and corals — beautiful weather, and most of all, excellent camaraderie.