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Ragged Island & Jumento Cays

This, the most remote territory recommended in this guide, might come under the classification of "faraway places with strange-sounding names." The area is visited by very few tourists, except for stray people who come in on yachts.

The thing that's truly memorable here is the sunset, which, except in the rare times when clouds obscure the sky and the horizon, bursts forth in some of the most spectacular shades of gold, purple, red, and orange -- and sometimes with a green flash reflecting in the crystal-clear waters.

This island group, a miniarchipelago, begins with Jumento Cays off the west point of Long Island and runs in a half-moon shape for some 161km (100 miles) down to Ragged Island; Little Ragged Island is the southernmost bit of land at the bottom of the crescent. They comprise the southeastern limit of the Great Bahama Bank.

Ragged Island and its string of uninhabited cays are the backwaters of The Bahamas, since most of them are so tiny and so unimportant they don't often appear on maps. However, visitors who return from this area talk of the remarkable beauty of these little pieces of land and coral.

Sailing in this area in bad weather is dangerous because of the unrelenting winds. Otherwise, the cays would be better known among the boating crowd. In summer it's usually a good place to cruise the waters.

Like nearly all the islands in this section, Ragged Island knew greater prosperity when hundreds of inhabitants worked its salt flats. Today Duncan Town, the little hamlet still standing on the island, is all that's left of the island's better days. Its people are hardworking and weather-beaten, and many have a difficult time making a living. Nassau seems to have forgotten this outpost of the nation.

Some of the little cays, from Jumento Cay around the semicircle toward Ragged Island, have names such as No Bush Cay, Dead Cay, Sisters Cay, Nurse Cay, Double-Breasted Cay, and Hog Cay. There's a Raccoon Cay, as well as a Raccoon Cut. A light tower stands on Flamingo Cay.

Visitors are so rare that anybody's arrival is treated as an event, and the townspeople are eager to help in any way they can. There's a 914m (3,000-ft.) paved airstrip here, but it's only accessible to private planes, so it's not used much.

A mail boat leaves Potter's Cay in Nassau on Tuesday at 5pm en route to Ragged Island, for $55 one-way. It returns on Thursday. For details about costs and sailing, contact the dockmaster at Potter's Cay Dock, Nassau (tel. 242/393-1064).

Regrettably, there are no hotel facilities.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.