Our last full day in Provo had already arrived. We didn’t have anywhere to be or anything scheduled but I knew snorkeling the reefs right off the beach was on my list before we left. If it was anything like the reef we snorkeled on the boat tour the other day, we were in for a treat. It was rather chilly in the morning so we let the sun rise a bit before venturing out. Even if the temps were warm, we wanted the sun to be at a higher angle to provide better light on the reefs.
We drove to Smith’s Reef behind Turtle Cove. A swanky beach neighborhood with uber modern mansions lined both sides of the road. What looked like someone’s driveway at the end of the road was actually the entrance to the beach access of the west end of Smith’s reef. There are three sections to snorkel: west, central, and east. I read online that west was the best, followed by central. Some said the two were a toss up, so I chose west first. Again, the signs at the beach access encouraged visitors leave car doors unlocked and to be cautious leaving anything on the beach unattended. Sigh. I found this so interesting given that the parking lot was right smack in the middle of a wealthy neighborhood and just steps from some gorgeous high-end beach cottages. We didn’t really have a choice but to leave our stuff on the beach but planned to keep an eye on it.
The map at the beach entrance had a fairly good representation of the shoreline and the exact location of the reef. It helped to see some people snorkeling around about 50 yards off the shore far to the right of the entrance. We made the trek down the rocky shore until we saw the shadows of what looked like the reef with a red buoy just on the other side of it. However, it was clear after observing the snorkelers for a while that you want to be in the inside of the red buoy, not close to it or past is. The red buoy is actually the channel marker for boats entering and exiting the marina. It’s a bit dangerous as they run through the channel a high speeds.
The snorkeling was certainly worth the trek and quite impressive for being right off the beach. The coral heads were enormous and stretched from about 5 feet deep to 20 feet in one solid section. There was a menagerie of marine life, purple fan coral, rays, a nurse shark, and only a few people in the area. I was hoping to spot some eagle rays and I read that they frequent this reef but no luck there. We spent about an hour in this spot, took a rest on the beach, and headed to check out the central reef.
Just a short drive through the swanky neighborhood and we found the central beach access. The beach here seemed much more popular as it was much wider and had a great view of Grace Bay. The reef, however, was much smaller and shallower, but was still beautiful and worth the look-see. The entrance to the water was sandy whereas the entrance at the west reef is rocky and slightly slippery; likely another reason for its popularity.
My stomach was screaming for food at this point and there was one more restaurant we wanted to try before leaving…Somewhere Café. If you find yourself in Provo, I would highly recommend this be on your dining list. Located inside the Coral Sands hotel/condo property right on the beach, this café is reasonably priced, has a stunning view (entertaining to watch all of the visitors tooling around the snorkeling trail), and really great food. The service was quick and attentive as well. Definitely worth a visit.
The rest of the day was ours to kill and a football playoff game was on at night so we knew we wanted to watch it at a bar. Or three. We took a booze snooze and hit both Jimmy’s and Danny Buoys for the game. Danny Buoys was absolutely packed and we were hard pressed to find a seat but we lucked out. Every single table outside was full but it was nice to see since the last time we were there, we were one of the only ones in the entire place. It was electric with excitement and fanfare for the game. We had to leave the next morning so we made it an early last night.
I’ll tell ya, I am SO glad I made the trip to Provo but I can say without hesitation that it just isn’t my kind of destination. I’m thankful that it proved just how special Exuma really is and allowed me to hone in on what it is about traveling that I appreciate; the intricacies of the languages and accents, the architecture, the perfection of the imperfections, the cultural norms, the local food and flavors, and the music. I struggled to find any of this in Provo. It seemed as if I was vacationing on an island in Florida. Like I was on one of those islands owned by Disney that tries to make you feel like you are on an exotic island but really you are just another sucker for the orchestrated island-like “feel” that is EXTREMELY expensive. Hell we couldn’t eat lunch for less than $50 or dinner for about $80. I could have just driven down to Miami Beach and probably had a similar experience. Perhaps it was my fault for not really digging enough to find the good local eateries and bars as those are the best places to find the people and atmosphere I was looking for. However, I was reluctant to do so as the warnings of theft/crime were drilled into my head from the second I got off the plane. It wasn’t something I was particularly excited about and one of the many reasons I probably won’t add another Provo trip to my vacation schedule. I get it. Crime is everywhere, and Exuma isn’t immune to it either, by any means. But the fear of crime overshadowed all of our activities and adventures and that really put a damper on our trip.
Having said all of those terribly negative things, I must say, I was really impressed by the number of watersports options on the island. You could snorkel, scuba, snuba, sail, jet ski, paddleboard, parasail, rent a boat, fish, kitesurf, and the list goes on. They do a hell of a job catering to tourists and providing everything you could possibly ever want to do. The water is truly stunning and some of the clearest I’ve seen. Just as clear as Exuma on a calm day. But for so many reasons, Exuma is still, and I suspect will forever be, my happy place.
Next stop…Eleuthera. 🙂