How are you spending your time social distancing? At home, watching Netflix, endlessly scrolling on social media? Or maybe, you’re like me, working remotely and binge-watching training courses.
Whatever you’re doing, I know you miss The Great Outdoors. I sure do.
Imagine you are on a sailboat, far away from all the chaos. You’re surrounded by 100,000 acres of the bluest water you’ve ever seen. Sounds like fantasy, right? But that is exactly how Matt Grondin is spending his isolation, in paradise.
Matt is a musician, sailboat captain, and photographer who spends a lot of time sailing around The Bahamas. Always taking along his adventure companion, sailor dog Lulu. Right now, he is in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park and he has it all to himself.
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP) is the oldest land and sea park in the world. It was created in 1958 to protect a pristine part of the Exumas from being developed.
The ECLSP preserves 176 square miles of land and sea and is popular for its breathtaking beauty, healthy wildlife and secluded white sand beaches. It boasts amazing landscapes and has many safe anchorages. You can explore flourishing coral reefs and mangroves and stroll along pristine beaches; traverse several hiking trails, and observe tons of wildlife, including birds, fish, sharks, turtles, and iguanas.
“It’s truly a secluded paradise. I’ve never been anywhere else where you can literally have the world’s best beaches entirely to yourself,” said Matt when I asked why it’s one of his favourite places.
“I’ve been coming to the park since this time last year, and it always takes my breath away like it’s my first visit.
In February, Matt untied Grey Wind, his 38’ Beneteau Oceanis sailboat, from the dock in Miami and set his course straight for The Exuma Cays.
“Upon arrival, in the park, it was a ghost town, I flew my drone up and there wasn’t any other boat in sight. Honestly, it was bittersweet. I’m in the most beautiful place on earth with only my dog to share it with. Corona prevented anyone from sailing with me.”
This didn’t stop him from spending the next few days exploring the park and taking some of the most creative photos I’ve recently seen.
He ventured into the ancient ‘secret pirates lair’ the Rocky Dundas, to setup his camera to take these amazing self-timed photos:
The ECLSP is a wildlife haven – a complete no take zone since 1986. You’re not allowed to touch, feed, or harass wildlife in the park. This lends to some amazing close encounters with animals. If you have a camera you can get epic shots like these:
One of the most popular sites in the park is the Aquarium. You get to experience being surrounded by thousands of tropical fish on a shallow coral reef. I’ve heard people call it their best snorkeling experience ever.
Craving more adventure, on his last night, Matt hiked up to Hawksbill Cay to take some wild long exposure photography.
“I was stoked about taking some photos of the park at dark, unluckily, some clouds rolled right in time to prevent me from getting the best shots possible.
Called the prettiest place from space by NASA astronauts, the ECLSP has many accolades:
- In 2018, it won the equivalent of an Oscar
- It’s the most visited national park in The Bahamas
- It has some of the healthiest ecosystems in the country
- It’s a ‘lifeboat’ for many endangered species
- It sparked a 60 year old conservation movement
There are studies that prove spending time in nature can boost mental and physical wellness. Most of us are confined to the walls of our home right now, recalling the good times we had in nature. However, when this is all over, you too, can come #exploreyourpark like Matt did.
For 60 years, The Bahamas National Trust has been looking after Bahamian national parks. The ECLSP is the crown jewel and is the reason we were started. We can’t take care of these places alone, you can get involved, to help protect your national parks.
Since first publication of this story, Matt hoisted sail and left the ECLSP. He is currently chilling in Nassau before heading home to Miami. He is always posting highlights from his adventures on his Instagram Page. Follow him to see some amazing content! Also, don’t forget to check out Lulu, the most photogenic dog you can ask for.
Important note: when you want to take your dog on national park adventures, you MUST keep them on 6’ leash. This eliminates the risk of native animals being harassed, frightened or worse, killed. All photos of Lulu without a leash were for photography purposes only.
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Super sad that @nathalie_meyers and @sascha_meyers set sail today, but I understand how much uncertainty there is back home right now. They are fantastic underwater models and such nice people! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Would you want to swim in this grotto? 🧜🏻♀️🧜🏻♀️🧜🏻♀️🧜🏻♀️🧜🏻♀️🧜🏻♀️ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ **************** #bahamaslife #yourshotphotographer #bluewater #thunderballgrotto #freediver #stanielcay #exumas #exumabahamas #underwaterphotography #underwater #underwaterworld #nauticam #nauticamhousings #lightbeams #sisters #sailorgirls #divergirls #freediverlife #underwaterlife #underwatermodeling #girlsthatfreedive #teamcanon #mermaid #mermaidlife #grotto
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Remember when you were allowed outside at night? We bet even when you did venture out, you didn’t go in the bushes or in the ocean to observe nature. What if we told you that after dark nature starts to change, National Parks start to change. The most extraordinary things happen in the wild at night- sometimes it’s plain beautiful and sometimes… a bit creepy. There are creatures that only come out after we’re getting ready for bed. While you are inside, adjusting to this curfew, tune in to our page every night at 9 pm, we will be sharing a special look at Your Parks, After Dark. You’ll get to see The Bahamas like never before. 🌌 Photo of a river of stars in the @exumacayslandandseapark by @colinruggiero #exploreyourpark