Floating less than a mile off the west shores of Staniel Cay, Exuma is the Thunderball Grotto. Mother Nature has painted its weathered limestone with patches of island plants and a passerby’s casual glance would give no clue to what lies inside for the curious adventurer.
Thunderball Grotto is named after the 1965 James Bond movie, “Thunderball” , a Bond thriller with sexy spies, bombshell beach babes, and beautiful blue water filmed in part in the Bahamas . Since that Bahamas Bond thriller, other Hollywood films including “Splash”, “Into The Blue”, “Never Say Never Again”, “After the Sunset” and “Casino Royale” are just a few that have featured the beauty of the Bahamas
Whether you’re a bold adventurer or a cautious explorer, it’s easy to enter the grotto. Take a leap and enter from above through the natural skylight. It’s only a twenty foot jump into the water below. Or check the local tide tables and enter at high tide with scuba gear, or low tide through one of the many holes that will require only mask and snorkel. You’ll feel like you’re in a movie swimming through schools of yellowtail snappers, angelfish and sergeant majors to enter the hollow rock.
Once inside you’ll surface into crystal clear water with some of nature’s most fabulous lighting. Natural perforations in the large rock, whether above or below, filter sunlight inside illuminating the walls in a soft golden-brown glow. Bobbing on the surface inside, floating face up, is akin to sitting in a primeval sacred sanctuary, feeling layers and centuries of peace and silence. How many boaters have completely passed this spot never realizing what lay inside?
Although the Thunderball Grotto does not reside within the The Exuma Park established in 1958, locals and visitors have respectfully treated it with the reverence of a “No-Take Zone” and echoed the Exuma Park’s mantra with reference to the Grotto “Take only photographs-Leave only footprints”.
Thanks are owed to the many visitors and locals who have highlighted and respected this beautiful spot. And a hats off to a long time Bahama resident, Mr. James Bond himself, Sean Connery, who is indirectly responsible for the name of this natural treasure.
Pictures by Emily Morley circa 2012