Our last cruise stop after passing through the Panama Canal was Half Moon Cay in The Bahamas. Leased by Carnival Cruise Line since 1992 and a frequent stop for Holland America ships, Half Moon exceeded my anticipated expectations. I expected a dull day of beach time, but Ruth and I took a nature walk with a native named Shemeka and then entered blue water so perfect that we felt like actors in a Sandal’s commercial.
Half Moon Cay is close to Cat Island, but 96 people including Shemeka travel 18 miles from Eleuthera each day by boat to work on Half Moon, where no hurricane has occurred in 5 years. Half Moon is not too far from San Salvador, the island that Christopher Columbus supposedly landed on in 1492. Shemeka told us that The Bahamas consist of 700 islands and cays, and that Nassau is its largest city. Only 16 of the 700 are true islands, and only 29 of the 700 are inhabited. She tried to impress us with the information that many of the 700 are owned by movie stars.
I was more impressed with Shemeka’s knowledge of her home. We walked along a road with saltwater mangroves on either side, and the first plant she showed us was a mature apple tree. She assured us that these enticing-looking but small apples were not eaten by humans. But the seed grapes she showed us next were consumable according to her much respected grandmother teacher. After telling us not to stand too close to the trees, she showed us 2 of the 3 types of spiders on Half Moon. After weaving part of a basket in what seemed like world-record time, she began focusing on plants that had medicinal uses. She made us all laugh about the one that she called a “male enhancer”.
She showed us many palm trees and knew their habits and histories. Many were Royal but Ruth’s favorite quickly became a type of palm that she had just learned about on Aruba 2 days previously. It’s called a Christmas Palm. Ruth had asked me to take a photo of one there, but I didn’t succeed because I was on a moving bus. Then this small, perfect example showed up on Half Moon Cay.
Shemeka plucked a jellyfish from the still water of a lagoon to show us, told us that the most seen animal on this cay was the common chicken, and took us to an enclosure containing stingrays. One of them was missing its barb and Shemeka told us that it had been bitten off by a shark. This was the only time she clearly was revealing a downside to her happy life in The Bahamas.