Mangrove Cay, The Bahamas
Article and Photos by Jimmy Jacobs.
The allure of chasing bonefish, permit and tarpon in the Bahamas is strong, drawing anglers from around the world to the islands. The chance to sample the best such fishing in the world is a siren call that most anglers have to finally answer at some point in their fishing careers.
Much of the best of this action takes place in the Out Islands, far from the glitz of the resorts in Nassau and Freeport. Some potential visiting anglers may worry that traveling to these more remote destinations will prove challenging in getting there and what to expect. Will they find a host that is familiar with the needs of fly fishers? Also, will the accommodations be up to a standard to make the trip successful and enjoyable?
Swain’s Cay Lodge on Mangrove Cay (Cay is pronounced Key here) is a prime example of the new breed of facilities that are appearing in the Out Islands. Situated between North and South Andros Islands, the resort caters to the specific needs of fly casters, offers first-class accommodations and service, and a welcoming atmosphere. That latter item is not surprising, since it lies in what is often referred to as the Family Islands. The local residents know how to make a visitor welcome.
A DIY bonefish from the flat in front of Swain’s Cay Lodge.
Swain’s Cay owner Cheryl Bastian fell victim to that welcoming appeal herself. Originally from Nassau, her mother was a waitress and father a taxi driver. For her own career she chose financial services, in which she spent 33 years. Then on a visit to family members on Mangrove Cay, Ms. Bastian fell in love with the island, where immediately upon arrival, she “unwound” from the stress of the business world. She also noticed a piece of land with waterfront access that was perfectly situated for a lodge.
That was in 2009 and quickly she purchased the property and began building Swain’s Cay from scratch. As with her earlier career, she was driven to succeed and finish the project. While visitors are encouraged to enjoy a leisurely pace, don’t expect to constantly butt heads with the concept of “island time.” At Swain’s Cay you will get on the water at the right time for fishing, and other activities are arranged to accommodate that schedule.
Being a sharp business woman, Cheryl Bastian knows that retention of past clients is a key to success. For that reason, Swain’s Cay pays attention to the needs of visiting anglers. A good example is the purchase of fishing licenses. To take the hassle out of getting those, she buys them in bulk to have at the resort. Upon arrival you have one filled out and added to your bill. It is much simpler than having to do it via mail in advance or in person at a government office.
The office and guest quarters building.
Also of importance to fly casters is the lodge’s location between the North and Middle Bights. Those bodies of water offer protection from breezes, regardless of the direction from which they originate. It is a rare day when the wind makes fishing impossible. To provide for the most success, Swain’s Cay works with the best of local independent guides that know the tides, the waters and the fish well. The lodge provides a van to take you to meet your guide at the docks on either of the bights, and returns you to the resort after fishing.
Finally, if you want a day of do-it-yourself angling, the low tide flats around the small isle in front of the lodge’s beach provides wading opportunities for bonefish cruising its white sand northern fringe.
As to the actual facility, Swain’s Cay has nine units, totaling 21 beds. These are composed of duplex apartments or beach front, ocean view or garden view rooms. Daily maid service is provided.
There also is a combination dining, lounge and bar building fronting on the lodge’s white sand beach. Continental breakfast is served here, but full breakfasts also are available. Lunches for carrying on the boat are offered, with each day ending with full dinners. The bar provides beer, wine and a variety of liquors. Other amenities available are complimentary Wi-Fi, use of bicycles, kayaks and snorkeling gear.
The dining room and lounge building fronting the beach.
Getting to Swain’s Cay is quite easy. A number of major airlines fly into Nassau from all over North America. From there you can catch an “island hop” flight of just 20 minutes with either Lea Air or Flamingo Air to Clarence Bain Airport on Mangrove Cay. A shuttle van will meet you there for the complimentary 15-minute ride to the lodge. For more information and rates for Swain’s Cay Lodge, visit swainscaylodge.com.