Flamingo Cay

Flamingo Cay, Jumentos, Bahamas   Anchorage coordinates:  N22° 53.380′   W75° 52.322′    Reef coordinates N22° 52.330′   W75° 52.160′,   Depth 5-15 ft.  No flamingos but plenty to discover and good snorkeling in crystal clear water.   The coordinates are given for the anchorage on the west side of the island.  Some charts may have a reference to 2 palm trees on the beach at the anchorage but these trees are no longer there.  Read this before you go because there is no internet there.

At the north end of the beach there is somewhat of a path marked by flip-flops, that leads to some ponds fed by a connection to the ocean.

These ponds rise and fall with the tide and have a unique fauna.  I did not see shrimp in the first couple of ponds, only crabs.  Continue on the path to the next set of ponds.
These crabs are common but very shy.  I have yet to get a picture of one but I did find a recent molt. This is the empty hard outside covering that the crab shed in order to grow.  The living crab is much darker in color.  I have not figured out what species this crab is yet.
The shrimp like to live near the opening that connects the pond to the sea.  You can see a few of the 1-2 inch shrimp looking like specks in the center of the photo.
There were hundreds of them sitting in the shade of the overhanging rock.
Here is a close-up of the Red Pond Shrimp (Barbouria cubensis).  They are considered endangered because their habitat requirements are so specific.

The snorkeling site is a short dinghy ride on the south side of the cay.  Look inside the cave on the way.

On the way to the snorkeling site you can visit this cave.
The entrance is large enough to drive the dinghy into but you will have to tilt the motor.  There is plenty of light from holes in the ceiling.

As you round the end of the island you will see 2 large rock islands (they are on the chart).  You will easily see the reef west of the rock islands in the clear water. Anchor in a sandy place and jump in.

Beautiful clear water and an abundance of hard corals and gorgonians are surrounded by a dense meadow of Turtle Grass.
The clarity of the water allows you to easily identify the larger corals and fish.  Below #1-Mountainous Star Coral (Orbicella faveolata), Below #2 (2 places)-Lobed Star Coral (Orbicella annularis), Below #3-Two types of Porites finger corals, Left of #4-Massive Starlet Coral (Siderastrea siderea), Above #5-a red sponge, Right of #6-Sergeant Major (Abudefduf saxatilis).
These have been identified as two different species of finger corals but they may be just different growth forms.  The thin branched one near the top of the photo is Branching Finger Coral (Porites furcata) and right below is the Clubtip Finger Coral (Porites porites).  Genetic work on these corals will figure out if they are really different species.  On the right is some Massive Starlet Coral
From the surface this clump of blue and purple Branching Finger Coral, next to the yellowish star coral, will catch your eye.
Most Branching  Finger Coral is tan or light brown.  Purple and blue are uncommon and usually very small colonies.  Unfortunately the camera could not capture the brilliance of the blue color of this large colony.  You will just have to go see it for yourself.

Among the corals and rocks swim the typical reef fish.

The round blue fish in the center is a Blue Tang (Acanturus coeruleus) which is just about transitioned into its adult color.  The juvenile color is bright yellow and you can see that this one still has a bit of a yellow tail.  Above the tang is a Fairy Basslet (Gramma loreto) who usually is found near or under a ledge.  Below and to the left of the tang are two Bluehead Wrasses (Thalassoma bifasciatum),  Look closely, to the right of the wrasse below the tang. Sitting on the greenish Encrusting Fan-Leaf Algae is a Sharknose Goby (Elacatinus evelynae), a small long fish with a light stripe down its side.

Wrasses are long thin fish that swim by flapping their pectoral fins (the fins on the side just behind the gills).  Each species has several color forms that signify the fish’s sex and life stage.

All of the fish in this picture are all Bluehead Wrasses (Thalassoma bifasciatum) .  The blueheaded one is a supermale which mates one on one with a female.  The three yellow fish with the horizontal stripe are either females, males, or juveniles.  Mature fish with this color pattern spawn in aggregations.  Directly right from the supermale on the edge of the photo is a one with verticle bars that is transitioning to a supermale.  Fire Coral is in the bottom left corner and a dense stand of Turtle Grass is in the background.
The supermale Bluehead Wrasse is a striking fish which varies in color from a royal blue to aqua-green like this one. This one is swimming over some Massive Starlet Coral that is infested with an orange boring sponge.
The Longspine Squirrelfish (Holocentrus rufus) will be seen hanging out near ledges and holes.
You may swim right by a Sand Diver (Synodus intermedius), a type of lizardfish, sitting on a rock hoping that fish swimming by will also not notice until it is too late.
This Atlantic Trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculatus) is also lying in ambush trying to look like a Sea Plume gorgonian.
The Honeycomb Cowfish (Acanthostracion polygonius) has a body of rigid plates.  Only the tail and fins can move.  A Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) is behind the cowfish.
And everywhere, darting in and out of the rocks, and chasing other fish, are the damselfish.  This juvenile Beaugregory (Stegastes leucostictus) is one of many species of damselfish.  They defend their territories against all intruders, even humans.  Beside the Beaugregory is a Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus) and some Finger Coral that has the polyps expanded.

Several large sea anemones are attached among the coral and rock.  Sea Anemones are related to corals and gorgonians but with no skeleton.  They are large single polyps, attached to the substrate by the base, with many tentacles around a central mouth.  The tentacles have cnidoblasts (stinging cells) by which the sea anemone subdues its prey.

The Sun Anemone (Stichodactyla helianthus) looks like a round shag rug and is sometimes called the Atlantic Carpet Anemone.  The tentacles are very short.  It will be found singly or in groups.  Lobed Star Coral is just above and to the left of the anemone, and at the bottom center, are a few corallites of the Smooth flower Coral (Eusmilia fastigiata)
We saw only the gleam of the eyes of this 1/2 inch juvenile Sun Anemone Shrimp (Periclimines rathbunae).  It is sitting next to the mouth of the anemone but has nothing to fear as it is immune to the stinging cnidoblasts.  Several species of shimp live with anemones.
The Giant Sea Anemone (Condylactis gigantea) has long tentacles that may be tipped in pink, purple, blue, or bright chartreuse green, like this one.
Closely related to both sea anemones and corals are the corallimorphs.  These Warty Corallimorphs (Rhodactis osculifera) are about 3-4 inches in diameter.  They have no skeletons and their mouths are often puckered out.  They come in many different colors and are usually found on the partially shaded vertical face of a rock.

Flamingo Cay is one of those “out of the way” places I love to visit and feel so fortunate that we live on a boat and have been able to go there.

2 thoughts on “Flamingo Cay”

  1. I really have enjoyed your images and descriptions. I know about most of the things that you are pointing out but the mix of the scientific and the layman descriptions really is great!

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