It may not be Australia's Bermuda Triangle, but the Bahamas is home to its own eerie encrusted wrecks - and one of them is the Staniel Cay plane wreck. The Staniel Cay plane wreck is not only one of the most fascinating underwater attractions in the Bahamas; it's also one of the most accessible. And, thanks to its relative recency, the plane's history can be traced right back to its origin - a story that is still as accurate as the day it began.
Just a short boat ride from Staniel Cay, this Bahamas plane wreck rests in the shallow pristine waters of the Exuma Cays, serving up an incredible opportunity for exploration for swimmers and snorkelers. With its sketchy history involving the Colombian cartel empires of the late 1970s and 1980s, the plane crash site is equal parts historic and beautiful, with its sunken skeleton teeming with tropical subsea species.
What Is The Staniel Cay Exuma Plane Wreck?
This Bahamas plane wreck is a small two-seater, twin-engine private aircraft that sits only at around ten feet under the crystal clear waters of the Exuma Cays. Thanks to its position just offshore and its modest depth, it is one of the planet's most accessible underwater plane wrecks and the reason why droves of curious travelers visit the site every year.
A testament to its easy accessibility, the wreck has become a must-see feature of the Bahamas coupled with its beguiling history that engages even the most discerning of historians and crime sleuths.
The Fascinating Story Of The Plane Crash
The true story behind the plane wreck is truly nail-biting; according to history, it was just another normal night at Staniel Cay Airport - not so busy and quite relaxed. There was only a minor landing strip that wasn’t as heavily used as it is today, which meant airport officials would regularly gather at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a drink - even whilst on duty - with their radios ready in case of the off chance of an emergency.
On one particular night, however, a strange call came in - one from a man panickily trying to scope out the tiny, poorly lit landing strip. Speaking a confusing mix of English and Spanish - a combination that was not common over the radio - airport staff fathomed through his broken English that he was low on fuel and required a safe area on which to land.
With a sense of urgency - which they were not used to given that the airport was so small and hardly used - officials rushed to the landing strip with their vehicles to light up the dark strip in search of the desperate pilot and his plane. Indeed their effort was fruitless; their radio went silent and the plane never did arrive.
It took until the next morning when the sun came up for a search party to launch, upon which they quickly discovered the plane roughly ten miles from Norman’s Cay. As expected from such a daunting accident - one that most people would not come out of in one piece - the plane's two passengers perished in what was later found to be quite a horrific ordeal.
It turns out that the plane was packed too tightly with illicit substances, meaning the passengers would have been unable to escape their tomb even if they hadn't died on impact. Later, investigators revealed their verdict; it's estimated that the pair met their demise by drowning and were in fact believed to be members of the Colombian cartel - a gang that frequently employed the Bahamas as a halfway point between the Americas for their illicit shenanigans.
Where Exactly Is The Exuma Plane Wreck?
Resting right next to Staniel Cay a little over 80 miles south of Nassau, the plane wreck sits on the shallow sea bed under the crystal clear turquoise water. It's located about half a mile off the Staniel Cay coast and is actually one of several in the area, but its close proximity to Staniel Cay Exuma makes it one of the top attractions in the Bahamas, as well as one of the most accessible. Since Staniel Cay is amongst the most frequented spots in the Exumas - serving as somewhat of a central hub to the entirety of the Exuma Cays - it's never been easier or more convenient to reach this signature Bahamian underwater wreckage.
From Staniel Cay, it's quick and easy enough to rent a boat or grab a water taxi ride to the plane wreck for only a few bucks. Visitors can also attend the wreck on a snorkel tour, boating excursion, or on a Staniel Cay day trip. There are more than enough companies proving tours, rides, and even day trips from Nassau to see the plane, the latter usually combining a visit with many other iconic Exuma attractions.
Furthermore, one important thing to note is that despite the plane commonly being cited as the “Exuma plane wreck”, one must not confuse it with another of Pablo Escobar’s smuggling planes - one that crashed during the height of the missions of the 70s and 80s. Additionally, another plane crashed just off the coast of Norman’s Cay, although that one is not as accessible as the famous Staniel Cay Exuma wreck. On another note, the plane which sits around half of a mile off the coast of Staniel Cay used to belong to Carlos Ledher - a notorious man who operated that sector of the cartel, using Norman’s Cay as a hub whilst delivering "goods" to Miami during Pablo Escobar’s illegal activities.
What Is There To Do And See At The Plane Wreck?
Normally one needs at least an open water scuba diver certification in order to explore an underwater wreck. However, because the cockpit is really accessible and shallow, a tank on one's back isn't needed to explore this particular sunken plane; snorkelers and swimmers can easily get up close and take some epic photos of it. And in addition to viewing the plane from the air on a flightseeing tour or from the comfort of a boat, there are also numerous tropical marine species teeming in and around the site for visitors to behold.
Myriads of marine creatures have sought refuge in the wreck, building homes and growing subaquatic communities of bustling ecosystems within its confines. From vibrant corals and schools of exotic fish to the odd nurse shark passing by, a remarkable roster of mesmeric marine life can be observed thriving at the wreck. All that's left to do is to pack some swimwear, a mask and snorkel, an underwater camera, and book that ticket to the Bahamas.