Where would you find a lodge that was built by fishermen for fishermen, close enough to Florida to make it easy to get to, yet far from the hustle and bustle, with miles upon miles of prime bonefish waters within easy reach, and luxurious accommodations, gourmet food, and service fit for royalty? You’d find it on the west side of Andros Island in the Bahamas, and it would be called the Mangrove Cay Club.
Andros island is the largest of the Bahama islands, and while it sits just a short plane ride away from southern Florida’s largest city, it is mostly uninhabited and unspoiled, protected from development by its shallow water shorelines and lack of natural harbours. The island is actually several islands separated east to west by the bights (curved waterways), which provide access to some of the most remote and wild flats habitat. The bights (North, Middle and South) provide not only great fishing, but shelter from winds that sometimes put guests at other lodges at the fly-tying bench for the day.
The location of the Mangrove Cay Club was strategically chosen for access to mile upon mile of prime bonefish water without ever having to trailer a boat or ride in the open ocean. The lodge sits on the east side of the island and on the south shore of Middle Bight. The site for building Mangrove Cay Club was selected first and foremost with close proximity to numerous flats in mind, and secondly, to give fishermen access to the wild West Side. This legendary area is home to some of the largest bonefish that swim in the Atlantic, and is less than an hour’s boat ride from the dock.
The real beauty of the Mangrove Cay Club is its location, which translates into a remarkable fishing programme. Situated on the waterfront inside the Middle Bight, the Club has easy access to the eastern flats, the North, Middle and South Bights and the remote West Side of Andros island.
What does this mean to you as an angler? It means that Mangrove guides have the ability to run from one side of Andros island to the other in the least amount of time and can essentially “case” the desired tide levels and fish wherever they may be with relative ease. There is virtually no tide or moon phase that cannot be successfully fished at the Mangrove Cay Club.
The eastern sides of the Middle and North Bight are peppered with small islands and cays littered with flats, and are in close proximity to the deep water of the “Tongue of the Ocean”. Deep water is a harbour for big fish when they are not cruising the nearby flats for food and this is a perfect setting for some bruiser bones. Do not be fooled by the mystique of the West Side, these eastern fish are large, uneducated and the flats are some of the nicest to be found on Andros.
The North and Middle Bights are a labyrinth of cays, creeks and tidal lakes that could not be fished or possibly even explored completely in a lifetime. These bights offer large schools of fish as well as pods and single cruisers. On windy days protection can often be found in the lee of the cays or up in the creeks where bonefish weaving in and out of the mangroves challenge the precision of your casting and durability of your tackle.
The South Bight of Andros does not get nearly the recognition that the West Side does, however it is as remote and uncharted as any body of water in the Western Hemisphere. Here the guides grew up poling these flats (sometimes for days at a time) in search of sponges, crawfish and conch. Mangrove Cay Club is fortunate to have several guides who were reared doing just that and these men, now equipped with state-of-the-art skiffs and motors, are just beginning to chart the tip of the iceberg.
With a soft silty bottom, sometimes milky conditions and ample numbers of predators, both below and above the water line, the West Side of Andros can be a harsh mistress. However, while challenging, it can also be one of the most rewarding and wild experiences an angler will ever encounter. In the morning as the sun comes over the horizon behind you, the skiff breaks out of the Middle Bight near Reid’s Cay and the Great Bahama Bank stretches for untold miles in front of you, somewhere merging with the horizon.
Like most of Mangrove’s fishing grounds, bonefish here are best perused from the bow of a skiff with guides well elevated over your head looking for big cruisers heading your direction a long way out. Fish are big here and big fish are smart. It is imperative that anglers wishing to maximize their fishing experience at Mangrove Cay, or at any other destination, practise casting (preferably into the wind on breezy days) for several weeks prior to their visit. Anyone who believes that the wind does not blow during any particular month is fooling themselves. Certainly, it is more prominent during some months than others but wind is as much a part of flats fishing as the fish themselves. While at times frustrating, wind can be an effective tool used to camouflage a skiff or dampen a sound from a cruising fish. Give us a breeze any day over glass calm, still conditions. You will get closer to fish and in general have more takes.
As with all of the islands in the Bahamas, Andros is primarily a bonefishery, but other species such as barracuda, sharks, jacks and even the occasional tarpon and permit will frequent the flats making each day action-packed and a new experience. Be sure to bring with you a second outfit as these opportunities often only present themselves for a few moments. A good suggestion is to have the angler taking his turn on the platform holding his bonefish outfit while the second angler is ready with the bigger rod. If a tarpon or barracuda should present itself, you can exchange rods or the second angler can jump up and make the cast.
The Mangrove Cay lodge sits in a most beautiful setting carved out of the rock and natural scrub of the island. A great deal of thought went into the design of the four spacious duplex cottages so that keen anglers can be happy and comfortable. The first priority was space, the second was privacy and the third was minimal intrusion from neighbours.
For these reasons each of the cottages is divided into two suites by a thick soundproof wall, and separated from the other cottages by a screen of natural vegetation. The eight suites accommodate a maximum of sixteen guests which is a comfortable number to ensure high quality of service. It is a short walk to the main house. As one walks through the door, there is a small shop and office to the right. Here you will find telephones and a laptop computer with high speed Internet access for your use. The rest of the main lodge is open with a large bar and sitting area one end and dining area and entrance to the kitchen at the other. There are also bathroom facilities for ladies and gentlemen. The main house opens out on to a large veranda overlooking Middle Bight followed by a few steps down to the attractive wooden dock, where guests are picked up by a guide each morning and dropped off in the afternoon, and where many evenings are spent fishing with a few drinks.
The primary focus of Mangrove Cay has been the comfort and convenience of guests from a functional fishing point of view.
Each of the four cottages is divided into two guest suites. On the outside wall of each suite is an extensive rod rack, a bucket for cleaning reels and a freshwater hose for washing rods and all other equipment each day – an important feature for a saltwater lodge. Both outside and inside the entrance way are hanging pegs or hooks.
Once inside, one enters the sitting room which is furnished with sofa and chairs and some small tables – all ideal for laying out tackle and equipment or having an impromptu party! To one side of the sitting room is the bathroom with lots of shelf and hanging space and a very large walk-in shower with plenty of shelving for shampoos, razors etc. To the other side, through double sliding doors, is a spacious bedroom with two comfortable queen-sized beds. There are sliding doors out on to the porch, which overlooks the Middle Bight. It is not a problem to check the weather in the morning!
Kitchen and Cuisine
With careful planning and attention to detail, the staff at Mangrove Cay is able to keep their kitchen well stocked with the fine quality and variety of food and supplies that are available from Nassau suppliers. Fresh local seafood is the focal point of the dinner menus. Local fishermen really do pull up at the dock with their catch to allow the chef, Iyke Moore to make his selections. Lobster, grouper, snapper, conch and even stone crab claws all make regular appearances. Bahamian favourites, grilled entrees and classic cuisine are all prepared to Iyke’s high standards.
The day starts with coffee made from freshly ground beans, and a selection of teas and juices are offered in the lodge from 6.30 a.m. onwards. A variety of cold cereals with fresh milk, yogurt, fruits and freshly baked pastries (croissants, biscuits, muffins) are offered along with hot breakfasts of eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, grits and toast.
Lunches are taken out on the boats, packed in a cooler with plenty of ice. Lunch selections include a variety of sandwich breads and rolls, tuna salad, freshly roasted turkey breast, ham, salami or roast beef, with cheeses, lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes. All of the condiments are laid out buffet style to allow you to make your lunch to your preferences. A jug of iced drinking water will already be on the boat. Soft drinks or iced tea complete the lunch menu.
Hors d’oeuvres are served at the bar during cocktail hour. Dinner begins with a salad or soup. Bahamian conch chowder and Iyke’s cream of lobster are amongst the favourites. In addition to Iyke’s repertoire of seafood, grilled chicken or prime rib au jus are included in dinner menus. All entrees are served with pasta, rice or potatoes and vegetables. Sumptuous homemade desserts, especially Iyke’s key lime pie, are not often refused, but a fresh fruit salad is the light alternative. To accompany dinner, a selection of red and white wines is offered by the bottle and by the glass. Dinner is followed with coffee or tea, and liqueurs, cognacs and brandies for after dinner drinks.
Mangrove Cay Packages
Example Rates – subject to change by operator
Double Occupancy/Shared Guide
Big Boat: $600 per day (6 anglers max.). Booked and payable at lodge.
Included: roundtrip transfers between airport and lodge, lodging, meals, guide.
Not included: international flights, alcoholic beverages, and gratuities. All prices subject to change.
Mangrove Cay closes end of June through end of September