Bahamas

Environment:

The Bahamas is an extensive island chain of some 700 islands, only 30 of which are inhabited, as well as about 2400 coral cay islets, located in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida and northeast of Cuba. They are mostly long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills. The highest point is Mount Alvernia on Cat Island at 63 meters (207 feet). New Providence is by far the most populated island, with more than 70 percent of the population, and the capital at Nassau.

Environmental issues include coral reef decay, and solid waste disposal. The Bahamas Environment, Science & Technology Commission is in charge of overseeing environmental resources. Althought there are no Biosphere Reserves, the IUCN member Bahamas National Trust is an NGO that manages the country’s 27 national parks, including marine parks and protected reefs. In 2011, Bahamas Waste opened a million dollar facility for recycling Nassau waste cooking oil into biodiesel fuel. Cans For Kids Bahamas is an aluminum can recycling project, and the proceeds go to local children’s programs. Bahamas Eco-Forum is a volunteer effort concerned with sustainable living in the Bahamas.

In 2002, Andros Conservancy and Trust Bahamas helped create the Central Andros National Park, where it today provides nature tours. The Nature Conservancy, and international NGO, not only helped in the protection of Andros Island, but also in the creation of Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the Bahamas’ first national park. The Cape Eleuthera Institute is heavily involved with environmental education, particularly the marine environmental, for both local and visiting school age students. Friends of the Environment works to preserve and protect Abaco’s terrestrial and marine environments. Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve is a 25 acre research center for traditional bush medicine on Eleuthera.

In 2012, the Ministry of Tourism Sustainable Tourism Unit, responsible for the Bahamas Sustainable Tourism Development policy guidelines, launched its Sustainable Birding Tourism Plan. Wild bird reserves include Guana Cay, Joulter Cays, Little San Salvador, and Paradise Island. The Garden of The Groves on Grand Bahama regularly offers birding with Erika Gates. Ardastra Gardens is a zoo and conservation center in Nassau.

There are quite a few adventure travel companies providing nature tours in the Bahamas, on both land and sea. Bahamas Out Island Adventures offers camping, surfing, kayaking and snorkeling ecotours on Eleuthera. Eleuthera Adventure Tours is a full service tour company for southern Eleuthera. Calabash Eco Adventures provides educational tours of Grand Bahama. Grand Bahama Nature Tours operates kayaking, snorkeling, biking, hiking, jeep and bird watching tours. Based in Nassau, Bahamas Outdoors offers birding, nature and off-road biking tours. Out-Island Explorers is a family business offering kayaking, sailing and camping in the Exuma cays. Lagoon Tours Bahamas offers reef exploring, cave adventures, island touring, and beach hopping on San Salvador island. Horseback riding is available from Pinetree Stables in Freeport, and “Happy Trails Stables” aka Windsor Equestrian Centre in Nassau.

The government banned long-line fishing in 1993, which limited shark fishing and protected 40 species of sharks; but in 2011, shark fishing was banned outright, and the sale, import and export of shark products prohibited, effectively turning all 630,000 square kilometers (243,000 square miles) of Bahamian waters into a shark sanctuary. Captive dolphin experiences are available from a number of providers, including Dolphin Cay Atlantis, Dolphin Encounters at Blue Lagoon, and Underwater Explorers Society in Freeport, Grand Bahama.

The Bahamas Caves Research Foundation promotes research and conservation of blue holes and underwater caves. Bahamas Underground operates a technical cave diving training facility. Seaworld Explorer is Nassau’s only semi-submarine, or “glass bottom boat”. Also in Nassau, Stuart Cove’s Aqua Adventures provides self-contained underwater motorcycles at Sub Bahamas. (These are similar to the “scuba scooters” made by Aqua Star.) Helmet diving is available from Hartley’s Undersea Walk.

National Parks:

  • Abaco National Park
  • Black Sound Cay National Reserve
  • Blue Holes National Park
  • Bonefish Pond
  • Conception Island National Park
  • Crab Replenishment Reserve
  • Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
  • Fowl Cays National Park
  • Harold and Wilson Ponds National Park
  • Inagua National Park
  • Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve
  • Little Inagua National Park
  • Lucayan National Park
  • Marine Farm & Great Hope House
  • Moriah Harbour Cay National Park
  • North & South Marine Parks
  • Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park
  • Peterson Cay National Park
  • Primeval Forest National Park
  • Rand Nature Center
  • The Retreat
  • Tilloo Cay Reserve
  • Union Creek Reserve
  • Walker’s Cay National Park
  • West Side National Park

Family Island Administrative Divisions:

Culture:

When Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World on San Salvador in 1492, Lucayan people inhabited the islands. Within a few years of Columbus’s arrival, the Spanish started seizing Lucayans as slaves, and by 1520 they had all been removed from the Bahamas. The name Bahamas came from the Spanish word “bajamar”, or shallow water. British settlement of the islands began in 1647, and became a colony in 1783. Since attaining independence in 1973, the Bahamas have prospered through tourism and the offshore financial industry. Due to geography, the country has been a major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly into the United States.

Although the Bahamas has no official World Heritage sites, nor ICCROM members, it does maintain a Bahamas National Commission for UNESCO website. Created in 1959, the Bahamas National Trust has been more involved in preserving the natural history of the islands than the cultural history. The Bahamas Clifton Heritage Park (aka Bahamas Clifton Heritage National Park) is operated by the Clifton Heritage Authority. One Eleuthera Foundation operates the Heritage and Conservation Trail on Eleuthera. The pirates museum, Pirates of Nassau, is an interactive “pirate attraction” in downtown Nassau.

Music of the Bahamas is primarily associated with junkanoo, celebratory parades which occur on Boxing Day and again on New Year’s Day. The National Dance Company Bahamas operates the Dance Bahamas School to train young Bahamian dancers. The Bahamas International Film Festival is now an annual film festival held every December. The Ministry of Tourism does maintain a People-To-People program for cultural exchange.

There are a number of interesting places to stay in the Bahamas. In Nassau, Junkanoo Beach Resort is the place locals recommend staying, and has free wifi. On Nassau’s Paradise Island, the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat Bahamas offers a variety of yoga vacation programs, as well as residential study. Small Hope Bay Lodge is a family run nature resort on Andros island. On scenic Tilloo Cay, Tween Waters Tilloo offers a cottage or a bungalow perched on the Sea of Abaco, with regular full moon parties nearby.

There are ferry services from the United States mainland, as well as seaplanes available. Bahamas Express offers fast-ferry service from Fort Lauderdale and Grand Bahama, and from Miami to Bimini. MailBoat Bahamas regularly sails between Freeport and Nassau. Albury’s Ferry Service serves the Abaco islands, including Marsh Harbour, Man-O-War Cay, Hope Town, Great Guana Cay, and Scotland Cay. Tropic Ocean Airways offers scheduled services to the North Bimini Seaplane Base, from Fort Lauderdale and the Miami Seaplane Base.

References:

  • A regional development approach to tourism in the Bahamas by ED Sherman, 2011
  • Preacher’s Cave: Developing a National Heritage Tourism Site in Eleuthera, Bahamas by JS Day, 2010
  • Bahama Drama: Uncovering Public Relations Theory & Practice in The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation by GM Curry, 2008
  • Establishing sustainable tourism in the Exuma Cays, Bahamas by AM Lowe & KS Sealey, 2003
  • The Bahamas The Situation of Children in the Worst Forms of Child Labour in a tourism economy: A Rapid Assessment by LL Dunn, 2002
  • A Case Study On Tourism And Hospitality Education In The Bahamas by SA Rolle, 2002
  • Columbus’s Ghost: Tourism, Art and National Identity in the Bahamas by IG Strachan, 2000
  • Ecological and Economic Sustainability of Tropical Reef Systems: Establishing Sustainable Tourism in the Exuma Cays, Bahamas by AM Lowe & KS Sealey, 1999
  • Sustainable Tourism and Development. Local community perceptions. The case of the Bahamas. by TMJ Edwards, 1998
  • Tourism and colonialism: The experience of the Bahamas by CA Palmer, 1994
  • Tourism in the Bahamas-an appraisal by AM O’Reilly, DJ Gayle & JN Goodrich, 1993
  • Tourism trends and developments in the Bahamas by JA Hall, 1993
  • Economic development-a dilemma of mini-states: tourism industry of the Bahamas by F Ungefehr, 1988
  • Tourism in the Bahamas: a period of change by M Fish, 1988
  • Tourism in the Economy of the Bahamas by R Ramsaran, 1979
  • The Bahamas Tourism Industry: Past, Present, And Future by JH Bounds, 1978