If you’re visiting Exuma, be sure to plan a visit to the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. This national park has preserved The Bahamas wonderful nature and animals. It highlights the nation’s dedication to eco-tourism and is a great day-trip for people of all ages!
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park was the first land and sea park in the world. To this day it remains to be one of the most successful marine parks. In 1953, a superintendent of Everglades National Park, Daniel Beard, proposed setting aside part of the beautiful Exuma Cays as a park. The Bahamian public and government were supportive. In 1955 a formal proposal was submitted and in 1956 it was confirmed that 22-miles of Exuma would be set aside for the park.
The park was officially established and opened in 1958. The Bahamas National Trust was also established to oversee it, which it does tot his day.
The national park is located on multiple islands, or cays, of the Exumas. The protected area extends from Shroud Cay to the north to Bell Cay in the south. The headquarters for the park is located on Warderick Wells.
The cays located within the park’s boundaries include: Little Wax Cay, Shroud Cay, Little Pigeon Cay, Hawksbill Cay, Little Hawksbill Cay, Cistern Cay, Long Cay, Warderick Wells, Halls Pond Cay, Little White Bay Cay, South Halls Pond Cay, Solider Cay, O’Brien’s/Pasture Cays, Bell Island, Little Bell Island, and Rocky Dundas.
The Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park is home to a number of local species. The hutia, a large rodent local to Caribbean islands, can be found within the boundaries. They were thought to be extinct, but in 1966 were discovered and reintroduced to the Exuma park in 1973.
At least 22 native lizard species, including rock iguanas, are within the boundaries. The famous Allen’s Cay iguanas are just outside the park, but the species was introduced to Warderick Wells to preserve them.
The park is also an important sanctuary for local birds. Four of the five turtle species in the Atlantic also can be found here, with green sea turtles, loggerheads, and hawksbill being most common.
Marine life also flourishes within the park. The Queen Conch, which is in danger thanks to over-fishing, has thrived within the park. Rare algae, the oldest in the world, known as stromatolites are also found within the park.
Due to the park being protected there are a few rules visitors must follow to ensure the land and animals remain safe. It’s a no-trash zone, meaning all trash taken onto the islands must be taken off. Visitors should also no feed any animals within the park boundaries. There are some fees associated with the park, which are used to maintain it. Boats can moor overnight in the area for a fee that depends on the size of the boat. Film crews need to get permission ahead of time before working on the cays.
The simple rules in the park are: Take Only Photos- Leave Only Footprints.
There are tons of fun activities to do at the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular water activities. It’s a great chance to see rare marine life, like the ancient stromatolites. Local guides can also be hired to escort visitors through the park. They can find the illusive hutia, help you feed rock iguanas, and point out local plant life. Boo Boo Hill is located within the park on Warderick Wells. It features stunning views and is a must if visiting. Trails through the park are also available for walking.