The Nature Conservancy

Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

Park headquarters sign on Warderick Wells Cay. Founded in 1959, Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park was the first of its kind in the Caribbean. At more than 100,00 acres of islands, beaches, estuaries, blue holes, reefs and open ocean, the park is an ambitious and ongoing undertaking. Mark Godfrey/TNC

Conch (pronounced “conk”) thrive in the clear waters of the Bahamas. Long a staple of Caribbean diets, conch within the park are protected and the healthy population here helps replenish nearby fisheries outside the protected area. Mark Godfrey/TNC

Conservancy marine scientist Leno Davis gets up close and personal with a grouper. In 1986, the Bahamas took the extraordinary step of making Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park the first no-fishing replenishment zone in the Caribbean. Jeff Yonover

Caribbean spiny lobsters also benefit from the shelter of the park and the rangers here like to say that the only ones allowed to fish in the park are the birds. Fish, lobster and conch populations have improved in waters outside the no-fishing replenishment zone and the park also provides important habitat for endangered animals like sea turtles and Kirtland’s warblers. Jeff Yonover

Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park draws thousands of visitors each year and its healthy reefs and pristine beaches support thriving tourism-based businesses. A network of moorings protect the park’s coral reefs and seagrass beds so that visitors can enjoy the park without damaging its ecosystems. Jeff Yonover

On the east side of Warderick Wells, relentless ocean waves have carved chimneys, columns and blow holes in the dark limestone. Trails on the island lead up to Boo Boo Hill, named for the way the wind through the rocks sounds like the voices of ghosts. Mark Godfrey/TNC

In the tidal flats, the roots of mangrove trees rise above the water. Because these trees have special abilities to excrete salt, they thrive in the margin between land and sea. Mangrove forests provide important nursery habitat for the young of many fish and crab species. Jeff Yonover

Hermit crabs are common on the islands and are found on land and in the water. Land hermit crabs (also known as Soldier Crabs) make a very distinctive rustling sound as they move through the brush. Mark Godfrey/TNC

Warderick Wells Cay in the park also harbors remnants of its history as a refuge for British Royalists fleeing America during the American Revolution. The foundations of buildings and walls made of limestone are accessible by trail. Here, Conservancy staff explore the ruins with one of the park wardens. Mark Godfrey/TNC

The Conservancy works with the Bahamian government and the Bahamas National Trust to support the local work of the park wardens and volunteers and also provides science and technical support for management planning. On a regional level, the Bahamas is part of the Caribbean Challenge and the Conservancy is working with the government here and the governments of 8 other countries to fulfill their commitments to put at least 20 percent of their territories into national parks. Mark Godfrey/TNC


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