The largest and least populated of the Bahamian islands, Andros Island is a place of vast, uninhabited expanses and mystery. Located just off the tip of Florida, the island is 100 miles long and 45 miles wide. Andros is an interwoven mix of creeks, mangrove flats and pine forests. The island features the second largest coral barrier reef in the Western hemisphere, the Northern Bahamian rock iguana, and an astounding, complex web of tunnels connecting land and sea.
A Natural Subway System
That maze of tunnels, known as blue holes, is a network of underwater sinkholes that reach depths of more than 600 feet below sea level. Our knowledge of blue holes is somewhat limited since navigating them can be next to impossible. Scientists think there are more than 200 blue holes surrounding and extending under the island and that fewer than 1% of blue holes around The Bahamas have been explored.
Blue holes help plants and animals to flourish. Inland, they allow the filtering of freshwater through a sheet of porous limestone, producing clean, drinkable water. The tunnels provide ideal habitats for an assortment of rare and poorly understood including a recently discovered new class of crustaceans. A legendary sea monster known as Lusca allegedly lurks in the maze of caves under the sea. Lusca is rumored to be a shark-octopus hybrid that snatches its prey at the water’s surface before taking it deep down into the blue holes to feast.
More than Sea Monsters
Above the surface, Andros Island provides a habitat for migratory songbirds such as the Kirtland's warbler, one of North America's rarest birds. Other notable species include giant land crabs, the Bahamas woodstar, a hummingbird found only in the Bahamas, the West Indian whistling-duck, and the Northern Bahamian rock iguana. Andros Island is also the winter home for approximately 50% of the piping plover population that breeds on the Atlantic coast of Canada and the United States.
Fish that thrive in Andros Island's waters include bonefish, blue tangs, barracudas and sergeant majors. They share the reefs with several shark species, sea turtles, manta rays, lobsters, queen conch and a number of sponge species.
Protecting Parks for Everyone
In 2006, the Conservancy led a team of scientists, researchers and students on a scientific expedition to explore the remote west side of Andros Island. They discovered a haven for baby sharks, turtles and a wealth of other natural life. Working with partners, the Conservancy helped to expand Andros West Side National Park from 882,000 acres to nearly 1.3 million acres, ensuring it will remain a safe haven for fish, birds, reptiles, and sea monsters alike.
Among the protected lands are tidal creeks and flats that are key to Andros Island's multi-million dollar bonefish industry, which attracts sports-fishermen from around the world. In order to maintain and increase wildlife populations, proper protection of the park is critical. The coral barrier reef and the blue holes are incredibly vulnerable to development.
Partnering for Success
The Conservancy works with many partners to ensure that this remote and wild island is protected. Currently, working with the Andros Conservancy and Trust, the Bahamas National Trust, and Green Force, we’ve established an underwater coral nursery, where endangered fragments of staghorn and elkhorn corals are given a chance to grow and thrive. It's a community-driven project; we're training locals to scuba dive so they can help plant, clean and maintain corals in the nursery.
With support from Nature's Hope for South Andros, a local partner, we're also working to establish the island's first conservation center, which will serve as a hub for environmental activities for the community. Our ongoing support will help The Bahamas to enjoy a growing and flourishing environmental movement.