Wildlife galore in a Bahamas, where a whole world’s a park

October 15, 2015 - Picnic Time

Sunrise on Small Hope Bay on Andros Island, in a Bahamas. (Richard Morin)

The ankle-twisting track to a pretentious Rainbow Blue Hole on Andros Island in a Bahamas zigzagged around limestone outcrops and past furious orchids, bromeliads and furious coffee plants, and sea grape, mahogany and brasiletto trees. Little did we know that we were stumbling by nature’s medicine cabinet.

“This is a seagul plum tree,” a healthy laxative, pronounced a beam Torran Simms, pausing by a fuzzy tree with emerald-green leaves. For those with a conflicting problem, a tea done from a severe bellow of a capsule tree will “stop we right up.”

Every few paces on a mile-long track betrothed a heal for whatever ails you. Golden creeper for a bruise throat. Crab brush for stomach distress. When boiled, a fluffy red bellow of a muck dilapidation tree yields a recovering accepted ointment. It’s also a pivotal partial in a mythological herbal tea called “21 Gun Salute,” brush medicine’s answer to Viagra.

It was a morning of a initial day of my three-day goal in early Sep to revisit 4 inhabitant parks on Andros, a largest and slightest explored inhabited island of a Bahamas archipelago.

Over a march of my whirlwind stay we would snorkel on a world’s third-longest fringing coral reef, debate what might be a usually inhabitant park on a universe dedicated to a crab, get hold in a sea turtle trade jam on Andros’s immeasurable though frequency visited West Side, and burst off a 15-foot precipice into a flowing home of a fabulous Lusca, a half-shark, half-squid pronounced to live a island’s supposed blue holes.

On this initial day, we was assimilated by dual other tourists — Annika Gerbeg and Sabrina Forstner, nurses visiting from Germany. After a medicinal hike, we finally emerged from a brush. “The Rainbow Blue Hole,” Simms announced.

Before us lay a ideally turn lake half a football margin wide. The aspect mirrored a shining blue sky; a sky’s thoughtfulness gives a basins their name.

Simms explained that blue holes are hulk sinkholes combined when carbonic poison in rainwater cooking by porous limestone to display a subsurface cave. Rain serve erodes any strange facilities on a corner of a collapsed roof, formulating a evil turn shoreline. More than 350 blue holes exist on Andros, a largest famous thoroughness in a world.

We retraced a stairs to a SUV and gathering deeper into a heart of a 33,235-square-acre Blue Holes National Park. After a brief stop during a smaller Cousteau’s Blue Hole, where adventurer Jacques Cousteau dived in a early 1970s, we were off to Captain Bill’s Blue Hole.

A wooden corridor by a timberland of spindly Bahamas pines led to a safety on a corner of a perfect precipice that forsaken 15 feet to a lake below. A five-foot diving height extended out over a water, charity a fantastic perspective opposite a 440-wide, 300-foot-deep blue hole.

“Ready to jump?” Simms asked.

The debate beam leaps off a height 15 feet above Captain Bill’s Blue Hole. (Richard Morin)

He was a initial to make a leap, an generous bid that took him 8 feet from a height mouth before he arced downward. The German nurses fast followed.

I changed to a edge, paused, afterwards stepped into a void.

I entered a H2O in a hire position. Water shot true adult my nose and we flush coughing and sputtering.

We splashed around in a lovely water, a dual friends chatting cheerfully in German while we struggled to boyant on my back. A half-hour after we clambered adult a ladder, dusty off and headed behind to a many amenities of Small Hope Bay Lodge, my bottom of operations.

Lightly touristed Andros Island is 104 miles prolonged and 40 miles during a widest. It lies 154 miles southeast of Miami and reduction than 40 miles southwest of Nassau. Only 8,000 people live on a island, mostly in tiny settlements sparse along a easterly coast. Virtually a whole low-lying western half of a island is uninhabited.

Andros was even some-more of a tourism afterthought when pioneering Canadian scuba diver Dick Birch non-stop a dive review in 1960 on a seaside of Small Hope Bay. Local fable has it that a bandit Henry Morgan hid value in a bay, assured that searchers had “small hope” of ever anticipating it. Locals primarily had tiny wish that Birch’s house would succeed.

But a Small Hope Bay Lodge flourished, initial as a dive finish and now as a family-friendly review that offers diving, fishing and inlet tours to 1,500 visitors a year. Dick’s son Jeff now operates a house and has done it an attention personality in green, tolerable tourism.

World-class diving and snorkeling sojourn a categorical draw. One afternoon we house a 36-foot pontoon dive vessel for a 15-minute outing to a Andros Barrier Reef National Park, that is indeed dual adjacent preserves that together strengthen 64,834 acres of a 124-mile prolonged embankment complex.

We anchor in a mark called “Central Park.” “We took some New Yorkers snorkeling here,” says dive master Brian Birch, Jeff’s 26-year-old son. “After a dive they pronounced there were so many fish it looked like Central Park” on a balmy open weekend.

Central Park lives adult to a name. we snorkel a dozen feet over clouds of tiny electric-hued fish that whirl around hulk coral heads that explode from a rubble bottom. A tiny grouper eyes me warily from underneath a mixed of elkhorn coral. A few yards away, a long-nosed trumpetfish stands on a tail over a patch of bone-white sand.

At one point, hundreds of dulcet blue runners a stretch of my palm swell around me. The propagandize circles and closes ranks to turn a singular shimmering mammal 15 feet far-reaching and 8 feet tall.

Just as fast as it appeared, a propagandize races off and it’s time to lapse to a lodge.

A traveller negotiating a hilly trails that lead to a superb Rainbow Blue Hole. Andros has a largest famous thoroughness in a universe of underwater caves famous as “blue holes,” generally colored by their thoughtfulness of a sky. (Richard Morin)

Dolphins round a motorboat in a North Bight of Andros. (Richard Morin)

About 3,000 crabs are estimated to live in any hactare of a Crab Replenishment National Park on Andros.

I saw accurately nothing on a two-hour debate by a park with Peter Douglas, a charismatic arch executive of a Andros Conservancy and Trust and manager of a Bahamian government’s Andros tourism office.

“They are molting now, buried in a silt out there,” Douglas said, gesturing toward a marshy coppice that crowds both sides of a two-lane Queen’s Highway, a vital north-south highway on Andros.

In May and June, a land crabs are on a move. The creatures, with bodies incomparable than a fist and challenging claws, desert their silt burrows and hilly crevices during night to transport to a sea to spawn. Their nightly debate takes them skittering opposite Queen’s Highway, where flashlight-toting Bahamians line a alley to fill gunnysacks and 50-gallon drums with a juicy crustaceans.

“It’s a conflict between your fingers and their pincers,” Douglas said. “Crabbing is partial of a Andros culture. We adore a crabs.”

Without crab sightings to miscarry us, Douglas tells a story of a parks, that non-stop in 2002 after years of frustrating supervision delays. Local residents helped set park manners and motionless what areas to preserve. The Blue Holes Park was combined to strengthen a freshwater supply. West Side preserves conch, crayfish, turtle, fish and bird tact grounds. The sea parks strengthen a reef. The scarcely 3,000-square-acre Crab Replenishment Reserve insures a supply of crabs for destiny generations. Nearly two-thirds of Andros lies within park boundaries.

“It didn’t come from a government,” Douglas pronounced proudly. “It didn’t come from scientists. [These parks] came from a people who accepted a resources and a enlightenment — a people who lived it, not schooled it.”

My debate to a 1.4 million-acre West Side National Park began with a long, lurching automobile float to a launch ramp during a Behring Point Settlement and a 50-mile lurch in an 18-foot motorboat by a labyrinth North Bight channel. The shoal bight, some-more than a mile far-reaching in places, runs easterly to west and cuts Andros roughly in half.

Jeff Cartwright, my beam to a park, stopped initial on Broad Shad Cay to hunt for a involved Andros stone iguana. This hulk lizard can grow to be 3 feet prolonged and lives usually on a west side of Andros, Jeff said.

Fewer than 5,000 now live in a wild. But Broad Shad Cay was literally crawling with them. The excellent white silt was streaked with true furrows plowed by a lizard’s prolonged tails. At a finish of one trail, a modest two-foot lizard with a dappled black physique and a brownish-orange face peered over a shoulder during us.

“That’s a teenager,” Cartwright said. we took note of a two-inch prolonged winding claws. Happily, a lizards are particularly vegetarians.

We boarded a motorboat and continued west, interlude quickly during a hull of a Bang Bang Club on Pot Cay, a fishing house and conjectural bower of mafiosi Al Capone. (The name of a house honors a tequila drink, not a many scandalous guest.)

West Side National Park fills scarcely a whole western half of Andros. We upheld mile after mile of low-lying cays, mangrove estuaries, silt flats, turtle weed beds and shoal channels that lizard low into a interior, a adored wintering belligerent for roving North American songbirds.

More than dual hours from a wharf we emerged out of a North Bight, incited neatly left and ran south to a shallows during a mouth of Big Loggerhead Creek.

“Turtles, dual of them,” Cartwright whispered. The span of immature turtles in shoal H2O off a crawl done a raging exit into a channel.

Suddenly turtles were everywhere. “One relocating right,” Cartwright said. We scarcely bumped into a behind of a two-foot-long immature turtle before a dismayed quadruped bolted in a whirl of tan mud. “Another one there. Another relocating right . . . some-more there. They are all over this bank.”

“Big one true ahead,” he pronounced as a turtle a stretch of a manhole cover left over a corner of a channel. “That was a loggerhead.”

In Florida and many tools of a Bahamas, sea turtle sightings are occasional occurrences. But here they’re routine. “We see utterly a few of those guys, during any time of a year,” Cartwright said.

We crossed a channel and hopped off a motorboat to transport around a site of a aged consume trade station. Then it was time for lunch, and we headed north to Little Loggerhead Creek for a seaside picnic.

Raindrops began to tumble as we ate duck and beef grilled over a colourless fire. We pennyless stay and a motorboat roared into a North Bight, angling between a storms building to north and south of a channel.

But West Side National Park had one some-more consternation to share. Halfway home, a dark, winding fin emerged 100 feet in front of a skiff. Then a second.

“Dolphins!” we shouted, and Cartwright eased behind on a throttle.

“There’s 3 of them together — one’s a tiny one,” pronounced Cartwright as dim shapes materialized off a side of a skiff. “There’s a fourth….must be a uncle.”

The dolphin family kept a stretch during first, encircling a vessel though flourishing reduction heedful with any series until they were swimming a dozen feet away. Then a four-foot calf pennyless arrangement to pass a few feet off a bow. It slanted handbill to demeanour adult during me. we suspicion we done eye contact.

A baby dolphin takes a look during visitors in a North Bight/ (Richard Morin)

We played with a dolphin family for 20 minutes. The sleet was shutting in and we were still 25 miles from a dock. “We should be streamer in,” Cartwright said.

And so we left a playmates. Their dorsal fins still pennyless a surface, as if behest me to lapse to a furious West Side and a wonder-filled inhabitant parks of Andros.

Morin is former polling executive during The Washington Post.

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Small Hope Bay Lodge

Small Hope



Small Hope Bay Lodge was a initial dive review in a Bahamas when it non-stop in 1960. It has given developed into a full-service family finish that offers diving, snorkeling, fishing and inlet adventures.

The eco-friendly house offers 21 gentle cabins. The 2016 daily rate for one person, double occupancy, is $295 in a low deteriorate (Jan. 6 – Feb 15, May 18 – Dec 15) and $315 in a high deteriorate (Feb 16 – May 17, Dec 16 – Jan 5). The rate includes all dishes and bar drinks. Guests compensate additional for activities or they can opt for an comprehensive dive, fishing or inlet package.

Brigadier’s Restaurant

Davis Creek


This renouned grill specializes in uninformed seafood. Entrees operation from $13 to $30. A land crab cooking costs $10 in May and June, though adult to $15 in a winter.

Taste See

Love Hill


Bahamian favorites are on a menu here; burst conch, boiled or steamed snapper, lobster, peas and rice, johnnycakes and, of course, boiled plantains. Entrees run from $10.

Hank’s Place Restaurant and Bar

Fresh Creek



Seafood and bistro transport are served in a infrequent environment on a water. The Green-Eyed Lady Bar on a lonesome outward square is a place to be on comfortable weekend nights. A fish or conch dinner, $10; seafood multiple platter, about $25.

Andros Tourist Office

242-368-2286 or 242-368-2891


Central Andros offers a operation of diving, snorkeling, birding, fishing and other inlet experiences. Guided trips can be organised by Small Hope Bay Lodge (lodge guest get priority) or a Andros Ministry of Tourism bureau in Andros Town. Prices operation from $60 for a house blue holes inlet debate to $560 for a day on a West Side.

Androsia Batik

Fresh Creek



This tiny bureau has been producing colorful batik cloth and wardrobe given 1973. For $25, visitors get a guided debate of a operation and can make their possess T-shirt. A tiny emporium sells shirts, dresses and other batik creations done on-site.

The All Andros Crab Fest

Fresh Creek


This annual jubilee of Andros’s crabbing enlightenment is hold a second weekend in June. It facilities land crabs baked 101 ways, a cooking contest, island song and displays that explain a life cycle of a crustacean and a informative importance.


— R.M.

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