The Exuma Cays are an archipelago of over 365 islands and cays in the Bahamas known for their white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and crystal-clear waters. The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is a protected area that extends from Shroud Cay in the north to Bell Cay in the south.
The Exuma Cays are an archipelago of over 365 islands and cays in the Bahamas, a country consisting of an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. They are located about 80 km (50 mi) southeast of Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.
The Exuma Cays, often referred to simply as the Exumas, are known for their white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and crystal-clear waters. They are also a popular destination for scuba diving and snorkeling, as the waters around the Exuma Cays are home to a variety of coral reefs and marine life.
The largest island in the Exuma Cays is Great Exuma, which is home to the capital, George Town. George Town is a small town with a charming main street lined with shops and restaurants. There are also a number of resorts and vacation rentals on Great Exuma.
A few of the other popular islands in the Exuma Cays include:
Staniel Cay: Staniel Cay is a popular hub in the Exumas known for its proximity to famous attractions like Thunderball Grotto and the swimming pigs of Big Major Cay. It offers a marina and accommodations and is a base for exploring the surrounding islands.
Little Exuma: Little Exuma is connected to Great Exuma by a small bridge. It is a quieter and more secluded island than Great Exuma.
Big Major Cay: Also known as Pig Beach, Big Major Cay is famous for its swimming pigs that greet visitors in the water. These friendly pigs have become a unique and adorable attraction in the Exumas.
Compass Cay: Compass Cay is known for its marina and the opportunity to swim with nurse sharks. Visitors can interact with these gentle creatures in the shallow waters.
Fowl Cay: Fowl Cay is a private island with luxury villas that are available for rent. It's renowned for its seclusion and stunning scenery, offering a perfect retreat for those seeking privacy and relaxation.
Warderick Wells Cay: Warderick Wells Cay is the headquarters of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. It's a protected area where visitors can explore trails, visit the park's visitor center, and enjoy pristine snorkeling and diving sites.
Norman's Cay: Norman's Cay has a fascinating history involving drug trafficking, which adds to its allure. The island offers opportunities for diving around the sunken drug smuggling plane.
Highbourne Cay: Highbourne Cay is known for its marina and luxury services. It's a popular stop for yachts and offers stunning beaches and clear waters for snorkeling and swimming.
Great Guana Cay: Great Guana Cay is known for its beautiful beaches, particularly the popular "Nippers Beach Bar & Grill." The island offers a relaxed atmosphere and scenic landscapes.
Little Farmers Cay: Little Farmers Cay is a small island known for its annual Farmers Cay Regatta, a local sailing event. It offers a charming and intimate experience of Bahamian culture.
Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is a protected area covering a 455 sq km (176 sq mi) stretch of the Exuma Cays. Established in 1958, it was the world's first land and sea park.
The Exumas are an archipelago of 365 cays and islands beginning just 35 miles southeast of Nassau, Bahamas, and located within the Lucayan Archipelago. The islands are divided into three major areas: Great Exuma, Little Exuma, and the Exuma Cays.
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park extends from Shroud Cay in the north to Bell Cay in the south, including many islands, islets, and cays in between. The protected area was established to preserve the many underwater reefs and uninhabited cays for exploration.
The vegetation consists of mangrove communities, with the east sides being clad in low scrub and the western sides with taller scrub. There are many epiphytic orchids and bromeliads.
The rare and endangered Bahamian hutia, a rodent, is the only terrestrial mammal native to the Bahamas and was introduced into the park in 1973. A number of seabirds nest in the park, including Audubon's shearwater, white-tailed tropicbird, brown noddy, and six species of terns (bridled, least, roseate, royal, sandwich, and sooty).
The endangered Allen Cays rock iguana (Cyclura cychlura inornata) is found on several islands in the Exumas. The coral reefs, marine invertebrates, and many species of fish are also noteworthy.
Overfishing has caused many commercial species to show large declines, but the Exuma Land and Sea Park still has a healthy breeding population of conch, grouper, and lobster.
In 1985, the Bahamas National Trust took a bold conservation stance: the Exuma Land and Sea Park was made a protected replenishment zone. All fishing is prohibited within the boundaries of the park. It is the first "no-take reserve" (all fishing is prohibited) in the wider Caribbean. Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus), also known as fishhawks, are the only creatures allowed to fish in the park.
The benefits of this initiative are far-reaching. Evidence shows that more marine species are reaching adulthood and restocking areas outside the park boundaries.
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park's headquarters are on the island of Warderick Wells. The island is a popular spot for cruising sailboats and yachts to stop and spend the night in one of three anchorages.
There are several nature trails on the island, including one to Boo Boo Hill that offers a spectacular view of the island, anchorage and Exuma Sound.