Inagua National Park

Inagua National Park

Overview

Inagua National Park is located on Great Inagua, the southern-most island in The Bahamas. Established in 1963, Inagua National Park encompasses 287 square miles of raw, tropical island beauty. The Park is the site of the largest breeding colony of West Indian Flamingos in the world. This national bird of The Bahamas now numbers approximately 50,000 on Inagua after having made a forty-year journey back from the edge of extinction.

In addition to its flamingos, Inagua is also famous for its salt. Wind swept and with precious little rainfall, Inagua is a natural salt producing island, so much so the Morton Salt Company has been in full operation there for over fifty years. Morton Salt now harvests one million tons of salt per year from the extensive pans on the island.

  • Established: 1965
  • Size: 220,000 Acres

Details

History

The Inagua National Park is about one hours’ drive from Matthew Town and covers 183,740 acres of Great Inagua. Birdlife dominates the park and the flamingo, the national bird of the Bahamas is its star attraction. Inagua National park is the site of the largest breeding colony of west Indian Flamingos in the world. Today the population numbers approximately 60,000 after having made a 40 year journey back from the edge of extinction.

Inagua’s interior gives way to Lake Windsor and it is here, among the cays and mangrove stands that herons, egrets, spoonbills, pelicans and many other birds can be found. A multitude of avifauna resides and/or winter in Inagua and the island truly is a birdwatcher’s haven.

As early as 1905, concern for the West Indian flamingo in the Caribbean was intense. The flamingos were hunted for their meat and residents of islands close to nesting areas would raid the colonies, especially for the squabs. Flamingos were also hunted for their plumage. Wild pigs that were introduced by early settlers fed by the birds’ eggs and young and so they acquired a taste for ‘flamingo’. Ironically the final blow was given them by Royal Air Force Pilots, who took to buzzing the colonies for fun, sending flocks dashing for cover and permanently frightening some away.

By the 1950’s a close working relationship had been established between the National Audubon Society and The Bahamas. Concerned with the sudden decline in the flamingo population during the early years of that decade. Audubon sent is then research director, Robert Porter Allen, to Inagua in an attempt to prevent the birds fast approaching extinction. Allen arrived in Inagua in the spring of 1952. Sam Nixon, the best hunter and guide on Inagua, took Allen to the Upper Lakes of Inagua where they found more than a thousand flamingos “commulating” as Nixon had promised they would. The birds massed in that riotous courtship ritual of head turing, wing flicking, and exaggerated strutting that Allen called “the Flamingo Quadrille”. Here, Allen realized was a breeding colony in isolation from which the diminishing flamingo pop might be replenishing.

The society for the Protection of the Flamingo in The Bahamas was formed, made up of a number of American and Bahamian Conservationists. The new society appointed Sam Nixon the first flamingo warden on Great Inagua. Later in 1952, Jimmy Nixon became his assistant. Allen designed and built the little camp on Long Cay and named it for Author Vernay, the first president on the new Society.
Another positive step was the creation of the Bahama National Trust by an Act of Parliament in 1959. As the official organization responsible for wildlife protection and national park management, the Trust took over the work of the old society of the protection of the flamingo. The Trust, learning a lesson from the disappearance of the flamingos from Andros, has made the air space above the Inagua National Park a restricted area with fights not being allowed below 2,000 feet. Today, the BNT warden Henry Nixon patrol the Park and protect the flamingos.

Importance to Biodiversity

Wildlife: While the environment of Inagua may be hostile to human habitation, it is perfect for birds and other wildlife. Many people travel to the southernmost island to see flamingos, but are surprised and delighted to see a multitude of other birds and wildlife as well. The native Bahama parrot, the endemic Bahama Woodstar Hummingbird, White Cheeked Pintails, Brown Pelicans, Tri-colored herons, Snowy egrets, Reddish egrets, Western Spindalis, Cormorants, Roseeate Spoonbills, American kestrels, and Burrowing owls abound in the Park’s interior. Birds however are not the Parks only treasure. Wild Donkeys trot amongst the mangroves, freshwater terrapins inhabit the ponds, and bonsai forests grace its interior.

Repopulation: The success of the Inagua National Park is evident in the repopulating of other Caribbean islands by the Inagua population. Scientists are aware of the connection between Cuba and Inagua as well as healthy flamingo colonies on the Turks and Caicos Islands and Grand Cayman as well as then repopulating of Crooked Island and Acklins Island by the Inagua flamingos.

Ramsar Convention
in 1997 The Bahamas became the 99th party to the Ramsar Convention on wetlands. At the same time, the Inagua National Park was designated a wetland of international importance. Once seen as wetlands, wetlands are now considered fundamental to the world’s ecology as regulators of water regimes and as habitats for a wide variety of plants and animals, especially waterfowl. They are viewed as a resource of great economic, cultural and scientific value, the loss of which would be irreparable.

Industry

Morton salt company produces salt by solar evaporation in the vast flat salt pans or reservoirs that criss cross the Inagua landscape. It is a two year process as seawater is gradually circulated from pan to pan. In time algae, fostered by the flamingo droppings, grows in the water and darkens it. This hastens evaporation by absorbing more sunlight. Then the tiny brine shrimp begin feeding on algae cleaning the water. And the flamingos feed on the shrimp until the salt is ready for harvesting, leaving everyone tickled pink!

Inagua’s interior gives way to Lake Windsor and it is here, among the cays and mangrove stands that herons, egrets, spoonbills, pelicans and many other birds can be found.  A multitude of avifauna resides and/or winter in Inagua and the island truly is a birdwatcher’s haven.

Travel

Formalizing plans with the Bahamas National Trust
If you plan to visit Inagua National Park or Union Creek during your stay on Inagua, dates should be confirmed with the Abaco or Inagua Nassau Office prior to your arrival on Inagua. The Trust will need to know: flight schedule, length of visit, number of persons, etc. Pre-payment to a BNT Office confirms your reservation.

When is the best time to visit?
The best time to visit Inagua is from November to June. However, any time you plan to go, you will still see flamingos and other wildlife. During the breeding season (March-May), there are masses of flamingos. There are many other species, the endangered Bahama Parrot among them. Wild donkeys and boar also inhabit the remote parts of the island.

Transportation
Bahamasair (the National Flag carrier of The Bahamas Tel. 242- 377-5505) has scheduled flights to Matthew Town, Inagua. Flights to Inagua run Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Private charter flights are also available. Arrangements for ground transportation must be made on arrival in Inagua. Trust vehicles are used to transport visitors to the park but other trips to and around Matthew Town must be privately arranged. BNT wardens will be happy to provide recommendations for vehicle rentals. There are no taxis in Inagua.

Accommodations in Inagua
“The Main House” is a small guesthouse in Matthew Town, which is owned by Morton Salt Company. Reservations are necessary and should be made directly with Morton Salt, Inagua. There are also a few other small guesthouses that have recently opened.
Morton Main House: 242-339-1266 or 242 –339-1267
Enrica’s Inn: 242-339-2127
Gaga’s Nest: 242-339-2140

What you need to bring
Inagua as our southernmost island is almost always sunny and warm. Visitors should be sure and bring sun screen, a hat, comfortable walking shoes, insect repellent and also any special medication that you might need. Inagua businesses operate on a cash only basis, your credit cards can be used at the local bank, Bank of The Bahamas, hours are 9:30am – 3pm (Monday to Thursday) and 9:30am – 5pm (Fridays).

Visitor Fees

Rate Price
Student Group Rates $10.00 per person
Normal Visitor Rate $25.00 per person
Commercial Visitor Rate $75.00 per person

These rates include: Park user fee and the BNT Warden’s time. These fees do NOT include Vehicle rental and fuel and Warden gratuity (optional)

 

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