By Leah Carr, Bahamas National Trust
If you’ve ever worked on a charter that went to The Bahamas, you’ve either spent some time in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP), or at least heard of it. But did you know the ECLSP is one of 32 national parks in The Bahamas national park system that is managed by The Bahamas National Trust?
At The Bahamas National Trust (BNT), so much of what we do would not be possible without the aid and goodwill of donors, volunteers, and supporters. As a yachtie, you’re in a position that may allow you to support our work in a special way. The Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park – the very first land and sea park in the world – is one of the most popular destinations for boaters in Bahamian waters, so you’ll probably end up here more than once during your travels as a yachtie. If you’re interested in conservation, appreciate the beauty of our turquoise waters and unique marine ecosystems, or just happen to find yourself with some extra time when anchored or moored within the ECLSP and want to lend a hand to our passionate and dedicated BNTeam, read on to find out how you can do just that!
1. Learn about the BNT and the ECLSP
The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) is a nongovernmental, nonprofit, membership-based organization dedicated to protecting and conserving the “national jewels” of The Bahamas: its national park system. Founded by an Act of Parliament in 1959, we are committed to using science and education to advance conservation throughout The Bahamas. One of the best ways you can help us preserve The Bahamas and keep it pristine is by educating your guests and visitors who enter the parks so they’re aware of the importance of these areas as well as the work of the BNT. Also, by letting them know about the ways they can support it. This is why we ask that you learn all you can about our organization and our work so you are in a position to educate and inform your guests – not only to help conservation, but also to enhance the experiences of your guests with knowledge of what all these parks have to offer.
You and your guests can use our website as a resource for information, to learn more about the BNT and the national parks of The Bahamas: https://bnt.bs. And you can check out our Quick Guide to the ECLSP for our all-inclusive guide to the Exumas and the ECLSP specifically.
This guide provides information on a host of activities that boat staff and guests can enjoy during their stay in the park. From water activities like snorkeling, diving, and kayaking, to hiking and exploring. As a bonus, we can offer special experiences with our ECLSP Park Wardens on a case-by-case basis for visitors.
2. Learn the rules and regulations of the ECLSP
Our national parks are sanctuaries for the invaluable and unique species and natural resources of The Bahamas. Many species depend on these areas in order to survive. The ECLSP is no exception. Within the park’s 174,194 acre boundary are some of the healthiest reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, and other ecosystems you’ll see in The Bahamas. Your guests can enjoy up-close experiences with many beautiful and amazing species when they go diving, or hiking in the park… but in order for guests to be able to do this, we must work together to ensure these species are protected! That’s why it’s important to make sure all guests are informed of the rules and regulations of the park. Among these, it is important to emphasize that the park is a complete no-take zone, meaning under no circumstances is any fishing, conching, shelling, or lobstering allowed. Nothing living or dead may be removed from the park.
Let’s work together to preserve these special species and places for the enjoyment and benefit of everyone!
3. Volunteer your skills
At the ECLSP, we’re always in need of skilled volunteers. If you find yourself within the park with some extra time and a desire to lend a hand, there are a number of ways you can help. Ask about assisting with trail maintenance or overall upkeep of the park. If you have a specific skill, like engineering, you could assist with generator or engine maintenance. The island does not have any government-provided utilities, so all upkeep and maintenance is the responsibility of the BNT. Any assistance goes a long way and is deeply appreciated! If you’re not sure how your skills could be utilized, talk to a Park Warden to see how best you can help!
4. Let your peers know about our Annual Passes and Support Fleet Memberships
We offer Annual Passes and Support Fleet Memberships specifically for our boating visitors. Many of these memberships cover all park fees, including: landing fees, beach setup fees, anchorage, and mooring fees. These memberships make it easy and convenient for boats that frequent the ECLSP to stay up to date with access to the park by covering all necessary fees upfront for a select period of time. This can be beneficial for your guests so they can be prepared ahead of time for any visits they make to the ECLSP! Full details about our Annual Pass and Fleet Membership offerings can be found in the ECLSP guidebook.
5. Encourage guests to support the park
As a nonprofit organization, we rely on donations and memberships to carry out our important work to protect the environment. Encouraging your guests (and everyone you know!) to give is one of the quintessential ways you can support what we do at the BNT! Something you may want to inform your guests of is our special “Friends of the Park” donor group. “Friends of the Park” are supporters who donate $1,000 or more to the ECLSP and then get a plaque added to our wall of “Special Friends,” proudly displayed at our park headquarters. They can also sign up for BNT membership to receive exclusive benefits and show their long-term support.
If any of your guests want to make a larger impact at the ECLSP, they can donate to the construction of the ECLSP STEM building for science-based conservation and education.
6. Let your guests know we are 501C3-registered
The Bahamas National Trust Fund Inc. is a 501C3-registered charity in the USA. This means donations made to our organization are tax-deductible. This could be an incentive for some of your guests who may be interested in making a donation to the BNT. So make sure all of them are aware that we are 501C3-registered!
The ECLSP is one of the most special places in the world. We need all the help we can get to protect it. If you have any questions about ways you can support the work of the BNT, visit our website or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for your interest in helping to preserve the national treasures of The Bahamas!
Photos: Elijah Sands/Bahamas National Trust