West Side National Park
Minted in 2002 and expanded in 2012, this breathtakingly beautiful national park with its magnificent pines, dense mangroves and seemly endless flats of pristine blue water, is the best of what the wilderness of Andros has to offer. At 1.5 million acres, The West Side National Park is one of the largest Marine Protected Areas in the Western Atlantic.
This park has little infrastructure and trail systems, there is no one on guard.
The Back of Beyond.
The West Side of Andros boasts one of the most uniquely pristine and ecologically diverse habitats in the Caribbean. This 1.5 million-acre national park encompasses virtually the entire west side of Andros Island. Within these boundaries is an amazingly complex ecosystem with vast, scenic wilderness that attracts visitors from around the world. These pristine coastal wetlands are The Bahamas’ most productive fish nurseries and an important feeding area for the West Indian Flamingo.
The mix of shallow tidal flats and mangrove creeks in Andros West Side National Park provide important nursery habitat for economically important species of bonefish and tarpon. AWSNP has recieved international recognition as one of the best flats-fishing areas in the world.
This national park provides a refuge for populations of endemic and endagered species, in addition to to national and international protected species including the Andros Rock Iguana, Atala Hairstreak Butterfly, the West Indian Flamingo, Smalltooth Sawfish, and Sea Turtles.
The coastal area of the park is highly productive and retains traditional fishing grounds for sponges, scale fish, land crab and spiny lobster.
The Back Country of The Big Yard.
The west side of Andros Island is a relatively untouched and remarkably astounding area that is both ecologically and economically important to Andros and the greater Bahamas. The west side plays a vital role in sustaining the nation’s local and commercial fisheries market. Its intact, healthy mangroves provide breeding and nursery areas for commercially important marine species which replenish marine stocks throughout The Bahamas. The west side’s tidal creeks and flats also support thriving bonefish populations which contribute significantly to the island’s bone- fishing industry. Sport fishing is an important multi-million dollar industry which benefits many Androsians.
– Minister of Environment’s Declaration, 2012
In 2002 the government of The Bahamas established Andros West Side National Park on Andros Island to protect significant wetlands, mangroves, and uplands that support outstanding natural systems. The park was one of five designated in Andros in response to local initiatives with a view toward creating sustain-able ecotourism opportunities. The original boundaries of Andros West Side National Park encompassed 185,000 acres.
Tidal Creek | West Side National Park
In June 2006 BNT and The Nature Conservancy organized an unprecedented survey of natural resources of western Andros from Joulters Cays to Curley Cut Cays. This rapid ecological assessment (REA) was conducted by an interdisciplinary team of scientists, Androsian fishing guides, and Bahamian students. The resulting report described the biophysical characteristics of the area; fish habitat related to mangroves; bonefish and tarpon habitats; upland vegetation; and the distribution and habitats of Andros rock iguanas, flamingos, and sea turtles. Conservation recommendations in the report concluded that the original Andros West Side National Park boundary did not include crucial habitats for several important species and that the park boundaries should be substantially expanded.
Roseate Spoonbills | Platalea ajaja
In 2007 BNT, TNC, Andros Conservancy and Trust and Natures Hope for Southern Andros staff met with local residents on Andros to share the results of the REA and discuss the potential for enlarging the park boundaries. Through a series of community meetings and one-on-one interviews, many participants supported the basis for the expansion, but also emphasized that their livelihoods and lifestyles are intrinsically linked to fishing and sponging along the west side.
On May 12, 2012, the Minister of the Environment officially announced the expansion of Andros West Side NP to total 1.4 million acres, an area roughly 80 miles long and 25 miles wide, one of the largest protected areas in the Western Atlantic/Caribbean region.