Visitors to Exuma Park will have an opportunity to view a very wide variety of tropical life.
We have organized information in this section of our website to help visitors identify and learn more about the geology, history, flora, fauna, birds and sealife in Exuma Park.
We hope this section helps you learn more about the living environment of Exuma Park and helps everyone better understand the need to preserve and protect it.
History of the Cays
The Lucayans inhabited the Bahamas prior to the arrival of Columbus in 1492. The Lucayans originated in South America as the Arawaks and traveled throughout much of the Caribbean by dugout canoe. A peaceful people, the Arawaks were forced to keep on the move by the Caribs, a cannibalistic group, and eventually inhabited the Exumas and other Bahamian islands between 500-600 AD.
The Lucayans were generous by nature and shared everything with Columbus. In return, the Spanish enslaved the Lucayans to work in their mines and plantations in Cuba. No descendants of the Lucayans remain today having been obliterated by slavery and disease.
The Exumas had few visitors after the removal of the Lucayans until the arrival of the Privateers, Buccaneers, and Pirates in the 1600’s and early 1700’s. English buccaneers established a settlement on New Providence in the mid-1600’s and this became the lawless base for their activities until the arrival of William Rogers in 1718. A series of conflicts between Spain, England, and France created the era of privateering and the pirates that sailed the Bahamas during this period. The English buccaneers in the Bahamas were well positioned to attack the Spanish ships returning to Spain with gold from the New World. When treaties were signed the looting continued and privateers became pirates. The Exumas, including the cays in the Land and Sea Park, were frequently used as hideouts by the Pirates.
The American Revolution created the next wave of immigration to the Bahamas as Loyalists to the English Crown moved to the Bahamas in the late 1700’s. Most Loyalists who settled in the Exumas were southerners who moved with their slaves. Although early cotton crops were successful the thin soil of the cays and the attack of the chenille, a ravenous caterpillar, prevented long-term cultivation. Loyalists also moved to some of the smaller cays to raise other crops and animals and ruins can be found on many of the cays including Hawksbill Cay and Warderwich Wells.
The abolition of slavery in 1834 ended the future of cotton in the Exumas and the freed slaves developed skills as fishermen, a tradition evident in the Bahamian communities today.
As a result of their strategic location, the Bahamas became a base for blockade running during the American Civil War. The Bahamas also served as a convenient location for rum-running during prohibition in the United States between 1920 and 1933. During the 1970’s and early 1980’s the Bahamas, including the Exumas, became the location of notorious drug smuggling operations.
Today the clear water and beautiful weather have made the Exumas a premier tourist attraction. The Exuma Land and Sea Park were established in 1958 to preserve and protect this unique environment – serving as a breeding area for the interests of the local Bahamian fishing industry and providing a unique experience for visitors to the Bahamas.
The Visitor Center at Exuma Park Headquarters has The Exuma Guide and a variety of other books and publications that will help you learn more about the amazing history of these small cays.
Geology of the Cays
The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is a group of some 700 Islands and nearly 2,500 small islets or cays resting on an immense plateau of tertiary limestone that was formed between 1 and 2 million years ago. The Exumas are centrally located resting between the shallow banks and Exuma Sound a mile deep canyon created by the action of the sea over the past million years.
During glaciation some 70,000 to 10,000 years ago, water was taken from the oceans to form the ice at high latitudes, thus global sea level dropped by as much as 120 meters, exposing the continental shelves and the Bahamas plateau. During deglaciation, the melted ice-water returned to the oceans, causing sea levels to rise. These changes in sea level account for the formation by dripping water of both stalactites and stalagmites in limestone caves (Rocky Dundas) and other caves now found below sea level in the Bahamas.
The Bahamas are not volcanic like many of the Caribbean and Pacific islands. Limestone is the only rock found in the Bahamas and is frequently worn razor sharp by the action of the wind and sea. Much of what you see underwater and along the shore today is the result of coral growth on the plateau of limestone.
There are no fresh water rivers in the Bahamas as water erodes limestone and the cays contain numerous sink holes and caves. A few fresh water wells can be found on the cays. Creeks, such as those found on Shroud Cay and Warderwick Wells are created by the tidal flows of salt water. As a result, the soil on the cays is extremely thin and the limited amount of fresh water creates a harsh environment for both plant and animal life.
The growth of coral reefs on the limestone plateau accounts for the beautiful clear waters of the Bahamas. Wave action over the centuries has created the amazing white beaches consisting of tiny fragments of coral, sea shells and limestone. The seas in the Bahamas are very fertile and a wide variety of sea life exists deep in Exuma Sound, along the coral reefs and on the banks. In addition, numerous tropical birds have made the Bahamas their home.
Enjoy your visit to Exuma Park!