In my previous article I alluded to Warderick Wells, which is a land and sea park in the Bahamas and, for me, one of the most pristine waters with wild life species many people have never seen before challenging what we have seen in the Caribbean or South America. Most yachtsmen, who travel the “Thornless Path” as Bruce Van Sant calls it, and have sailed to and visited Warderick Wells, know about the pristine preserve throughout the Exuma chain. We have had the privilege of sailing this Land and Sea Park several time over the years and we have yet to find it to be unspectacular or boring.
Each time as we were approaching Warderick Wells, we picked up a hitchhiker or two of Bananas Quits. These are tiny yellow birds that live and flourish in the area. Sorry, I do not know more about their range, but I do know that they are friendly and insistent about hitching a ride. We have not run into them anywhere else except near Warderick Wells. As we are sailing along, suddenly they appear out of the sky and land on our boat. They seem to quiet down and take rest and sometimes venture inside the boat, for as long as you will have them.
When we arrived for the first time to this island group, we could not believe the natural beauty and water color of these islands. The water is “gin clear” and you can see fish swimming around your boat. The park is run by Bahamian Land and Sea Park. It is one of the most beautiful natural areas in not only the Bahamas, but the Caribbean as well.
While we were there, the boats anchored in the harbor planned a get together at the Ranger’s office. We each brought a dish to share and our own drinks. This happened often as we made our way south through the island chain, but none of the other island chains were as pristine as Warderick Wells. Do not miss it if you are traveling south.
Another attraction was that we were able to walk across the island to the Atlantic side and look at the world from another perspective. It was magical.
Because of the protection of the inner harbor, we were able to sit out a sudden storm. Warderick offers other unique features. It is a natural “classroom” for learning about the local flora and fauna, the clarity of the water makes it easy to see and identify the strange creatures that inhabit the waters.
When we were therelast moorings were on a first come first served basis. If you cannot make this arrangement, there are moorings on the SE side of the park. There is no anchoring anywhere within the Park.
Exuma Cay and Land and Sea Park is an ecological park. Nothing can be taken from the premises. As you can imagine, there is no fishing, shelling or conching within the park. However, the Osprey, Raptors, Haliaetus, and Fishawks to name a few, are quite happy to provide the necessary ecological balance. There are nature trails that you can take through the island and look for birds, plants and solitude.
Another fun place to see is the “road sign” established there many years ago on the highest hill, called Boo-Boo Hill. It is a place where yachting visitors left a board, hat, or sign with their boat’s name as a reminder of their visit to the park. We had a thick cutting board on which we etched GRENDEL and the date. When we returned a few years later, it was still there.
Established in 1958, Exuma Land and Sea Park is the first of its kind in the world. The Park is an outstanding anchorage with its pristine water and breathtaking views. It is a natural habitat breeding ground for sea birds.
When we visited, the yachties would gather at the rangers’ station and exchange stories. We also had pot luck gatherings on Sunday. It is still the place to gather. We met many cruisers from all over the world. Nowadays, the ranger station is still a place to gather. It is also a place for gathering guide books and island information. It is filled with booklets, stories and information about the natural history of the flora and fauna native to the Bahamas.
The rarest living creatures in the Park are blue-green reef forming algae known as “stomatolites.” These reefs are the oldest living evidence of life on earth. Some of these fossil remains date back 3.5 billion years. In the 1980’s stomatolites were found in the Bahamas off Stocking Island and the Exuma Cay Land and Sea Park. They were estimated to be about 2,000 years old.
Come and spend some time in the Bahamas and see for yourself, all the beauty of land, sea, and sky and meet some of the nicest and most gracious people anywhere.
When you do have to sail to the next port remember: “Take only photographs, Leave only footprints.”
Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron.