An Intro to the exumas
The story of an Earthly paradise
Geologists relate that the story of The Exumas, an archipelago of 365 islands and cays, begins millions of years ago, during prehistoric ice ages. When much of the world’s water was concentrated in polar ice, the sea level was much lower than it is today. Wind created vast sand dunes in the lands east of what is now Florida. Millennia later, when the sea level rose again, the peaks of these dunes became The Exumas, an enchanting 120-mile-long island chain.
Human habitation of these islands goes back some one thousand years. The Lucayans, a sub-group of the Arawak Nation, were the original inhabitants of this paradisiacal realm. Skilled hunters of birds, the Arawak also obtained much of their meat from the small mammals known as hutias. They kept pet parrots and trained dogs to assist with their hunts. They used blowguns, spears, and bows and arrows. From a dugout canoe, they were expert at spearing fish. Sadly, most of the Lucayans were killed by Old World microbes, with the remainder succumbing during brutal bondage imposed by the Spanish.
The navigation log of Christopher Columbus’s first voyage indicates that The Exumas were among the first, if not the first, places in North America ever seen by a European, excluding the Viking colonization of frigid Greenland and Newfoundland. During the golden age of piracy in the 17th century, outlaws used the cays and waterways of The Exumas as hideouts to prey upon shipping between Europe and the wealthy colonies around the Caribbean.
The Exumas: Where nature remains pristine
The people and the government of The Bahamas have made the protection of nature in The Exumas a policy priority. In 1958, The Bahamas blazed a new trail by establishing the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, a 456-square-kilometer region that represented the world’s first mixed land and water preserve. Visitors are encouraged to take photographs, but removing objects is forbidden, and certainly littering is sanctioned. Indeed, the value of the superb anchorages; as well as the preservation of the magnificent, delicate ecosystems; depends upon the unspoiled natural environment. The fauna that constitute major tourist attractions include the stromatolite reefs, among the Earth’s rarest and oldest creatures, and the diverse seabirds that breed throughout this beautiful island chain.
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