Close encounters with flamingos and sea turtles

Seeking calm waters and the tasty roots and leaves of mangrove plants, endangered green sea turtles head for the well-named Turtle Cove on Crooked Island. Kayaking this clear cerulean inland river, it’s possible to spot them as they surface from foraging. Amberjacks and wrasses are among the fish we will likely encounter as we snorkel over the island’s reefs.

The interior of Conception Island National Park is mostly mangrove and creeks where green turtles nest and feed. This habitat is also a nursery for other species like sharks, fish, conch, and crawfish. Rays, eels, sponges, and grouper are among the marine life that is drawn to the extremely healthy coral reefs surrounding the island.

Sea anemones, parrotfish, and conch are commonly seen around Eleuthera’s coral reefs, drop-offs, and wrecks. Further out, mahi-mahi, wahoo, blue and white marlins, and yellowfin tuna lure sport fishing enthusiasts.

A dream for snorkelers and divers, Long Island’s underwater grottos and swim throughs, pristine reefs, caves, and overhangs draw sharks and barracuda, tarpon and grouper. Marlin, tuna, and wahoo are found further offshore.

In the waters around Mayaguana, an extremely diverse population of reef fish, including barracuda and princess parrotfish, paint the water vibrant colors like canary yellow and royal blue. On land, the endangered Bartsch’s iguana can be spotted. Endemic to nearby Booby Cay, named for its brown boobies, it grows to 30 inches and is considered a small rock iguana. Royal terns and Wilson’s plovers also call Mayaguana home but it’s the flocks of West Indian flamingos that produce the most shutter clicks.

Flocks of West Indian flamingoes reside on Long Cay and can be observed here and on nearby Acklins & Crooked islands where they frequent quiet brackish ponds sieving the shallow waters. White-tailed tropicbirds, Bahama mockingbirds, pearly-eyed thrashers, and black-faced grassquits can be spotted on the latter atoll along with the endemic Bahama woodstar.

In the uninhabited and little-visited Conception Island National Park, be on the lookout for nesting boobies, tropicbirds, and ospreys as well as egrets, herons, frigatebirds, and oyster catchers.

Throughout the expedition, beachcombers will delight in finding starfish, conch, and sand dollars on untouched stretches of powder-soft sand.

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