Best Parks in the Bahamas
Credit: age fotostock / Alamy

It is the natural landscapes—the aquamarine underwater world, tropical wildlife, and native plants—that shine inside our national parks. Some are more accessible than others, with the Lucayan National park and the Leon Levy Plant Preserve being the easiest to reach. The most southern park in Inagua is so remote from the capital in Nassau that it is almost in Port-de-Paix, Haiti. In fact, the Bahamas and Haiti, but more so Inagua and the southern islands, are well connected through culture, politics and geography. Inside the confines of our national parks there are many world wonders, including the largest bonefish habitat, the largest concentration of blue holes and the largest population of West Indian flamingos in the world. But the park system is also a massively underfunded network, so do not come looking for a North American style park experience where you can expect to have access to concession stands, gift shops, multimedia displays and an extensive network of guides.

Blue Holes National Park

Tucked away deep inside the pine forests of Andros Island are bodies of water so deep they are uncharted and so mystical they are home to mythical creatures. These naturally formed swimming pools are fresh water baths at the surface and cavernous salt water labyrinths at their depths. I never visit Andros without being refreshed with a blue-hole swim. Inside the park there are over 18 to choose from: Captain Bills and Cousteau's Blue Hole are the most accessible.

Inagua National Park

You do not have to be a birder to appreciate the remarkable bird watching attractions inside the Inagua National Park, because no one can escape the endearing appeal of 50,000 scarlet feathered flamingos as they prune and feed in the shallows of a salt pond. Along with the largest population of West Indian flamingos in the world, the park has over 140 species of native and migratory birds, wild donkeys and hogs.

Exuma Land and Sea Park

There are at least 52 named shades of blue in the color spectrum: from Brandeis to Tiffany to Egyptian blue. What they all hold in common is the waters of the Exumas. Above and below, the most striking thing about cruising through the Exuma Land and Sea Park is its bountiful blues. Whatever you thought you knew about our beaches and waterscape, this Exuma park is the Gold Crown of the Bahamian aquatic world.

Leon Levy Plan Preserve

Who needs a hospital in Eleuthera when you have the Leon Levy Plant Preserve, where you can find an entire collection of medicinal plants neatly curated in one garden. Heat the leaves of the salve bush to treat headaches; bathe in a tea brewed from the bark of the gum elemi tree for back pains. Walk the nature trails that cut across this 25 acre botanical garden and learn all about the indigenous plants and trees of the Bahamas.

Lucayan National Park

Nature walks through the Lucayan National Park will introduce you to the major ecosystems of the Bahamas, including the towering pine forests, low lying coppice, moist mangrove swamps and salty coastlines. But the main attraction in this park is the secluded and spectacular Gold Rock Beach, which is reason enough to visit. For the box office buster Pirates of the Caribbean, it was reason enough to film in the Bahamas.