On Monday, January 17, we departed Norman's Cay and made our way to Shroud Cay, the first cay in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the first land and sea park in the world. First, a little background on the park....
Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is one of 26 national parks and protected area managed by The Bahamas National Trust. In 1953, a visionary Superintendent of The Everglades National Park in Florida, Daniel B. Beard, began urging explorers, naturalists and researchers of the importance of setting aside a section of the Exuma Cays as a buffer area, eventually to become a land and sea park. After several years of research, grants, and proposals, The Bahamas National Trust was incorporated by a special act of the Bahamian Parliament on July 13, 1959. The park was made a no-take marine reserve in 1986, the first marine fishery reserve in the wider Caribbean. Scientists have established that conch, lobster and grouper fisheries around the park have benefited tremendously from this decision. The Nature Conservancy in the United States has confirmed that the park has the highest conservation value in the region and is the only park in the Caribbean that functions as both a marine reserve and recreational area.
Today the park is one of the most beautiful areas in the Exumas and we have had a great time exploring these beautiful, pristine cays. The park starts at Wax Cay Cut, just below Norman's Cay and extends to the south 22 miles to Conch Cut with an average width of 8 miles. There are no commercial developments in the park and the only inhabited islands are privately owned.
The park has rules and regulations that all visitors must abide by. One of the biggest dangers to the park is poaching. The depletion of fisheries outside the park and the richness of the waters within the park boundaries make this area prone to poaching. Whether it is a Bahamian trying to make a little money or a cruiser trolling within the boundaries, it is poaching and it is illegal. There is no garbage disposal anywhere within the park. "Take only photographs....leave only footprints".
Shroud Cay is an uninhabited cay owned by Exuma Park. It is an archipelago of cays and rocks surrounding a shallow tidal mangrove creek which serves as a unique nursery for conch, lobster, sea turtles, birds, and many varieties of fish. Shroud Cay's name came from its resemblance to the long narrow sheet or shroud that is used to wrap a body.
There is a park supported mooring field on the west shore of the island, and boats anchor there as well. The main attraction for this island is the exploration of the sandy-bottomed creeks by dingy. We explored Sanctuary Creek, a beautiful estuary with shifting channels and shallow sandbars. It is best explored at or near high tide.
If you follow the northernmost creek, you will come out into the Exuma Sound (Atlantic Ocean) side. There is a stunning beach and spectacular scenery. Practically deserted, it begs for contemplative beach walks.
There is a path up a hill on the beach which leads to Camp Driftwood.
Camp Driftwood was built in the 1960's by a man named Ernest Scholtes. He was a hermit who lived on his sailboat just inside the creek on the Sound side. He cut steps into the 50 foot hill and carried sand in sail bags to build the trail. Along the way he would pick up a plank or bit of driftwood and soon have a table or picnic bench. Today the area is deserted as park staff has removed all articles left at Camp Driftwood. Camp Driftwood has a bit of sordid history associated with it as well. In the 1980's when Carlos Lehder and his associates operated their cocaine business from Norman's Cay, DEA agents used the ridge at Camp Driftwood to spy on Lehder's operation. From this vantage point, they were able to take photos of all the planes as they landed and took off.
The view from the top has spectacular scenery of the Exuma Sound on one side and the tidal creek system on the other.
One fun activity is to float through the cut when the tide is outgoing. LA was the adventurous one in the group! It was a quick ride out to the shallow bank on the beach side, but a LONG shallow wade to get back to shore.
We loved Shroud Cay so much that we visited again and again.... with Stacy and Rene and their boat visitor, Geoie; again with Stacy and Rene; and again when Martha came to visit.
To view all the photos from Shroud Cay, click here.
Click here to go to the next story
Return to Travel Log