Great Inagua is the third largest island in The Bahamas, stretching 20 miles long and 55.19 miles wide, with the Inagua National Park covering 45% of the island. The Park is home to over 80,000 West Indian Flamingos (the national bird of The Bahamas).
Inagua is a haven for birdwatchers. Along with the flamingos, birding enthusiasts will the Bahama parrot, other pelicans, ducks and hummingbirds found nowhere else in The Bahamas. Hence, with over 140 species of native and migratory birds, Inagua is regarded as the Bird-watching Capital of The Bahamas.
The island is also home to three national parks/reserves, as well as one of three remaining kerosene-burning, hand-cranked lighthouses in The Bahamas. So, if ecotourism is your forte, Inagua is your destination.
What Makes Inagua Unique
Inagua is the southernmost island in The Bahamas and actually consists of two separate islands, Great Inagua Island and Little Inagua Island. Both are known for their natural surroundings and act as great destinations for ecotourists. Inagua is also the hottest and the driest. Home to a plant of the Morton Salt company it is the source of nearly a million pounds of salt annually. Little Inagua Island is a protected habitat for endangered sea turtles, and features a vast reef that prevents boaters and sailors from getting too close to its shores. Over 30 square miles of the island are uninhabited by locals.
With Great Inagua’s resident population of around 1,000 Bahamians and over 80,000 West Indian flamingos, and Little Inagua’s only settlers amounting to donkeys, goats and rare birds, this pair of islands is (together the third-largest island in The Bahamas and referred to as Inagua) an eco-tourists dream.
Inagua was permanently settled in the middle of the 19th century. Matthew Town, named for Governor George Matthew (Governor of The Bahamas, 1844-1849), was laid out during his tenure and is the chief settlement in Inagua.
Its name is a slang of its earliest designation, Heneagua, derived from a Spanish word meaning ‘water is to be found there.’ Although it is mostly low and flat, it has James Hill on the north coast rising to 90 feet, East Hill rising to 132 feet and Salt Pond Hill on the south coast rising to 102 feet. There is a natural harbor and its coast is fringed by a reef.
Set foot in the pristine environment of Inagua’s National Park (which, covering 743-square km and dominated by Lake Windsor takes up almost half the island), and it scarcely seems possible that just 30 years ago the most abundant resident was saved from near extinction by The Bahamas National Trust and the help of The National Audubon Society. Today, as a visitor to one of the largest breeding grounds of the West Indian flamingo in the western hemisphere, you can witness the spectacle of nesting flamingos during March and April, see adults standing guard over their fluffy white chicks or watch them feeding on tasty shrimp.
The island is also home to many water birds, such as the unusual roseate spoonbill, pelicans, herons, egrets, black-necked stilts and Bahamas pintail ducks. One of the most exotic birds in Inagua is the endangered Bahama parrot: a vibrant green color with a pure white head, it feeds among the Inagua oak trees. Visitors to the National Park may be lucky enough to see The Bahama woodstar, a dazzling native hummingbird that is found nowhere else in the world.
Other wondrous sights you can look forward to include burrowing owls, American kestrels in courtship displays, and ospreys. In the autumn and winter many North American birds escape from the cold to enjoy the sunshine in Inagua. The most famous migrants are the endangered Kirtland’s warblers, which travel here from their nesting grounds in Michigan.
In addition to the various exotic birds, visitors can see feral donkeys and endangered freshwater turtles. And, accompanied by experienced guides, travellers can explore Inagua’s limestone caves and enjoy fabulous beaches and snorkelling.
Unique Animal Species
It was reported in 1949 that several unique animal species had been found in Inagua—and not seen anywhere else—including a fast moving fresh water turtle, several breeds of duck, a hummingbird peculiar to Inagua, and a new genus of lizard.
Photogenic Wild Donkeys
Little Inagua is 30 square miles and is populated only with herds of wild donkeys, goats and a wide variety of bird life. Explore the Union Creek National Park and you’ll surely see wild donkeys who stand at attention to have their photos taken.
West Indian Flamingos
National Bird of The Bahamas, West Indian Flamingos live in the Great Inagua National Park, comprising almost half the island. Wetland sites created during salt production have made this the largest nesting ground for those birds in the Western Hemisphere.
Union Creek Reserve
The reserve encompasses 4,940 acres of an enclosed tidal creek on the northwest shore of Great Inagua. It serves as a captive research site for sea turtles, especially the Green Turtle, to protect the habitat where they lay their eggs.
Birding Capital Of The Bahamas
With over 140 species of birds, Inagua is a bird-watcher’s paradise. Migrating, resident and endemic species include the rare Bahama Parrot, West Indian whistling duck, Kirtland’s warbler, and a rare species of heron on Little Inagua.