The Bahamas are rife with picture-perfect beaches, but beyond the sand and surf, there’s a truly spectacular array of native creatures that really make the archipelago shine. From friendly bottlenose dolphins to tiny hummingbirds found nowhere else on earth, the nation is a treasure trove for wildlife lovers, making it a top destination for the ecotourism-driven traveler. As you plan your next Caribbean vacation, be sure to keep these incredible nature tours and marine excursions in mind.
Explore the Top Birding Destination in the Bahamas
There’s no shortage of wildlife-filled islands to visit across the Bahamas, but for serious birders, it’s tough to beat Great Inagua. More than 100 different avian species can be spotted across the island, with crowd-pleasers like the American flamingo and roseate spoonbill found intermingling with brown pelicans, herons, plovers, and a wealth of other shorebirds. If you’re trying to round out your life list with some endemic Bahamian birds, there are two specific varieties to keep an eye out for. The Bahama parrot—a subspecies of the Cuban parrot—is native to the region, while the pint-sized Inagua Woodstar can only be found on Inagua. For a local perspective during your time on the island, be sure to take a Great Inagua Tour, a nature-filled excursion led by professional guide Colin Ingraham.
Trek Through the Country’s Largest National Park
Andros Island is by far the largest island in the Bahamas, and this sprawling landmass is a veritable paradise for nature lovers thanks to West Side National Park. Measuring in at 1,500,000 acres of protected land, the preserve is rife with tangled mangrove forests and lush tidal flats, fostering an incredibly rich array of native fauna ranging from the Atala butterfly to the American flamingo. While the park is a popular destination for birders, it’s also a haven for reptile lovers, offering visitors an opportunity to spot the Andros Island iguana. A subspecies of the Northern Bahamian rock iguana, this endangered creature can be found nowhere else on earth.
Take a Dip with Wild Dolphins
The warm waters of the Bahamas serve as the perfect breeding ground for all sorts of tiny bait fish, providing the nation’s local dolphins with a year-round buffet to enjoy. On the Bimini archipelago, visitors are welcome to book a Wild Dolphin Safari, providing an incredible opportunity to get up-close and personal with these beloved marine mammals. The tour kicks off with a brief search, and once a pod of dolphins has been spotted, it’s time to hit the water. While they may be a little shy at first, these cetaceans are curious by nature, and before you know it, you’ll be surrounded by lively bottlenose and spotted dolphins venturing in for a closer look.
Embark on a Shark Tagging Expedition
Though films like Jaws have painted sharks in a seriously unfavorable light, these misunderstood fish are an essential part of any ocean ecosystem—and for anyone hoping to get some insight into how these creatures tick, an excursion with Beneath the Waves is an essential activity. Using the luxurious Grand Isle Resort as a jumping-off point, participants will set off with a marine biologist to snorkel along the lush coast of Great Exuma Island, searching for sea turtles, reef fish, and sharks along the way. For serious marine biology enthusiasts, the Shark Tagging Experience is a truly unforgettable way to spend your trip, offering guests an opportunity to work closely with trained professionals to capture, tag, and release a native Bahamian tiger, reef, or nurse shark.
Learn About Native Coral Restoration
After a couple of days spent marveling at flamingos, tiger sharks, and bottlenose dolphins, be sure to spend some time getting up-close-and-personal with some of the country’s more pint-sized inhabitants—like coral. Though small in stature, these tiny animals come together to form massive reefs, but warming ocean temperatures have put these structures in peril in the recent past. Fortunately, local organization Coral Vita is working to restore the region’s colonies, growing hardy native corals and transplanting them onto vulnerable reefs. For a thorough deep-dive on this crucial process, be sure to book a tour of the company’s coral-rearing tanks, an innovative operation that grows native coral roughly fifty times faster than traditional methods.