The National Parks of The Bahamas

Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

Established: 1958
Size: 232 Acres

Created in 1958 this 176 square mile park was the first of its kind in the world and is famous for its pristine beauty, outstanding anchorages and breathtaking marine environment. It is the first marine fishery reserve established in the Caribbean. 

Warderick Wells is the location of the headquarters for the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park (ECLSP). This park is a no take by both land and sea. 

ECLSP Services include: Park Office and gift shop (post cards, books, BNT t-shirts, BNT & ECLSP brochures, hats, and other accessories), mooring fields, hiking trails and kayaks. 

The first park of its kind in the world, the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is famous for its pristine beauty, outstanding anchorages and breathtaking marine environment.
What's Protected..........
  • No fishing, shelling, conching or lobstering is permitted within the park boundaries
  • The Hutia, the only native terrestrial mammal in The Bahamas
  • All breeding habitats for seabirds are protected
  • The Stromatolite reefs, the oldest and rarest living creatures
  • All plant forms and habitats
Please find more park information by clicking the tabs below.

Hours of operation
Office Hours:
Mon-Sat 9am-12pm & 1pm-4pm
Sun 9am-12pm

Summer Hours:
Mon-Sat 9am-12pm & 1pm-3pm
Sun 9am-12pm

Established: 1958
Size: 112,640 Acres



The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the first land and Sea Park in the world was established in 1959. This 112,640 acre park is famous for its pristine beauty, outstanding anchorages and breathaking marine environment. Under the transparent turquoise waters are beautiful natural gardens of coral teeming with fish and lobster. Within the boundaries of the ECLSP are: Little Wax Cay, Shroud Cay, Little Pigeon Cay (private), Hawksbill Cay, Little Hawksbill Cay, Cistern Cay (private), Long Cay, Warderick Wells, Halls Pond Cay, Little White Bay Cay, South Halls Pond Cay (private), Soldier Cay (private) O’Brien’s/ Pasture Cays, Bell Island (private), Little Bell Island (private) and Rocky Dundas.


In 1953, Superintendent of the Everglades National Park in Florida, USA, 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. Upon favourable response and cooperation, he went ahead with his idea contacting other conservationists and eventually the Governor and the Colonial Secretary of the Bahamas. His idea was received with enthusiasm and even received support from Nassau newspapers.

In 1955, Colonel Ilia Tolstoy presented a proposal to the government that a stretch of the Exuma Cays should be placed under protection. On February 13, 1956, Beard received a letter from the Governor of the Bahamas confirming that the Crown had set aside approximately 22 miles of the Exuma Cays from Shroud Cay to Little Bell Island inclusive. The area was set aside for one year providing during that time, some organization would undertake to explore the possibility further and give concrete recommendations to the Bahamian government. This organization would be responsible for the financial support of the programme.

Around this time Beard met Carleton Ray, then the Assistant Director of the New York Aquarium, who had spent a great deal of time in the Bahamas doing underwater photography and scientific research. Ray headed up a survey under the auspices of the New York Zoological Society, to explore the feasibility of establishing a park in the Exuma Cays. A one-year extension was granted until June 30, 1958. The team began their survey in late January 1958. The team comprised representatives of the following Explorer’s Club (Ilia Tolstoy), National Audubon Society (Robert P. Allen), US Parks Service (Daniel B. Beard), Bahamas Department of Agriculture and Marine Products (Oris S. Russell), American Museum of Natural History (Donald F. Squires) and University of Miami’s Marine Laboratory (John E. Randall).

In 1958 the team’s report was received by the Bahamas government and Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the first of its kind in the world, was officially established. On July 13, 1959, by a special Act of Parliament, The Bahamas National Trust was incorporated and powers were conferred upon the Trust charging it with the conservation and preservation of places of historic interest and natural beauty in the Bahamas. This placed the park’s management in the hands of the Bahamas National Trust.

Importance as a Marine Fisheries Reserve

In 1985, the Bahamas National Trust made the Exuma Park a protected replenishment zone. It is considered the first marine fishery reserve in the wider Caribbean. Scientists have established that 10 million conch produced in the Park each year after natural exploitation are expected to reach adulthood, producing a $25 million fisheries resource potential annually. Scientific research in 1996 also established that 72% of the grouper spawned in the Northern Exuma Sound is produced in the Park and findings pertaining to crawfish show similar results.

Importance to Biodiversity

Hutia (who-tia) Geocapromys ingrahami, the only native terrestrial mammals in the Bahamas, are found in the Park. Eleven were introduced to Little Wax Cay in 1973 and thirteen at Warderick Wells in 1981. In 1983 the hutia population in Little Wax Cay was estimated at 750. Two iguanas have been introduced to Warderick Wells from Allan’s Cay to preserve the species and broaden their territory. There are three common types of sea turtles to be found: The Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas, the Hawksbill turtle, Eretmocheys imbricate, and the Loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta.  Small loggerhead turtles were released into the creeks of Shroud Cay in 1983. The Osprey, Raptor pandion haliaetus, sometimes called a ‘fish hawk’, are the only creatures allowed to fish in the Park. The White-tailed Tropicbird, Phaetor lepturus, usually arrives on Shroud Cay and Warderick Wells in March. The south side of Shroud is a favourite hangout for Tropicbirds where you might catch their mating rituals as they fly over the waters off the cays.


Without a doubt, the rarest living creatures in the Park are the blue-green, reef-forming algae known as ‘stromatolites’. Stromatolite reefs are the oldest living evidence of life on earth, with some fossil stromatolites dating back 3.5 billion years. In 1983 and 1984 stromatolites were found in The Bahamas off Stocking Island, Lee Stocking Island and in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. These stromatolites are estimated to be about 2,000 years old.

 Click the links below to learn more about the Exuma Land and Sea Park Fees.


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