TWENTY-FOUR young people and BNT staff set sail on the Sea Wind on Friday August 3 for a week long “eco experience”s on Andros Island.
The young people, all between the ages of 13 – 15 travelled from Abaco, Acklins, Bimini, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Inagua, New Providence and South Andros.
Eco Camp is designed to develop an appreciation for the natural environment and to facilitate the development of environmental stewardship and commitment to the conservation of the natural environment and sustainable development.
The camp takes place over a 6-day period and is an intense immersion experience as the students participate in classroom and field experiences in all of the Bahamian ecosystems – coral reefs, mangrove wetlands, Rocky and Sandy Shore, Coppice and Pine Forest. In order to be selected, the young people have to write an essay detailing why they would be the best candidates to attend the camp.
This year, Eco Campers visited the Andros Northern Marine Park, which protects a portion of the Andros Barrier Reef.
They snorkelled Dave’s Patch Reef and visited a small island called Pigeon Cay, which was named for its shape and the abundance of White-crowned pigeons that inhabit the island.
In the Sea Lab following their field experience, the young people dissected a calcareous algae. The participants found a large variety of juvenile organisms inside the goniolithon.
Organisms found included starfish, octopus, sea urchins, shrimp and sea horses. The campers all had an opportunity to observe the organisms under a high-powered microscope.
The participants were impressed that they were able to accomplish the dissection using ordinary kitchen tools.
Marquis Rolle, a participant from Inagua was heard to say “This I can do at home!”
Bonefishing is one of the economic drivers of the Andros economy and the Eco Campers participated in a special bonefishing seminar led by Solomon Murphy.
The seminar introduced the young people to the history of bonefishing in the Bahamas with an overview of the industry as it stands today.
Campers were then given lessons in casting which were greatly enjoyed.
Conch was the topic of research and conservation when the Eco Campers visited the Lowe Sound Community in Andros.
Campers investigated conch middens, determining the number of juvenile and adult conchs found there.
Another team of campers interviewed the residents, getting their opinions on conservation and the state of our marine resources.
“According to Shelley Cant-Woodside, BNT education officer, “This was a great activity for the campers. It provided them with an opportunity to interact with Androsians and was the basis for their presentations at the public meeting organised for the community.”
The campers enjoyed their two-night wilderness camp in the Blue Hole National Park, and their visit to Morgan’s Bluff and the cave exploration.
The wilderness camp had the campers putting their life skills to work as they erected tents, cooked over an open fire and told stories around the campfire.
The special public meeting organised for the residents of Andros on Thursday, August 9, included fishermen, sports fishermen, community leaders and the general public.
The campers had been divided into five teams researching conch, learning about its natural history and conducting interviews with local people.
The teams presented their findings at the public meeting through a variety of media – PowerPoint presentations, a special poster presentation and a song. All did an excellent job.
Peter Douglas, president of the Andros Conservancy and Trust, attended the meeting and was very impressed with the work he saw.
“This has long been a dream of those of us involved in conservation on Andros. Eco Camp brings young people from all over the Bahamas to experience nature in ‘The Big Yard’. We hope that this initiative can not only continue but grow in the coming years.”
According to Portia Sweeting, BNT director of education and Eco Camp co-ordinator, the camp would not be possible without the help of corporate sponsors.
“Without the in kind support and sponsorship of Bahamas Ferries, FORFAR Field Station and members of the Bahamas Hotel Association – Lindroth Development, Atlantis, Sheraton Cable Beach, Nassau Palm Hotel and Best Island Travel – as well as sponsorship from Cable Cares and The Ministry of Youth, Eco Camp could not take place.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for young people to experience the wild Bahamas while meeting young people from different islands. We are very appreciative of the support from our sponsors.”
Dean Mullings of Inagua, who won the Best Camper Award, said: “Eco Camp was so much fun. I learned a lot but it was an amazing experience to be able to dive into a Blue Hole and swim.”
Eco Camp was one of several summer programmes co-ordinated by the BNT this year. The trust co-ordinated summer camps in Grand Bahama, Eleuthera and New Providence as well as a special workshop for educators which focused on using the natural environment to teach math and science skills.