Abaco National Park

Old Nov 2nd, 2003, 06:13 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 85
Abaco National Park

We're planning to visit the Abacos in March and would love to see some of the birds and other wildlife near the south end of Great Abaco. Are tours worthwhile? It would be a thrill to see the parrots but I imagine you can't count on that. Could we count on seeing at least some birds (lizards? snakes? mosquitoes?)?

Does anybody have experience with Abaco Outback or Sand Dollar Tours (and does anybody have Sand Dollar Tours' e-mail address)? After reading about the condition of the roads south of Marsh Harbour we'd rather go with a tour.

Thanks for any experiences or advice!
CarolB is offline  
Old Nov 2nd, 2003, 11:08 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,285
The best place to go for info on Abaco is www.abaco.com. It is a VERY active board and you will get lots of very informed answers to any question you might have.

Enjoy the Bahamas.
wantsomesun is offline  
Old Nov 3rd, 2003, 03:44 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 619
I helped save the Bahamian Parrot in the early 90's, driving up and down the Great Abaco Highway (GAH)in a rusted-out pickup truck with a researcher from the New York Zoological Society. The GAH south of Casuarina Point was a 8ft. wide limestone and coral rock slab of rock with immense chuckholes. Now, I hear it's paved. It does get desolate in the southern Caribbean Pine forests of southern Abaco. But, we never had any problems. However, we were shooting and trapping feral cats which were decimating the Bahamian Parrot population, and were toting 12-gauge shotguns. Rosemarie Gnam, the "Parrto Lady" as the locals called her, did some political manuevering with the Agricultural Minister and local constable to allow us to carry the guns. You don't have to go with a guide and can do it yourself, during the daylight hours. There's a bar called Sapadilly's, across the street from the Conch Inn Marina. A lady who works there also works with a group from a wildlife organization that monitors the dolphins and other free-roaming mammals in the waters off of Abaco. They do their research in Hole-in-the-Wall, a settlement in the southern shoreline of Abaco, in the middle of nowhere. They would welcome you driving down to see them, but, figure on sloooooww driving with mucho potholes (deep ones). Definately rent a 4-wheeled jeep. You could tour the Parrot Preserve on the way down, then visit the dolphin monitoring group; they would offer you a thrill to see what they're doing. You will see iguanas, hutia, Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Bahama Pintail ducks, white-crowned pigeons, bobwhite quail, barn owls, Bahama woodstars, red-bellied woodpeckers, wild boars, and a few tarantulas and ground spiders. Robert
Robert is offline  
Old Nov 4th, 2003, 09:50 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 31
Actually, the web address for the Abaco Community Message Board has changed. It is now http://coconuttelegraph.net
AbacoPeach is offline  
Old Nov 4th, 2003, 07:43 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 85
Thank you! Yes, the Abaco board is at the address provided by AbacoPeach. (www.abaco.com is also worthy -- a company that sells protective gear for firefighters and arctic explorers -- fabulous to visit, but for some reason devoid of discussions regarding parrots.) I will try again to post on the Abaco board; first attempt didn't take for some reason.

In any case I'm thinking that for a FIRST expedition an experienced guide would be a good idea. NEXT time we visit, we could do it on our own. Don't want to be mistaken for a feral cat! (Just kidding, Robert. I think your stories about working to save the indigenous wildlife are fascinating. We'll also benefit from your helpful directions to the great snorkeling spots!)
CarolB is offline  
Old Nov 5th, 2003, 05:57 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 619
If you want some excellent snorkeling experiences on Abaco, here some ideas. I took notes for the past 15 years, and have some great snorkeling spots. Drive south to the southern limits of Marsh Harbor on the GAH and turn left to a road that goes to the Jib Room.If you get lost, just ask...anybody. It's a bar, restaurant and nightclub. You can park in their parking lot; they won't care (no one does in the out islands). A short path goes from the road from the Jib Room to Sea of Abaco, where Mermaid Reef is. Wear booties, because the entrance is rocky. Mermaid Reef is just offshore, an easy swim. You will see reef fish beginning one foot from the beach. It's beautiful. Also, a huge barracuda lurks in the reef, and he will come visit you. His name is "Rambo", as the locals nickname him. Don't be scared, his huge jaws overloaded with large, jagged, long, white fangs will do you no harm. I've snorkeled for hours off of the Jib Room, and Rambo has escorted me everywhere. Barracuda are curious and enjoy swimming parallel to snorkelers. People who by chance snorkel there, and are unaware of the ferocious-looking but totally harmless Rambo, usually have a heart attack...and have to change their underpants in the restroom at the Jib. Take a can of cheez whiz with you; you will have hoards of Sargeant Majors and other fish, like the cruise ship commercials on TV, swarming all around you. You can drive south of MH on the GAH, to remote places like Cherokee Sound, Crossing Rocks, etc., and see many isolated beaches. Just park and snorkel off the beach; you never know what you may find. In addition, take the Albury's Ferry from the Conch Inn Marina, in Marsh Harbor, over to Great Guana Cay. Bring your snorkel equipment. Walk to Nippers, about a 5-minute walk from where you land in the settlement (pop. 70), and snorkel off of Nipper's Beach...great reef just 60 feet offshore. I did a REEF survey there last summer, and Identified over 50 reef fish, plus 8 spotted dolphins, 6 octupus, 3 caribbean reef sharks, 3 southern stingrays, 2 yellow stingrays, 4 caribbean squid, and a many parrot fish and angel fish species. You can have a few drinks and food at Nippers, too. Also, walk back through the settlement to the Dolphin Beach Resort. The dive op there, called Dive Guana, will take you out to Fowl Cay for snorkeling. Best Kept secret? OK. When you walk to this Dive Op. you'll notice a breakwall to the right. Snorkel along it. It starts about 20 feet offshore, and juts out about a hundred feet. Huge stones are piled there, and they're teeming with reef fish; I identified many there as well. Dive Guana is on the Sea of Abaco side, facing Great Abaco Island in the distance. Nippers is on the Atlantic side of Great Guana Cay. One last best kept secret; if you rent a golf cart and travel north on Guana Cay, for 7 miles, to the northern tip, you'll reach the Guana Seaside Resort, a laid back and friendly place. At the end of their dock, underneath it, a native boy constructed his small artificial reef with stones and rocks. It's full of reef fish as well, but not as many as described above. There is a large Nassau Grouper which hangs out there. Also, stingrays come through the dock area on a regular schedule, and I have shot with an underwater video, a pair of Spotted Eagle Rays which I swam with for one hour. The area has acres of underwater grass beds off of Guana Seaside Resort, full of star fish and great collections of sand dollars, urchin shells, etc. Opposite the Guana Seaside Dock area, about 60 feet away, is another dock, where a huge Nurse Shark hangs out; you can swim up to her...but not too close. That dock area also has hundreds of large grunts: French grunts, Blue-stripped grunts, etc. Off course, cold beer awaits you at the Guana Seaside Resort bar. Hope this helps; I have more best kept secrets, but not enough space. Robert
Robert is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2003, 09:56 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 31
Robert, please don't give away anymore secrets! When are you going back to Abaco?
AbacoPeach is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2003, 12:53 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,664
Robert, Thank you thank you thank you! I will save these for my dream trip too! (Sorry Peach!)
joan is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2003, 04:25 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 619
I hear you, Abaco Peach...hush hush. I'm heading to Bimini this winter, but will be on Abaco in summer. Sure wish the Tiki-Hut was still floating! Robert
Robert is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2003, 04:54 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 85
We've decided that Great Guana Cay is probably our kind of place (so laid back that some might call it boring!) and have booked at the Dolphin Beach Resort. I've read that High Rocks (a mile or so south of Nippers) is a great snorkeling spot. Any opinions?

My more important question is about the sharks. I know it's pretty much don't-bother-them-they-won't-bother-you, but the cost of a misunderstanding could be pretty high. I know not to go out near dawn or dusk. Any other words of advice?

Robert, sorry we won't cross paths at Nippers! Maybe some other year.
CarolB is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2003, 05:26 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 619
I really enjoy walking around Blue Dolphin. Renee is a personality++ Bahamian girl who works in the restaurant there. She used to work at Guana Seaside. BD is on the Atlantic side of Abaco, and the neat snorkeling stone breakwall is about a 2 minute walk to the Sea of Abaco side where the dive op is. Snorkel around the stone breakwall, that I described in the post above. Rent a golf cart from Donna in the settlement, stop at the grocery store (only one)to load up on sweet Bahamian bread and jam with peanut butter, and an aerosal can of cheese. My wife and I spent many hours at High Rocks, but I believe it's going private. The beach along the Atlantic side where Dolphin Beach is 6 miles long, uninterrupted. Bring a book! Robert
Robert is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2003, 06:05 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 619
Hi, again CarolB. You will have a great time at Dolphin Beach. I forgot to reply to your shark concerns. It's hard to say because most of the Bahamian waters are plentiful with sharks. Definately don't snorkel or swim at dawn or dusk, as you mentioned you wouldn't. But if the water is stirred up or murky, I wouldn't advise snorkeling until the visibility returns. Also, some species of sharks move inshore to feed with the approach of night. Check yourself for even minor cuts or bleeding; it's incredible the small traces of blood they detect in the water. Don't wear high-contrast clothing or shiny jewelry; sharks perceive color contrasts extremely well. Snorkel at the surface smoothly, without kicking or splashing excessively. Also, observe the reef fish below you, if they suddenly dart away, they've sensed something which you haven't yet. In snorkeling down to 25 feet under the yatchs at Soper's Hole in BVI, I saw a huge mass of silver come at me, and pass overhead. It resembled a huge torpedo. Voices were heard yelling on the docks above me, and a local islander was yelling at me to get out of the water, for a large shark had been floating under the hull of a yatch and came out in the open. The huge silver "torpedo" was a mass of thousands of silversides fleeing the area...you get the idea. If you're snorkeling and notice the reef fish behaving erratically, just swim to shore quietly and calmly. Don't go spear fishing! Novices try this and make too many strategic errors with this sport. If you see a dead animal or fish in the water, stay away from it. The Cheez Whiz I recommended you buy...disregard! Reef fish swarm to it when sprayed underwater, but I wouldn't if you're hesitant about sharks; plenty have cruised by when I've done this. You'll really enjoy Maria and her husband, the owners of the Dive Guana Dive and Snorkel operation at Dolphin Beach Resort. Go out with them to an expansive reef system. Dive Guana will take you to places like Sandy Cay, which starts at -0- feet and gradually slopes down to 30 feet...excellent for snorkeling. Why? Because the expansive sand flats have starfish, southern stingrays and high populations of shellfish which bury themselves in the sand. And guess who comes to this area, daily, to feed on the inhabitants hidden in the sandy, sea grass beds? Dolphins! You have a good chance of meeting them in the wild along this area, just north of Sany Cay (called Tilloo Cut). You may want to snorkel with Dive Guana, and Maria and her husband are marine naturalists, and know much about the reefs in the Pelican Cays & Sea Park, which borders Great Guana Cay. Oh, the restaurant/bar just above the Dive Op has fabulous buffets on Fridays. Robert
Robert is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2003, 07:21 PM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 85
Robert, you are so unbelievably kind and generous in your postings! Thanks for all the tips! (Dear AbacoPeach, we're "low impact"; really, you won't notice we're there!)

Yes, I've e-mailed Troy at Dive Guana and we'll take a trip with them on one of our days there. Good to know about the Friday buffet, since unfortunately we can't be at Nippers on Sunday. It's a shame if High Rocks is going private, but I might not be averse to sneaking onto their property even so; can't be worse than sharks! (I will skip the Cheez Whiz so as not to attract irate property owners.)

I am especially thrilled to hear about the dolphins. From your postings (and others) I was expecting barracudas and rays, which will be great, but dolphins would be unbelievably fabulous.

By the way did you read about the yacht that went aground the other night on Fowl Cay? Apparently destroyed a beautiful stretch of the reef. Folks on the Abaco board are beside themselves, some excoriating the crew but others sympathetic. Heartbreaking.

Again, thanks for your thoughtful advice about taking care around sharks.
CarolB is offline  
Old Nov 21st, 2003, 04:29 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 619
Too bad about the yatch tearing up the reefs. I read it on the Abaco Board after you told me about it. Happened in Fowl Cay. Troy of Dive Guana helped them out of the mess. You may want to explore the abandoned Coco Beach area. My wife and I did, and the beach would be all to yourself. Just down from Nipper's beach several hundred feet. Robert
Robert is offline  
Old Nov 24th, 2003, 09:50 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 31
I don't think High Rocks itself will be private but there is a gated "pavillion" that is private and for the property owners only. I can almost assure that you will not see that many people in that area much less a property owner. No worries, mon.
AbacoPeach is offline  
Old Nov 24th, 2003, 10:19 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 619
Hi, Abaco Peach; it's good to hear High Rocks isn't private yet. My wife and I rented a golf cart from Donna in the village, and took the neat trail to High Rocks, but came upon the pavillion. We thought it was all privatized; on our next visit, we'll find the beach and snorkel. Robert
Robert is offline  
Old Nov 24th, 2003, 12:34 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 31
Heck, take a picnic lunch too! (Sea Shore Villas Gift Shop makes some pretty tasty sandwiches and other dishes. They have had conch chowder, lobster and rice, etc. Yummy!) Don't think there are many "pavillion police" out there. LOL! Enjoy!

We will be back June/July 2004. Hope to see you then...
AbacoPeach is offline  
Old Nov 24th, 2003, 08:08 PM
  #18  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 85
Thanks AP, R . . . I can feel the warm sand between my toes, the bright sun glinting off clear waters, the parrots cackling, the shark teeth nibbling - NO! delete that last one! Seriously, I appreciate your sharing. Will raise a glass to you at Nippers.
CarolB is offline  
Old Nov 25th, 2003, 04:15 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 619
Have fun at Nipper's, CarolB. Say "Hi!" to the Jack Russel Terrior (Sp.?) which runs the place. I've heard much about these dogs, but are they all as Alpha-prone as this one who stations himself permanantly at Nippers? Cute dog with boundless curiosity and energy...feed him some of the grouper fingers while you're there, as I did. Don't forget to tote your snorkeling there, too. When you peer straight down from Nippers, you'll see a large rock right off shore. Snorkel to the left of it and you'll see many colorful reef fish. I recorded one of the largest Princess Parrotfish ever, about 3 1/2 feet long to the left of those rocks, about 40 feet offshore in only 6 feet of water. Give us a trip report upon your return. Robert
Robert is offline  
Old Nov 25th, 2003, 09:47 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 31
You'll never guess the name of that Jack Russell Terrier...


"TROUBLES"!!!! (LOL!)
AbacoPeach is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

FODOR'S VIDEO