The West Side National Park, Andros

Flamingos, Roseate Spoonbills, Mangroves and more
roseate spoonbill west side national park andros bahamas

West Side National Park | Andros…. Remote, vibrant, magical

West Side National Park Andros…. written by Heather Carey, Communications Manager & Managing Director of the Bahamas National Park Safaris

I am thoroughly enjoying my new role(s) with the BNT and the journey of discovery that allows me to see and experience the amazing parks that fall under the BNT management.  Up until taking this position I had always thought I was well informed about most things conservation in the Bahamas.  One of the main reasons I joined the BNT family in this newly created role was because in early conversations I learned of all the amazing things they do that I believe so many, like me, are unaware of. I was happy to take on the role of sharing this information with Bahamians and beyond.

During my first month there was the simple discovery of the Leon Levy Nature Reserve in Eleuthera – a space with a beautiful and welcoming entrance that I had driven by many times over the past few years.  What missed opportunities!  But now, having spent a day exploring and meeting the BNT family that keep the Reserve immaculate and vibrant, I will make sure that each Eleuthera trip includes some time spent here – whether its wandering the boardwalk through mangroves 3 times taller than I am, or sitting in a quiet space watching the turtles and listening to the waterfall.

This past month I was introduced to the wonder that is the West Side National Park.  After hearing so much about this 1.4 million acre protected area I was thrilled to have my first introduction be from the front seat of a helicopter (my first ever ride!)  thanks to the generosity of the owners of Flamingo Cay, a private cay located within the park since the 1800’s.  As a photographer I could not have been more thrilled.  I liken the views to flying high over what I would call the Bahamian version of the “tundra” – wild, remote landscape that changed from ponds and creeks dotted with blue holes, to mangroves with random palms and “forest” spaces.  To watch the sun come up on one side and the landscape change on the other is an experience difficult to forget.  The West Side Park is not the easiest to access – by air your choices are helicopter or seaplane, and by “sea” the journey is considerable from other points in Andros.  This is what makes the WSP so amazing, so magical.


helicopter west side park andros

Flamingo Cay helicopter ride


sunrise west side national park andros

Sunrise over the West Side National park Andros



aerial west side national park

Aerial view of the West Side National Park


aerial west side national park

aerial view of the west side national park


flamingo cay west side national park andros

Flamingo Cay Rod & Gun Club, West Side National Park, Andros


After landing and sharing a quick breakfast at Flamingo Cay Lodge with owners Cindy and Charlie Bethel, my colleague David Maillis and I hopped on to a flats  boat with Charlie to spend a few hours exploring the waterways that take you around his family Cay.  Even with questionable weather the experience was amazing – clean, fresh air; birds suddenly launching themselves up from the mangroves every time we turned a bend; tarpon and bonefish swimming just below the surface and ducks swimming by at a leisurely pace.  High on my wish list was a flamingo sighting – I only recently learned that we have West Indian flamingos on islands other than Inagua, here in The Bahamas.  Would a flamingo or two be too much to ask for?

west side national park andros

David Maillis, a park warden within the BNT, on the look out…


mangroves west side national park andros

Beautiful Mangroves that make up much of the West Side National Park, Andros


After about 20 minutes exploring the creeks David soon spotted a hint of pink, in the distance, further than my eye could see without a zoom lens fixed to it.  And then there they were – 5 or 6 flamingos flying towards one of the distant mangrove islands.  But just as quickly, the skies opened up above and the rain poured down.  In spite of this brief shower there was no way I was leaving, not when I was so close to crossing something off of my bucket list!  Ten minutes later,  clear skies and a wondrous sight – hundreds of flamingos feeding in the mangroves, just out of our reach.  The camera started snapping and the heart was pounding with excitement.  Who would have thought that this moment would come so soon?  As I snapped away Charlie skilfully guided the boat through the creeks close enough that I could zoom in – barely – yet carefully avoiding any disturbance to these beautiful birds.

flamingos west side national park andros

Flamingos feeding in the distance among the mangroves


flamingos west side national park andros bahamas

Flamingos feeding in the mangroves, West Side National Park, Andros, Bahamas


flamingos west side national park andros

Flamingos feeding West Side National Park, Andros, Bahamas


flamingos in flight west side national park andros

Flamingos taking flight in the West Side National Park, Andros, Bahamas

We gently puttered around the mangrove islands watching the pink beauties from a distance, with David calling out the names of a slew of other birds as they flew by (he’s a Maillis, what do you expect?!).  I was thrilled to learn a new bird (or two) –  in particular the Roseate Spoonbill.  From a distance and to my slowly failing eyes I had thought another splash of pink was a sign of more flamingos to come but instead there were dozens of these beautiful birds resting, feeding and playing above our heads.


roseate spoonbill west side national park andros bahamas

Roseate Spoonbills relaxing on a mangrove cay


roseate spoonbill


roseate spoonbill west side national park andros

roseate spoonbill in flight




Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill coming in for a landing


After a casual lunch and more exploration of another expansive area of mangrove creeks we returned to the Lodge for an absolutely scrumptuous dinner.  Early-ish to bed, and up the next day for part 2 of the journey – Kamalame Cay and Small Hope Bay Lodge.  The West Side National Park of Andros is remote, its magical, its vibrant and healthy.  It’s the perfect place for bird lovers and photographers, for fishermen and kayakers. It’s remoteness and conservation is an example of the importance of the work that the Bahamas National Trust does every day of the year.  With so many migratory birds relying on The Bahamas as either a stop on their journey south, or as the end of the journey to escape the cold northern weather, we must begin to see ourselves as a part of a whole, not as an isolated nation.  We must protect what we can, when we can, and we must all play a part in this.

Cindy (Flamingo Cay) told me of her mornings rising before sunrise and paddling the creeks, watching the inhabitants slowly rise and shake off their wings as the sun throws its magical colours over the landscape. I have crossed one thing off of my bucket list, and replaced it with another.  Can’t wait to return to explore more of the magic that is the WSNP.


flamingo cay

A must-have spot post bird watching or bonefishing



Flamingo Cay

Orchids at Flamingo Cay


common moorhen flamingo cay andros

Resident Common Moorhen paddling through the creeks at Flamingo Cay



11 Responses

  1. diana pinder

    I was totally enthralled reading this account of your adventure in that part of Andros. I was totally ignorant of this area and thank you for your wonderful photography and fascinating descriptions. Looking forward to the next chapter!

  2. Susan Koster

    I absolutely loved reading this … your wonder, and your photography is spectacular. Our Long Island is also so naturally beautiful…wonder what you do with it?? Enjoy your position…how special for you!

  3. Sue Bryant

    You are such a skilled photographer, and as I live in Red Bays, and love photographing God’s awesome creation, I was so impressed with your pictures! Great work–I, too, pray these Androsians take these gifts seriously and protect them!

  4. Janet Johnson

    I am very excited about this compelling account of BNTs visit to the West Side of Andros and how the author brings this sleepy outpost to life. Heather Carey’s photography is phenomenal and encapsulates the serene beauty of the wildlife. The roseate spoonbill in flight is stunning and their colors are so exotic. Looking forward to future writings.

  5. Victoria sarne

    Stunningly beautiful. I had no idea, probably like veryone else that Andros had such a wonderful wilderness area. Thank you for sharing.

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