Inagua National Park

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Inagua National Park

Nothing quite prepares you for your first glimpse of the West Indian flamingos that nest in Inagua National Park: brilliant crimson-pink, up to 5 feet tall, with black-tipped wings. A dozen flamingos suddenly fly across a pond, intermixed with fantastic pink roseate spoonbills.

It's a moving experience, and yet because of the island's remote location, only about 50 people witnessed it in 2009. By 1952, Inagua's flamingos had dwindled to about 5,000. The gorgeous birds were hunted for their meat, especially the tongue, and for their feathers. The government established the 183,740-acre wildlife sanctuary and national park in 1963, and today more than 60,000 flamingos nest on the island, the world's largest breeding colony of West Indian flamingos. The birds thrive in the many salt ponds (owned by the Morton Salt Company) that supply their favorite meal—brine shrimp. Bird-watchers also flock here to spy gull-billed terns, egrets, herons, burrowing owls, pintail ducks, sandpipers, snowy plovers—over 130 species in all. The Inaguan lyretail is one of the world's most recently announced species. Wild boar and feral donkeys, left here after a brief French occupation in 1749, are harder to see.

To make reservations, you must contact the Bahamas National Trust's office (242/393–1317 www.bnt.bs) or Warden Henry Nixon (242/225–0977). All visits to the park are by special arrangement.

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