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Save The Bays second Camp Eco-Explorer week treats younger campers to environmental treasures and secret places
  • Aiden Bain enjoys the reef ball snorkel experience during the second session of Camp Eco-Explorer. SAVE THE BAYS

Published: Sep 11, 2017

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Around the world, campers ride horses, swim and eat s’mores by an open fire, but at a camp on Grand Bahama, a dozen lucky youngsters took in the fish, mangroves, reef balls and stingrays, in the second session of Camp Eco-Explorer.

Sponsored and run by Save The Bays in partnership with Waterkeepers Bahamas, along with volunteers like Elfsworth Weirm, Grand Bahama Park Warden at the Bahamas National Trust (BNT); Keith and Linda Cooper, of West End Ecology Tours; and Barry Smith at Paradise Cove, the week-long Eco-Explorer camp allowed children ages seven to 11 to study and feed stingrays; explore mangroves, wetlands and pine forests and learn about deforestation from salt water intrusion caused by hurricanes and storm surges.

“We went where most kids on Grand Bahama will never go — to The Gap,” said camp co-director Rashema Ingraham, referring to an expanse of wetlands intertwined with fresh water tributaries and flats. The area is home to tarp and bonefish and its waters are so clear a person can read the date on a coin on the bottom. The area, a cornucopia of tropical wonders, has been identified as a national park and is maintained by the Bahamas National Trust.

For Tafari Fountain, a fifth grade student at Freeport Gospel Chapel School, no amount of s’mores could begin to compare with feeding stingrays.

“We went on many adventures, but my favorite was at Paradise Cove, where we got to snorkel and get a close look at the beautiful fish in our waters. The most memorable activity was learning how to hold pilchards when feeding stingrays,” she said.

“Everywhere we went, the campers brought a youthful curiosity that was such a joy to see,” said Ingraham, executive director of Waterkeepers Bahamas. “You could see that when they first saw an animal or a fish of any size, there would be a little bit of fear and then as they swam with them, or got to learn more about the animal, the fear would be transformed into wonder.”

This was the second year Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save The Bays partnered to host the camps; the first week was for older campers, and the second was for younger campers.

Sixth grade student Edissa Bain said she will cherish her introduction to the world of stingrays.

“I was allowed to feed and touch a stingray for the first time,” said Edissa. “Their skin is soft and slimy, like oil. Mr. Keith Cooper, our tour guide, explained that we should not be afraid of these creatures, if we have an encounter with one while swimming not to get alarmed, instead quietly walk away or stand still until it swims away. Mr. Cooper also mentioned that stingrays are not harmful and will only attack if they feel threatened.”



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