Just east of the industrial city of Freeport, Grand Bahama, lies two of The Bahamas’ protected caves and underwater caverns known as Ben’s Cave and Burial Mound. Thanks to generous donors to the Bahamas National Trust, these Lucayan National Park caves have received over $23,000 in structural upgrades and are now re-opened to the public.
Ben’s Cave is named after legendary local diver Ben Rose, who co-discovered a new species there in 1982. The centipedelike organism was found swimming in the underwater cavern systems and was officially called Remipedia (meaning: “oar foot”). The Burial Mound cave was named because of the skeletal remains of indigenous Lucayans found on the floor in a second chamber of this cave, and has been featured in National Geographic magazines and television documentaries.
These local historical caverns are part of one of the longest known underwater cave systems in the world. With over six miles of caves and tunnels, they can take courageous divers back under the island to re-surface on the south shore, known as Gold Rock Beach. Those who are interested in diving the caves though, must obtain permission and dive with an authorized divemaster via the Underwater Explorer’s Society (UNEXSO).
“The Burial Mound platform and walkway have been completely renovated,” said Lloyd Cheong, Grand Bahama’s BNT Branch Chairman. “We have also added much needed support to the Ben’s Cave viewing platform, allowing us to open tours of these caves to visitors again.” The steps and landing inside Burial Mound cave were replaced with pressure treated wood, but he noted that some of the repairs were made with recycled plastic wood, as the dampness from the caves was causing the wood structures to weaken quickly. “This new wood will last longer and allow less damage to the natural habitat that we are trying to maintain at the parks,” noted the Chairman.
Well known Grand Bahama tour operator Hadley Forbes, of Forbes Travel, was very pleased to hear the wooden walkways had been fixed. “We’ve had a few complaints about the caves being closed and the state of the walkways and platforms,” he noted. “We take a majority of our tourists to the beach, but there are those who want to learn more about our island and it’s great when we can show them some historical facts and our unique cave system. I hope that the BNT will look to have a museum at the park, and maybe tour guides for these areas, too.”
According to Eric Carey, BNT Executive Director, The Bahamas National Trust closed the Lucayan Bridge in 2008 due to age and damage by hurricanes, then Ben’s Cave and Burial Mound Cave in September 2011. Freeport Construction (FRECON), one of the most well known builders in Grand Bahama, completed the repairs to the boardwalks and installation of a new spiral staircase at these sites.
“The Lucayan National Park is one of our most highly visited parks, and it was important make sure that the access to these areas was safe,” said Carey. “The Trust has been committed to providing safe access to our national parks over the past five years. These repairs are an example of the ongoing work and maintenance that is required to keep the parks in good shape for visitors. We hope that the Grand Bahama corporate community will continue to show their interest and commitment to the environment by supporting the national parks on Grand Bahama.” said Carey.
The Bahamas National Trust is working diligently in Grand Bahama to fulfill the 5-year goal to develop an integrated National Park and Protected Area System. The Trust in Grand Bahama operates out of the Rand Nature Centre off Settler’s Way, where they are working on a watchable wildlife pond and Arboretum to enhance the park’s facilities and touristic charm. The branch is also responsible for Peterson’s Cay, located just 5 miles off the southern shore. The Bahamas National Trust was created by an Act of Parliament in 1959 to build and manage the national park system of the Bahamas. Possibly the only non-governmental organization in the world charged with such a responsibility, the TRUST, as it is commonly known, works daily to conserve and protect the natural resources of The Bahamas, through stewardship and education for present and future generations. For more information, visit www.bnt.bs.