|Travel Photography West Indies
Guana Cay Reef
These notes continue from “Eyes of the West Indies”, which I wrote in 2008. I dedicate these notes to Aubrey Clarke. A complete history of the Great Guana Cay development conflict can also be found on Notes from the Road.
Life is like a sail. To get the most out of it, you gotta pull it in tight and head straight into the wind.
I just arrived on the island of Great Abaco, in the Northern Bahamas. Jane and our son have dashed off to the grocery store before our bags are unpacked. It’s a small but well-stocked resort grocery which hasn’t changed a lick since I first came here at the age of five. Even the grocery items don’t change much – Ritz Crackers, little cellophane wrapped pork cuts with green jelly mints, Goombay Punch, Conchy Joe’s Hot Sauce, and Bay Rum in plastic bottles.
Technically, my family is about a quarter mile away when I see it in the sky.
It’s noon, and I’ve only been in the Abacos for an hour, when I see a strange bird pass over me. The sky is bright blue, the underbellies of the clouds are turquoise – the effect of the shallow sea illuminating them. Under these clouds is the raptor, black and white, with streamers on its tail, and then it vanishes behind the pines.
I walk down to the white sand beach, and I look out towards Great Guana Cay.
Two years ago I was there, and I sat on the deck of Docksiders restaurant, where a dozen Great Guana Cay Bahamians and a handful of foreign landowners came to meet me. The evening was the first time I was to meet many of the members of Save Guana Cay Reef in person.
It was a stressful time for members of Save Guana Cay Reef. Their lives were wrapped up in the most unlikely bid to derail the Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club, a radical and rapacious mega-development which was being built on the northeastern end of their tiny island, without their consultation or approval. The development was bankrolled by the biggest names in North American finance, and Bahamian officials stamped approvals left and right. Big Hollywood names – Tiger Woods, George Clooney, George Strait had been flown in to play golf or to be pampered. Lance Armstrong, just before being investigated for substance abuse, giddily Twittered about his experience at the unfinished resort.
Save Guana Cay Reef had been opposing the development through the Bahamian legal system, where they hoped to nullify the agreement between the Bahamian Central government and the California golf developer, which was granted rights to their island’s public land – threatening their most precious resources – a coral reef, a vanishing culture, and a small island economy.