12 campers successfully complete intensive week-long ‘everything water’ learning experience

Dakota Burrows, 13, a student at Bishop Michael Eldon School, takes notes on mangroves in Grand Bahama as part of Camp Eco-Explorer sponsored by Save The Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas.

They swam, snorkeled, recorded, reported and studied the marine environment and by the end of the week, 12 teens from Grand Bahama had a new respect for the waters around them and the critical role water plays in sustaining life on the planet.

The students were the dedicated dozen who qualified for Camp Eco-Explorer.

It was the second year that environmental advocacy organisations Save The Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas offered the camp. This year’s first session, held under the theme Everything Water, was earmarked for 11-15-year-olds, the coming week beginning August 8 is for younger students. Both focus on the connectivity of elements that together create life-giving ecosystems.

“This was the best camp experience ever,” said Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham. “We em- braced camp activities like team-building, information-gathering and field trips and placed them against the backdrop of some of the most breathtaking waters in the world.”

Campers snorkeled on coral reefs alive with vibrant colours and teeming with tropical fish. They examined reefs for damage, debris and detritus. They studied mangroves and learned the importance of wetlands as nurseries for immature fish, conch and crawfish as well as buffers protecting shorelines against storm surges. They visited Owl’s Blue Hole, learned about the mythical creature Lusca, went to Ben’s Cave and the Burial Mound at the Lucayan National Park to observe marine life in a freshwater setting. They examined how man-made structures on shore impact marine life and studied the differences between fresh, salt and brackish water. They kayaked from mangroves to tip of the ocean.

“This was the kind of camp experience that happens once in a lifetime and creates memories that last a lifetime,” said Joe Darville, Save The Bays Chairman. “The kids had a ball. More importantly they came away with such profound feelings about how important it is to protect our waters and the marine life they support.”

Days began in a classroom and ended with production of a poster summing up lessons learned during hands-on experiences. Kellon Albury and Anaiya Armbrister were honored with Most Outstanding Boy and Girl Campers. Local yoga instructor LaKrista Strachan led students in yoga and breathing exercises, reinforcing the connectivity theme.

“I shared with them how important Mother Earth is to us. The trees give us oxygen and we reciprocate with carbon dioxide.,” said Ms. Strachan. “Once they started to tune in to the sounds around them such as the waves crashing on the shore, or the birds singing in the trees they were able to relax.”

“You could see the progress of their thoughts,” said Ingraham, “as the quality of their posters with action messages got better every day. We now have 12 more ambassadors for the marine environment who, we hope, will inspire others to protect the beauty of our Bahamian waters and treasure the memories of their Camp Eco-Explorer experiences.”

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