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Bahamas, The

Did you know: 

Robert Antoni, born in The Bahamas in 1958, was winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Book award with his novel, Divina Trace, in 1992. The country is a coral archipelago of about 700 islands and more than 2,000 cays and rocks.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 
1973
Population: 
347,000 (2011)
GDP: 
0.7% p.a. 1990–2011
UN HDI: 
world ranking 53
Official language: 
English
Timezone: 
GMT minus 5hr
Currency: 
Bahamian dollar (B$)

Geography

Area: 
13,939 sq km
Coastline: 
3,540km
Capital city: 
Nassau
Population density (per sq. km): 
25

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is a coral archipelago of around 700 islands and more than 2,000 rocks and cays in the West Atlantic south-east of the coast of Florida, USA, and northeast of Cuba. It straddles the Tropic of Cancer and stretches 970km.

Main towns: 

Nassau (capital, pop. 241,200 in 2010) on New Providence; Freeport (44,300), West End (13,100) and High Rock (3,900) on Grand Bahama; Cooper’s Town (9,300) and Marsh Harbour (5,800) on Abaco; Freetown (4,300) and Spanish Wells (1,800) on Eleuthera; Andros Town (2,300) on Andros; and Clarence Town (1,700) on Long Island.

Transport: 

The total road system extends to some 2,700km, about 60% of it paved. There are almost 1,000km of roads on New Providence (some of which are privately owned), 209km of roads on Eleuthera, 156km on Grand Bahama, and more than 885km on the Out Islands.

Main ports are Nassau (New Providence), Freeport (Grand Bahama) and Matthew Town (Inagua). The Out Islands are served by a mail boat that leaves Nassau several times a week.

The principal airports are Lynden Pindling International (16km west of the city) and Freeport International (5km from the city), and some 50 airports or airstrips in all

International relations: 

The Bahamas is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community (though not the CARICOM Single Market and Economy), Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of American States and United Nations.

Topography: 

About 30 islands are inhabited, the most important of which are New Providence, in the middle of the group, where the capital Nassau is situated, and Grand Bahama, the northernmost, with the city of Freeport. The other islands are known collectively as the Family Islands or Out Islands. The islands lie on a submarine shelf which rises steeply from deep waters in the east; to the west lie the shallow waters of the Great Bahama Bank. The islands, built of coralline limestone to an undersea depth of about 1,500m, are low-lying. The highest, Cat Island, rises to 62m at Mount Alvernia; Grand Bahama barely reaches 12m. The limestone rock of the islands is permeable and there are no streams. The water supply is taken from wells or collected from rainwater.

Climate: 

The climate is cooler than other countries in the Caribbean region but still pleasantly mild in winter. Winter temperatures average 21°C, summer temperatures 30°C. Most of the rain (averaging 1,100mm p.a.) falls in May-June and September-October and there are frequent thunderstorms in summer. The Bahamas islands are subject to hurricanes during June-November.

Environment: 

The most significant environmental issues are coral reef decay and solid waste disposal.

Vegetation: 

The soil is thin, and generally infertile, but cultivation has produced exotic flowers (as well as subtropical fruit and vegetables) on the more developed islands. Some islands have large areas of pine forests. Forest covers 51% of the land area and there was no significant loss of forest cover during 1990-2010.

Wildlife: 

Animal life is restricted to small species, such as agouti, frogs, iguana and bats. The Inagua National Park on Great Inagua Island is the home of more than 50,000 flamingos, the largest flock in the world and The Bahamas’ national bird.

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