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Monday 27th March
Bahamas Information - Page 1
Geography
The Bahamas lie in the southwest Atlantic Ocean near Florida in the USA and stretching down to Cuba. They are known as the 700 islands although there are more than 4,000 islands, islets and cays. There are about fifteen main islands including Cat Island, Bimini, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama and New Providence.

The islands are low lying, composed of coral with a limestone base. Their highest point is not even 120m above sea level. Many of the islands are covered with woodlands, some are swampy and uninhabitable. Others have miles of beautiful beaches.

The seas around the islands are shallow and clear. The name Bahamas comes from the Spanish baja-mar meaning shallow sea.

The climate is subtropical with frequent thunder storms between June and November and a possibility of hurricanes. In 2004 Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Jeanne caused widespread damage. Residents are given advice on how to proceed when a hurricane is imminent and there is a warning system in operation.

Environment
Two-thirds of The Bahamas is made up of coral formations and hills. Around the islands is found approximately five percent of the world's coral - coral reefs are important to the world's ecology because they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Just under a third of the land is covered by scrub and woodlands.

The subtropical climate is suited to the growth of exotic flora such as bougainvillea, hibiscus and oleander. The Yellow Elder is the national flower and the national tree is the Tree of Life (Lignum Vitae).

The Bahamas National Trust is responsible for the conservation of natural resources of The Bahamas. The Bahamas has signed The Convention of the International Trade of Endangered Species and protects endangered flora and fauna.

Protected reptiles include the Bahamian boa constrictor, the green turtle and various types of iguanas. The national bird is the pink West Indian flamingo which, like the parrot, is protected by law. Other birds inhabiting the islands include pelicans and humming birds.

The blue marlin (the national fish) can be caught off the coast of Bimini, said to be the game fishing capital of the world. The Gulf Stream flows north past the island bringing large fish such as tuna and dolphin to the coastal waters. The sea is full of a variety of creatures including sea-horses and moray eels.

Architecture
Nassau (New Providence), the main city of The Bahamas, is an expanding commercial centre, famous for its Colonial architectural heritage. This style of architecture was brought to The Bahamas by supporters of King George III who moved to the islands at the time of American Independence.

Although there are many modern buildings including hotels, there are still some clay houses with thatched roofs. Many homes are built of wood, others of concrete painted in bright pastel colours.

Population
The population of The Bahamas was estimated at 313,312 in 2011. A large proportion of the people are descendants of freed slaves. Over eighty percent are therefore of African origin, mainly from the Yoruba tribe. The remainder of the population is largely of European descent, some descended from British loyalists who left America after the War of Independence. The original inhabitants, the Lucayans, an Arawak tribe, died out or were transported to the gold mines of Hispaniola within forty years of Columbus setting foot on Bahamian soil.

Languages
English is the official language.

Religion
Christianity is the main religion: Anglican, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Church of God, Methodist, etc.

Throughout the Caribbean, religious beliefs drawing on African roots but intermingled with aspects of Christianity and European superstitions are to be found: Voodoo, Shango and Santeria are some examples. In The Bahamas the comparable set of beliefs is called Obeah, although Obeah does not have priests, gods or saints.

Food
The flavour of Bahamian food is influenced by a number of cultures, mainly African, Asian and Creole as well as British and North American. Its distinctive spicy flavour is achieved by using a mixture of thyme, pepper, lemon and lime.

Seafood such as conch, grouper and crawfish (spiny lobster) plays an important part in the diet. Vegetables available are breadfruit, cassava, plantains, sweet potatoes and yams.

Popular dishes are peas and grits, peas and rice, salads, and pudding-like macaroni cheese. There are soups, including turtle soup, and stews. Stews are even eaten at breakfast. Steaming is another favourite cooking method. The local fruits (citrus, guavas, mangoes and pineapples) are an important part of the diet and are also used to make homemade ice creams.

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