The History of Inagua Islands
Nestled at the very south of the Bahamas, beautiful Inagua Island is much quieter than many of its neighbors. The island’s name comes from a combination of words. There is the native Lucayan word “Inagua” which means “small island in the east”, and the Spanish expression “Heneagua” which stands for “there is water here”. As with all other Caribbean islands, the history of Inagua Island is rich in tales and legends.
There are actually two islands: Great Inagua and Little Inagua. Great Inagua, the third largest island in the Bahamas, is just over 50 miles from the eastern edge of Cuba. Fewer than 1,000 people make their home here. Its capital, Matthew Town, is named after a 19th century governor of the islands, George Matthew. Little Inagua sits to the northeast of Great Inagua and is completely uninhabited (except for large herds of wild donkeys and goats).
Rich Sea Salt Supply
To this day, salt is still harvested the same way it was in the very beginning. Sea water is pumped into large ponds or lakes, and eventually evaporates under the powerful Caribbean sun. The salt residue is scraped into towering white mountains, and then shipped around the world.
Pirates and Buried Treasure
Like every other island in the Bahamas, Inagua also boasts of times when terrifying pirates waited for ships to flounder in the surrounding shallow and dangerous reefs, making the vessels easy targets for plundering. It is believed that the thieves hid their stolen treasures in the island’s many coves. From the 16th to the 19th century, shipwrecks were common as there was no lighthouse to guide ships away from peril. Many treasure ships met their fate in these waters. The Spanish galleons ‘Santa Rose’ and ‘Infanta’ sank near Inagua Island, as did several British and French ships. And so, the tales of buried treasures go on…
The bird sanctuary on Great Inagua is home to over 80,000 flamingos, who share space with more than 140 species of other exotic birds, including parrots, hummingbirds and pelicans.