The Bahamas , officially the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, is an archipelagic state of the Lucayan Archipelago consisting of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean; north of Cuba and Hispaniola (Haitiand the Dominican Republic); northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands; southeast of the US state of Florida and east of the Florida Keys. Its capital is Nassau on the island of New Providence. The designation of "The Bahamas" can refer to either the country or the larger island chain that it shares with the Turks and Caicos Islands. As stated in the mandate/manifesto of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Bahamas territory encompasses 470,000 km2 (180,000 sq mi) of ocean space.
The Bahamas were the site of Columbus' first landfall in the New World in 1492. At that time, the islands were inhabited by the Lucayan, a branch of the Arawakan-speaking Taino people. Although the Spanish never colonised the Bahamas, they shipped the native Lucayans to slavery in Hispaniola. The islands were mostly deserted from 1513 until 1648, when English colonists from Bermuda settled on the island of Eleuthera.
The Bahamas became a British Crown colony in 1718, when the British clamped down on piracy. After the American War of Independence, the Crown resettled thousands of American Loyalists in the Bahamas; they brought their slaves with them and established plantations on land grants. Africans constituted the majority of the population from this period. The Bahamas became a haven for freed African slaves: the Royal Navy resettled Africans here liberated from illegal slave ships; American slaves and Seminoles escaped here from Florida; and the government freed American slaves carried on United States domestic ships that had reached the Bahamas due to weather. Slavery in the Bahamas was abolished in 1834. Today the descendants of slaves and free Africansmake up nearly 90% of the population; issues related to the slavery years are part of society.
The Bahamas became an independent Commonwealth realm in 1973, retaining Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch. In terms of gross domestic product per capita, the Bahamas is one of the richest countries in the Americas (following the United States and Canada), with an economy based on tourism and finance.
The country lies between latitudes 20° and 28°N, and longitudes 72° and 80°W.
In 1864, the Governor of the Bahamas reported that there were 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 rocks in the colony.
The closest island to the United States is Bimini, which is also known as the gateway to the Bahamas. The island of Abaco is to the east of Grand Bahama. The southeasternmost island is Inagua. The largest island is Andros Island. Other inhabited islands include Eleuthera, Cat Island, Long Island, San Salvador Island, Acklins, Crooked Island, Exuma, Berry Islands and Mayaguana. Nassau, capital city of the Bahamas, lies on the island of New Providence.
All the islands are low and flat, with ridges that usually rise no more than 15 to 20 m (49 to 66 ft). The highest point in the country is Mount Alvernia (formerly Como Hill) on Cat Island. It has an elevation of 63 metres (207 ft).
To the southeast, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and three more extensive submarine features called Mouchoir Bank, Silver Bank and Navidad Bank, are geographically a continuation of the Bahamas.
The climate of the Bahamas is tropical savannah climate or Aw according to Köppen climate classification. As such, there has never been a frost or freeze reported in the Bahamas, although every few decades low temperatures can fall into the 3–5 °C (37–41 °F) range for a few hours when a severe cold outbreak comes off the North American landmass. Otherwise, the low latitude, warm tropical Gulf Stream, and low elevation give the Bahamas a warm and winterless climate. There is only an 8 °C difference between the warmest month and coolest month in most of the Bahama islands. As with most tropical climates, seasonal rainfall follows the sun, and summer is the wettest season. The Bahamas are often sunny and dry for long periods of time, and average more than 3,000 hours or 340 days of sunlight annually.
Tropical storms and hurricanes affect the Bahamas. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew passed over the northern portions of the islands, and Hurricane Floyd passed near the eastern portions of the islands in 1999.
|Climate data for Nassau|
|Average high °C (°F)||25.4|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||21.4|
|Average low °C (°F)||17.3|
|Average precipitationmm (inches)||39.4|
|Average precipitation days||8||6||7||8||10||15||17||19||17||15||10||8||140|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||220.1||220.4||257.3||276.0||269.7||231.0||272.8||266.6||213.0||223.2||222.0||213.9||2,886|
|Source: World Meteorological Organization (UN), Hong Kong Observatory (sun only)|
|23 °C73 °F||23 °C73 °F||24 °C75 °F||26 °C79 °F||27 °C81 °F||28 °C82 °F||28 °C82 °F||28 °C82 °F||28 °C82 °F||27 °C81 °F||26 °C||24 °C|
The Bahamas archipelago are in fact the tops of banks that were formed some time between 90,000 and 120 years ago from coral reef formation. The well known pink sand beaches of the Bahamas get their vibrant appearance from the fractured pieces of seashell combined with the sand. The highest point in the Bahamas is Mount Alvernia on Cat Island, which is 63 meters (over 200 feet) high.
Wildlife in Bahamas contains various species. Many different breed of crabs can be found on the beaches. Hermit and Cardisoma guanhumi are two of the land crabs to be noted frequently in the island. The wild horses of Abaco are famous in The Bahamas.
During a tour of the Bahamas, tourists can come across various other species including the Bahamas Hutia, numerous frogs, rocky raccoon, snails such as Cerion, cicada, blind cave fish, ants and reptiles.
Bahamas Wildlife features a wide range of amazing birds. Parrots and pigeons are two of the most common and popular birds found in The Bahamas.
The Bahamas is also home to numerous aquatic life. Sharks, manatees, dolphins, frogfish, angelfish, starfish and turtles can be viewed in the waters surrounding The Bahamas. Apart from numerous species of fish, tourists can spot several types of worms also.
The Bahamas has an estimated population of 392,718, of which 25.9% are under 14, 67.2% 15 to 64 and 6.9% over 65. It has a population growth rate of 0.925% (2010), with a birth rate of 17.81/1,000 population, death rate of 9.35/1,000, and net migration rate of −2.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population. The infant mortality rate is 23.21 deaths/1,000 live births. Residents have a life expectancy at birth of 69.87 years: 73.49 years for females, 66.32 years for males. The total fertility rate is 2.0 children born/woman (2010).
The most populous islands are New Providence, where Nassau, the capital and largest city, is located; and Grand Bahama, home to the second largest city of Freeport.
Racial and ethnic groups
According to the 99% response rate obtained from the race question on the 2010 Census questionnaire, 91% of the population identified themselves as being Africans or Afro-Bahamian, 5% Europeans or Euro-Bahamian and 2% of a mixed race (African and European). Three centuries prior, in 1722 when the first official census of The Bahamas was taken, 74% of the population was White and 26% Black.
Afro-Bahamians are Bahamian nationals whose primary ancestry was based in West Africa. The first Africans to arrive to the Bahamas were freed slaves from Bermuda; they arrived with the Eleutheran Adventurers looking for new lives.
Since the colonial era of plantations, Africans or Afro-Bahamians have been the largest ethnic group in the Bahamas; in the 21st century, they account for some 91% of the country's population. The Haitian community is also largely of African descent and numbers about 80,000. Because of an extremely high immigration of Haitians to the Bahamas, the Bahamian government started deporting illegal Haitian immigrants to their homeland in late 2014.
16,598 (5%) of the total population are descendants of Europeans or European Bahamians at the 2010 census. European Bahamians, or Bahamians of European and mixed European descent form the largest minority, and are mainly the descendants of the English Puritans looking to flee religious persecution in England and American Loyalists escaping the American Revolution who arrived in 1649 and 1783, respectively. Many Southern Loyalists went to the Abaco Islands, half of whose population was of European descent as of 1985. A small portion of the Euro-Bahamian population is descended from Greeklabourers who came to help develop the sponging industry in the 1900s. They make up less than 1% of the nation's population, but have still preserved their distinct Greek Bahamian culture.
By the terms of GDP per capita, the Bahamas is one of the richest countries in the Americas.
The Bahamas relies on tourism to generate most of its economic activity. Tourism as an industry not only accounts for over 60% of the Bahamian GDP, but provides jobs for more than half the country's workforce. The Bahamas attracted 5.8 million visitors in 2012, more than 70% of which were cruise visitors.
After tourism, the next most important economic sector is banking and international financial services, accounting for some 15% of GDP.
The government has adopted incentives to encourage foreign financial business, and further banking and finance reforms are in progress. The government plans to merge the regulatory functions of key financial institutions, including the Central Bank of the Bahamas(CBB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Central Bank administers restrictions and controls on capital and money market instruments. The Bahamas International Securities Exchange consists of 19 listed public companies. Reflecting the relative soundness of the banking system (mostly populated by Canadian banks), the impact of the global financial crisis on the financial sector has been limited.
The economy has a very competitive tax regime. The government derives its revenue from import tariffs, VAT, licence fees, property and stamp taxes, but there is no income tax, corporate tax, capital gains tax, or wealth tax. Payroll taxes fund social insurance benefits and amount to 3.9% paid by the employee and 5.9% paid by the employer. In 2010, overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 17.2%.
Agriculture is the third largest sector of the Bahamian economy, representing 5–7% of total GDP. An estimated 80% of the Bahamian food supply is imported. Major crops include onions, okra, and tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, cucumbers, sugar cane, lemons, limes and sweet potatoes.