Ardastra Gardens has been in operation since my infancy, actually even my mothers. That admitted – more gravely on my mum’s part – over the years I’ve come to recognize that as locals we tend to under appreciate the unique experiences right in our backyard, revisiting them too long after our first introduction. Moreover, this can be especially said for those excursions considered tourist traps. Nevertheless, tourist trap or not, not even this local can resist a visit to Ardastra Garden every now and again. Here are my 7 reasons why to include Ardastra Gardens Zoo & Conservation Centre on your Nassau, New Providence Island Itinerary.
LOCATION – A 30 minute walk west from Nassau’s cruise-ship port, past the Fish Fry and Fort Charlotte, lays Ardastra Gardens. The only place on Nassau, New Providence to see and hear the sights of the out-isands. The call of an Abaco parrot, the slick skin of a Bahamian Boa Constrictor and the burst of pink feathers that are liken to the West Indian Flamingo – the national bird of The Bahamas.
AMBIANCE – Prior to writing this, I considered Ardastra to be the place we went on school and summer camp field–trips as a child. Never did I picture it to be my go to place on the weekend, when the wind is not in favour of our usual Sunday boating and a quiet afternoon stroll along the dirt path, and at times pond-lined gardens, can best occupy our downtime – not to mention inspire a good dose of reflection. That was of course until my visit a few weeks ago, when compared to those days of school uniforms I realized I’ve come to see it in a different light, taking the time to recognize the beautiful glow that peeks through the garden’s canopy and the vines which climb the many trees. At times unconsciously quizzing myself as to the names of the various trees that dominate the four acres of garden, becoming lost among twisting trails of mangos, banana, sapodillas, breadfruit and my favourite, banyan trees. During my visit I realized what an enchanting location this would make for an intimate Island “I Do” wedding or an engagement session.
FLAMINGO MARCH – A crowd favourite during which the trainer instructs the Caribbean birds to enter and then march around the circumference of the arena, posing for the expectant crowd. Later, hands raised high in the air and “pick me! pick me!” being chanted by the mouths of small children and even adults, a few lucky visitors are selected to enter the arena and pose with the flock.
LORY FEEDING – The Lory feeding session, of which there are three a day, is a favourite stop of mine. Entering the cage 10 to 20 lory birds flap overhead, each waiting for the opportune time to land on your hand and nibble on chopped apples lodged between your fingers.
BIRDS, IN GENERAL – Furthermore, Ardastra Gardens is home to 27 bird species, several of which roam freely about the gardens. The West Indian Flamingo never straying too far from its flock, but at times close enough to reach out to. Then there is the male peacock fanning its iridescent tail under a tree not long in the distance, and the four cage-free Macaws keeping close watch on the “Parrot Pit Stop” – as they should.
CHILD FRIENDLY – This is a place where said flamingos tower over childhood heights and attention is easily grabbed and kept with the round-garden display of the marching flamingos, shortly followed by the apple-feeding of the Lory Parrots, and of course the in-between visits to the Jaguar, the Australian Black Swan, Caiman Alligator and the Bahamian Boa Constrictor exhibits – just to name a few. At Ardastra Gardens adults beckon their childish innocence and children beckon adults, with the tug of their hand, and excitement leading them from one exhibit to the next.
PRICE – $16.00 for Adults and $8.00 for Children. Hardly comparable to that Bahamas inscribed t-shirt made in China. Yes, the one you just purchased. How can standing alongside West Indian Flamingos – a once in a lifetime experience – not be considered the best souvenir after all?
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