Ardastra Promises Unforgettable Summer for Campers

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Summer will never be the same.

Geared towards helping its 25 campers embrace novel experiences while learning more about nature, the environment and the animals around them, Ardastra Gardens’ Disney-inspired camps take full advantage of its scenic surroundings offering outdoor adventure chock full of fun and exploration in a safe, uncrowded environment. For parents tired of hearing, “I’m bored,” the zoo and conservation centre will welcome those aged six to 12, beginning July 1. “Whether they are active, animal-loving or an adventurer, we’re the go-to camp for kids,” said Onisa Lundy, one of the camp’s coordinators. “Ardastra provides plenty of opportunities to try new things. Campers learn, laugh and grow to respect animals and their habitats.”

Themed around hugely popular animated movies, each week is designed to stimulate young minds in a hands-on fashion. From July 1–5, under the theme, “How to Train Your Critter,” campers will engage in a week-long crash course in animal care and training. Not only will they learn the ins and outs of caring for exotic and rescue animals but will also practice training their own animals. They will cap off the week with a visit to the Bahamas Humane Society. Week two will see Ardastra transport campers to faraway places without leaving home. Camp “Treasure Planet” kicks off Monday, July 15, and wraps up Friday, July 19. Attendees will learn about biological and geological treasures and about beasts that prowl South and North America, Africa, Australia and, of course, The Bahamas. A visit to the Primeval Forest National Park is a highlight of the week.

“We always make sure there is a really strong educational component to all of our camps but for most of our kids they don’t necessarily realize that because we incorporate a lot of learning games and inquiries where campers lead the information discovery process,” said Bonnie Young, Ardastra’s animal curator. “We don’t lecture. It’s guided inquiries with the kids. Ardastra is such a unique setting so we take advantage of being in the zoo. There’s always some sort of animal component each day, whether it’s being able to see something behind the scenes that guests wouldn’t necessarily get to see or doing special interactions, particularly with animals guests might not necessarily get to do interactions with.” Week three will teach basic outdoor living for those interested in learning how to survive and thrive in the wild.

“Survivors in Wonderland,” offers practical knowledge few youths today possess. From July 29–2 August, campers will learn edible plant identification, water purification techniques, rope making, shelter construction, as well as tracking and trapping skills. Participants will then put their knowledge to the test during a field trip to The Retreat, national park on Village Road. There, they will engage in Ardastra’s version of “The Survival Games.” From August 12 – 16, campers will get to test drive careers as botanists, physicists, chemists and marine biologists, in the fourth and final week of camp held under the theme, “Science and The Beasts.” They’ll experience a taste of real-world marine biology with a snorkeling trip and beach excursion led by the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), before ending the summer camp season with a bang with Ardastra’s Rock n’ Roar water fun day. “We want to make it an immersive summer camp for the kids, so we have deliberately limited our numbers to 25, allowing us to have a fairly low counsellor to camper ratio. We want to make sure there is plenty of supervision and all the kids have a hands-on opportunity to participate in all of the activities,” said Ms. Young.

“It’s pretty go-go-go all day long with these guys. We send these kids home tired but excited to come back the next day for more. The camp costs $135 per week with discounted price for siblings and members of Ardastra, Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and Bahamas Humane Society (BHS). Advance registration is required and can be done online through Ardastra Gardens’ Facebook page. The camp offers a lunch package for an additional $25 a week with two daily meal options from which to choose. Parents are advised to send along snacks and plenty of fluids or money for the same as there are two snack breaks daily. Camp hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Parents can drop children off as early as 8 a.m. or pick them up late, by 5 p.m. for an extra $10 per day fee.

Ardastra campers get up close and personal with a Schneider’s Dwarf Caiman, crocodilian, during one of their many animal interactions last summer.

While investigating different units of measure we found out that the Bahamian Boa, “Lilly” is seven campers long.

Bahamas National Trust (BNT) Science Officer Scott Johnson visited Ardastra’s camp last summer to talk about wildlife smuggling and share some interesting facts about his favorite snake, the Bahamian Brown Racer.

Camp volunteer Samuel Hall helps campers dig deeper as they compare and contrast the anatomy of some common and exotic flowers. Flowers generously donated by Wildflowers Events.

Art and science go hand in hand as campers sketch an African Spur-thigh Tortoise following behavioral observations. Photo(s) courtesy of Ardastra Gardens

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