Yellowtail Snappers are native to the eastern Atlantic Ocean. All art by Erik Gauger
Armed with his nib pen, markers, and watercolor travel set, Erik Gauger records all his trips through gorgeous and educational illustrations. Click on the photo above to see his sketches from the dry forest of the Bahamas.
BAHAMAS, The Caribbean – I visited the Abaco Islands last winter for a reunion, where 30 of us were greeted with strong, ripping winds which negated our plans to stay immersed in the water, snorkeling and spearfishing all day. In light of the weather, I suggested that anybody should feel welcome to join me in exploring the interior of the islands. I couldn't muster the others to join me, but on my own I discovered dozens of new wildernesses on the island, including hauntingly beautiful azure mangroves, vast pineyards, and dense, unexplored coppice.
I spent most of my time walking through the Dry Forest area and The Marls which is a vast network of uninhabited mangroves, islands, and saltwater flats on Great Abaco Island in the northern Bahamas.
While scientists now call it the Bahamian dry forests, "coppice forest" is the local phrase to describe the dense, stunted forests of the northern Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.
When I was younger, I had little appreciation for the different forest types — they all looked devoid of life, and they all looked the same. I now appreciate the mysteries of these forests. One example is the butterflies. There are species you might find in Costa Rica or Panama — tiny packages of bright color you wouldn't expect so far north.
The Cuban Amazon, also known as the Rose-throated Parrot, is found in Cuba, the Bahamas, and Cayman Islands.
I try to sketch the fish of the Bahamas before and during my trips — it's a way to cement their fieldmarks in my mind. This is a sketch of the quite common Yellowtail Snapper.
There are so many shell and coral species in the Bahamas and Caribbean that learning and identifying all of them is near impossible. But by keeping notes, drawing sketches, and trying to identify them when you see them, you learn a lot because you are deliberately considering what makes them different.
I sketched this Haitian squatter's camp when I received a rare invitation to visit. The Haitian illegals, who do much of the hard labor in the northern Bahamas, are both resented, ignored, and apt to be deported. They were nervous when I photographed, but appreciated my sketchbook.
The beloved local soft-drink, Bahamas Goombay Punch, and leaves from coppice forest trees.
I drew these with copic markers and watercolors from photos at Golden Harvest grocery in Treasure Cay. The small grocery stores, which people often complain about, are one of my favorite parts about the islands. Sure, you have fewer choices, but that's what makes being away fun.
I loved the colors of these artificially-flavored fruit drinks in the local grocery stores.
Guava jams, jellies, and pastes are used widely in the Bahamas.
After I return from a trip, I do additional drawings based on reference photos. This is a typical loyalist home on Great Guana Cay, which recently lost its last remaining coppice and mangrove habitats to a large, unsustainable golf development.
Brightly painted clapboard homes are well-preserved in the cays of the Abaco Sound. New Plymouth of Green Turtle Cay is a quiet, traditional town which has kept its historic qualities well preserved.
The Bahamian dry forest is made up of whiteland, blackland, and rocky coppices. Each with their own unique plants and wildlife. The rocky coppice is a great place to find interesting wading birds, such as this Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.