Mayaguana is the most easterly island and district of the Bahamas. It is one of only two Bahamian islands which retain their Arawak names, the other being Inagua. The population of Mayaguana in the 2000 census was 259 and is currently about 312. It has an area of about 110 square miles.
About 60 miles north of Inagua and 350 miles south of the capital of Nassau, Mayaguana is considered the halfway point between South Florida and Puerto Rico and is about 450 nautical miles off Palm Beach, Florida. It is a popular stopover for yachtsmen on a direct route to the Caribbean.
The Brazilian historian Antonio Varnhagen suggested in 1824 that Mayaguana is Guanahani, the first island visited by Christopher Columbus at his discovery of the Americas. His theory has found little support.
During NASA's Project Mercury and the Apollo program, the United States space program had a missile tracking station on what is now Mayaguana Airport. The station was used to help keep astronauts on course.
The Bahamian government has recently approved working with American investors I-Group to turn Mayaguana into a "free trade zone," complete with tourism development of approximately 14% of the island. Actually, this is 14% of the total landmass but essentially most of the coastal region. The proposal has been met with much resistance by Mayaguanians and other Bahamians, including the highly influential Nassau Guardian newspaper. Development now is imminent and will completely transform the nature of the island from a quiet ecotourism haven to a massively develpoed real estate venture.
Considered the most isolated Bahamian island, Mayaguana uses the country's mail boat system as its primary form of communication. Mayaguana is visited once a week for delivery and pickup.
Mayaguana is home to the Bahamian hutia, a rodent that was thought to be extinct until the mid-1960s, as well as West Indian flamingoes, iguanas, plovers, terns, and osprey. Nesting sea turtles can be found throughout the undeveloped eastern part of the island. About 118 species of bird are found on the island, including two large brown booby colonies.