Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Tobago - Boat Trip

With our ever vigilant boat Captain and First Mate

Who says I can't multi task?

Lets all do the conga

I wanna party hard


Yours truly - Looking the part


Not being the best traveller i'm always very dubious about booking a boat trip. Especially since in my experience most end up in a drunken chaos with some poor Devil being made to walk the plank (Usually me). As well as being very sunburnt!
So it was against my better judgment that I let the ever persuasive and smiling Frankie sign Marina and myself up for a boat trip with Coastline snorkeling & beach BBQ. Frankie is one of those people who seem to pop up all over the place and then when you need him you can't find him for love nor money. Anyway re-assured by his comforting words of 'Don't worry man it's all cool' we booked our places.
We had hardly got out of the dock before the giant cool boxes of booze were cracked open. I said to Marina no way - I shall wait until I have been snorkelling before I indulge, best to keep a clear head. This lasted all of 5 minutes before seeing everyone else boozing and the heat got the better of me.
Actually the trip was fairly gentle as we took in beautiful views of the coastline as well as some wonderful marine life. We were lucky enough to see several Dolphins, Flying Fish and a Manta Ray.
We then dropped anchor at one of the reefs where I did some excellent snorkelling.
I was pleased to see a wide variety of fish which were spectacular including Angel and Parrot fish.
We then moved on to an island known as 'No mans land' where we enjoyed a beach BBQ and yes more drinking. By now the Rum Punches were in full flow.
After stumbling back on our boat the next stop was the to the Buccoo Reef, where the water is about 1 meter in depth. Local legend has it that you will become ten years younger when you swim in the 'Nylon Pool'. This is where the party really began and we were soon in full swing. Doing a giant water conga as we met up with other boats. The music was really pumping out from the boats and we danced like maniacs to such classics as 'I wanna Party Hard' and 'Watch me Parlancing' !!
It was all great fun and this is where we got to know Jenny and Stuart from our Hotel. Amazingly I hadn't been seasick or felt ill once, in fact we even hit the pool bar back at the hotel , still singing and waving our arms.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Tobago - Birds

Some of the many Brown Pelicans on our beach

'Brian' The injured Red Crowned Woodpecker

A rare White Tailed Sabrewing


Stunning Hummingbirds

Male Barred Antshrike

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

The ubiquitous Bananaquit

The Stunning Mot Mot

There are over 210 species of birdlife in Tobago, including :- Hummingbirds, Woodpeckers, Kingfishers, Flycatchers and Beeaters. Not forgetting of course the turkey-like Chachalaca, which is commonly known as the Cocrico and is also the national bird of Tobago.
Many species of smaller bird, such as the yellow and black Bananaquit or sugarbird, can be seen around the hotels. Attracted by sugar-water feeders, they fly in and cheekily snatch titbits from the tables. Amongst the smaller birds there are six different species of beautiful hummingbirds with colourful iridescent plumage.By the end of the trip I was lucky enough to have seen them all.Including the rare White Tailed Sabrewing. This was thought to be extinct at one stage following the 1963 Hurricane. The most common is the Copper-rumped Hummingbird – iridescent green above and below with coppery bronze on back and white tufts on the thighs. Mot-mots, with their striking plumage of green upperparts, black crowns ringed with bright blue, russet under-parts and blue tipped tails, usually inhabit the forest undergrowth but some are tame enough to fly in for scraps of food. Blue-Grey tanagers, with brilliant violet-blue patches on each of their wings, can also be seen flying around in noisy groups.
We also spent a great day in the Rain Forest with our guide Peter Cox where we spotted wonderful Blue Backed Manakins. The male birds frequently congregate to display themselves to each other and to the females by jumping rapidly from perch to perch beside a prepared ‘lek’ – a patch of forest cleared of all vegetation – which he defends. Other notable sightings were the brightly coloured Jacamar, male and female Barred Antshrikes and a Red Legged Honeycreeper.
On our beach and around all the coast of Tobago it is possible to see the Magnificent Frigate birds gliding high above the sea searching for fish. With their distinctive long tails occasionally divided into a deep fork, they will often attack and bully the smaller seabirds, snatching the fish from their beaks. Brown pelicans, usually in flocks of about a dozen, dive from great heights into the sea, folding their wings just before they hit the water, and scooping up fish in their enormous pouched bills. Booby birds, further out to sea than the gulls, terns and pelicans, glide low over the water with their long, pointed wings.
As we left the Rainforest Peter spotted a bird trapped in the grill of a parked car. When he managed to free it he discovered it was a male Red Crowned Woodpecker. Unfortunately it had sustained a broken wing. We gave it water and some cake crumbs and tried to make it as comfortable as possible. We then made a detour and took the poor little fellow that Marina named 'Brian' to the local vet's.
The good news being that the Vet thought there would be a good chance of a full recovery/ Lets hope so!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Tobago - Amazing Leatherback Turtles

The egg laying site after departure

Two pictures taken under the red light.

A wonderful Leatherback Turtle.

We knew before travelling that there was a chance that we may see a Giant Leatherback Turtle. As the beach was a known spot for during the egg laying season of March - June.
When the knock at the door came at 2AM nothing could have prepared us for the amazing spectacle we were about to witness.

The leatherback turtle is the largest species of turtle alive today. It can reach a total length of 2.5 m (8.2 ft.) with a weight of 680 kg (1,500 lb.). Unlike other turtles, the leatherback has no visible shell; instead, it has a carapace made up of hundreds of irregular bony plates, covered with a leathery skin.
The Turtles front legs are well developed flippers, proportionally longer than in any other sea turtle, which propel it through the water. It feeds mainly on jellyfish and will travel thousands of miles in search of them.

When we got to the beach a small crowd had already gathered. Thankfully the local Turtle experts were on hand to make sure nobody got too close, or shone any bright lights or used flash photography.
We were allowed to get to within a few feet and one of the 'Experts' shone a red light so we could see clearly. The turtle uses the powerful flippers to build a nest hole of 3 - 4 ft deep to lay her eggs. On average she will lay 60 to 90 eggs in in the sand.
When laying the eggs she will go into a trance like state and must never be disturbed. If upset she will abandon the egg laying process and go back to the sea.
Once all eggs are released she then goes through an elaborate process of covering them and patting down the sand to protect them. As if that is not enough she then digs a decoy hole for further protection. The whole process usually takes about 2 hours before she returns to the sea thoroughly exhausted.
Seven weeks later, when the eggs hatch, the babies rush immediately to the water. The hatchlings average 61 mm long (2.4 in.) and 45.8 g in weight (1.6 oz.).
Another amazing fact is that the surviving hatchlings will always return to the same beach when it is their turn to lay eggs. But the Turtle will not be able to lay eggs until it is at least 25 years old.
Finally the male Leatherback Turtle will never leave the sea!

We were extremely fortunate to witness this amazing spectacle twice during our stay.

Leatherbacks are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Tobago Holiday - Sunshine & Sunsets

The usual suspects - Shirley, Marina,San,Jon,Simon and Yours Truly.

Turtle Beach with local fisherman unloading their catch

Hotel Pool

Our Hotel, we are on the top floor third from the right

'Engine Bobb' in the 'Office' with Dillon

View from our Room Balcony

Arrived back yesterday from a wonderful 2 week holiday in tropical Tobago. Almost endless days of sunshine, wonderful people and stunning sunsets perfect for relaxation.

Tobago is approximately 42 kilometres (26 Miles) long and 10 kilometres (6 miles) wide. It is located at latitude 11° 9' N, longitude 60° 40' W, slightly north of Trinidad. The population is 54,084 (2000). The capital is Scarborough, with a population of about 17,000. Which made it perfect for hiring a Jeep and exploring the hidden bays and waterfalls that dot the coastline. All that was missing were the tall ships and it could have been a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Turtle Beach hotel where we stayed was set right on the beachfront with a beautiful pool and jacuzzi. Being all inclusive was great and I dread to think how many Rum Punches, Beers, Vodka and Cokes as well as a variety of other cocktails were consumed during our stay?? The only problem I had was that our room fridge was stocked daily with beer. It was difficult to keep up with the supply but I just about managed.

There were some wonderful 'Locals' who have their 'Office' on the beach. Firstly 'Engine Bobb' a Rastafarian who has his finger on the pulse of everything going on. He is a Carpenter and makes beautiful bird feeders out of Bamboo and the shells from the fruit of the Calabash Tree. He has also promised to take me to the Notting Hill Carnival when he is over in August!!
Dillon a wonderful artist, who paints onto bamboo amazing landscapes and birds. Henry who has been on the beach 20 years making unique leather items. Afreea with her hand made beads and jewelery. Lorna with her 'Hawaiian shirts', Sarongs and part time massages (Yes I had a shirt and a massage ). Not to mention Frankie and Woody who organised all sorts of tours usually involving barbecues and lots of drinking of Rum punches.

We also met some lovely people from the UK who were also on holiday. Dave and Jenny from Brightlingsea, Simon & Shirley from Worcester, Jon & Sandra from Birmingham and Ian & Avril from Buckingham,not forgetting Dorothy and 'The Colonel' from St Merryn Cornwall.

All together it was a great holiday that will,live long in our memory. I will add some more detailed reports about the birds, Turtles and Boat trip in due course.