Leatherback Sea Turtle Watching



Turtle-nesting season began last week in Trinidad. We drove from San Juan through lots of winding country roads to Matura, on the eastern (Atlantic Ocean) side of the island to spot the leatherback sea turtle night egg-laying trek.

After a seemingly long 10-minute drive under thick jungle canopy, we emerged out of the dim moonlit parking lot. My cousin and I were the last to arrive in our group so the park ranger led us down the gravel track to the beach. He explained that although leatherback turtles can see red light, they will not feel threatened by it. White light from mobile phones, standard flashlights and cameras are considered threats by leatherback turtles. While they are swimming to shore they will be wary of white lights and swim back into the ocean, thus interrupting the natural nesting season. With that said, we quickly turned off our phones.

Once we caught up to our group by the beach, we were greeted by pleasant ocean mist and a starry sky. The second park ranger explained that when his colleague – who was standing about 6oo metres down the beach – signalled his red light, we could proceed. Since it was only the beginning of the nesting season, there were only about 5 leatherback turtles expected that night.

Patience is a virtue and the group mused that humans cannot force nature in any way without consequences. We waited, star-gazed and chatted amongst one another for over an hour. When we saw the colleague’s red flashes, we excitedly walked towards him while carefully dodging driftwood in the loose sand.

It was very dark so most of us couldn’t even tell that just a few metres in front of us lay a huge leatherback turtle! As we squinted we could begin to see her outline in the sand. The ranger told us that we could only turn on white lights when she was actually laying her eggs.

We waited and chatted a bit more until the leatherback turtle dug her nesting hole and started to drop eggs. Finally! With an OK from our ranger, we formed a semi-circle facing her back, turned on our cameras and started ooooo-ing and awwww-ing at the beautiful ancient creature!

She was in an egg-laying trance so she didn’t move much. We gathered around her and gently patted her head and surprisingly soft shell. According to the ranger, the average number of eggs these turtles lay is 100 per night. They come back every 10 days or so to repeat the process until the end of the season in August.

Once she finished laying her eggs, we had to turn off our white lights and move away from her or else get splashed with sand. She was now camouflaging her nest so that predators would have a harder time finding it. One guy in our group turned his very bright white flashlight on (by accident), stumbled with the switch and took what seemed like hours to turn it back off. All you heard was a loud AYE! TURN OFF DE LIGHT NAH BOI! from the group.

With the light and tension, Ms. Turtle decided to linger and camouflage her nest far longer than most. So, instead of a couple of minutes we watched her for almost an hour dance around the beach making sure nothing would harm her nest. In the end, satisfied that she had done what any self-respecting mommy would do, she headed back to the ocean with slow determination.

We were speechless (a tough thing for Trinis to be) at the beauty of her waddling into the high waves with the half-moon light over her. It was awesome!

Have you ever watched leatherback sea turtles nesting?


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Trinidad Carnival 2013

It’s been a long time coming but my Trinidad Carnival 2013 video has arrived. This video will give you a quick taste of what to expect at Trinidad Carnival! After reading the Trinidad Carnival Survival Guide, you should have already bought your flight ticket, booked your hotel and chosen your costume!!!

In less than a week, those of us who are lucky enough to be making bacchanal at Trinidad Carnival 2014, will be on de road and on de stage at Queen’s Park Savannah in Trinidad and Tobago’s capital, Port Of Spain.

Don’t fret, there’s always Trinidad Carnival 2015!

[vimeo width=”400″ height=”300″ video_id=”87677875″]

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Trinidad Carnival Survival Guide

Welcome to The Trinidad Carnival Survival Guide for Carnival Virgins, Carnival Veterans and Carnival Babies alike. Feel free to leave your comments below 🙂

What? Carnival festivities began in Trinidad and Tobago over 200 years ago. The Carnival takes certain aspects from Nigerian (Egungun), French and Spanish folkloric roots due to the mixing of colonizers and slaves.

Where? The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is the southernmost nation in the Caribbean archipelago. Trinidad is the main larger urban island. Tobago is smaller and is known for its easy-going lifestyle and amazing beaches.

Who? Trinbagonians (Trinidadians and Tobagonians) are like you and I. Some have ancestors who were the indigenous inhabitants of the islands – the Caribs. Other Trinis have Nigerian, Ghanaian, Indian and Chinese ancestry from their enslaved forefathers. And others came from England, France and Spain as slave owners or from Syria and Lebanon to flee persecution.

When? Trinidad Carnival falls on the Monday (Lundi Gras) and Tuesday (Mardi Gras) before Ash Wednesday every year.

Why? Trinidad Carnival celebrates unity and bacchanal (good times)!

Climate: Trinidad and Tobago is tropical with an annual average temperature of 28 degrees Celsius. There is a Dry Season from January to May, and Rain Season from June to December.

Population: A little over 1 million

Official Language: English

Music of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival: Extempo, Calypso, Steel Pan (not steel drum), Soca, Chutney Soca

[accordion title=”When should I arrive for Trinidad Carnival?” close=”0″]If you are short on time, I’d suggest you arrive on Fantastic Friday (Carnival Friday) which is 3 days before the climactic Carnival Monday and Tuesday.[/accordion]
[accordion title=”What is there to do during Trinidad Carnival?” close=”0″]
Fete, fete and more fete! A fete is Trini talk for a party. Fetes can be small get-togethers (known as a lime) but generally they are huge rave-like parties at clubs, arenas and private mansions.

Beach lime. Pre-fete lime. Post-fete lime. Lime on the corner. Lime at home. Ah little lime. Lime on De Avenue (Ariapita Avenue). Do you notice a trend here?

Shark and Bake. Bake and Shark. Doubles. KFC (Trinidad and Tobago’s is real bess). Pelau. BBQ Chicken and Chips. Callaloo. Corn Soup.

Puncheon. White Oak. Angostura. Fernandes Black Label. Rum Punch. Carib. Stag.

Panorama (Steel Pan) Finals.

Dimanche Gras – King and Queen of Carnival.

Jouvert (Dirty mas). Expect to be pelted with mud, water-based paint or chocolate sauce. The dirtier the better.

…arrive in Trinidad and Tobago just after Christmas and you have a chance to hear the newest Soca, Chutney and Calypso music live at the pre-Carnival fetes, Steel Pan Semi-Finals, International Soca Monarch Semi-Finals.[/accordion]

[accordion title=”What should I wear?” close=”0″]Look cute. It’s the perfect time to look your best in that short colourful jumper you bought last summer. Or remember that long flowy halter maxi-dress? Or even that stretch mini-dress will be perfect with some bling sandals.

The key is to look great – effortlessly. Invest in a professional make-up artist for Carnival Tuesday and be the diva you were meant to be.

No white sneakers on the road please. Buy a cheap pair of boots (one size larger than normal) that match your costume. Low-waist skin tone tights are a great way to look sleeker in photos and gives an extra touch of specialness to your costume. Buy good insoles and wear comfy socks inside. Don’t bother getting pedicures because it’ll make your soles too delicate for all the walking and dancing you’ll be doing. For an easy pedi rub sand on your feet if you go to the beach.

Stockings are extremely helpful so stock up on 2 pairs per day (Carnival Monday and Tuesday) because they will rip. They come in light, medium and dark browns.

If you decide to play mas (participate in Carnival Monday and Tuesday with a band) you will get a Monday costume (usually a t-shirt). Pair the t-shirt with short shorts, your Carnival boots and tights.

For Carnival Tuesday, wear the entire formal costume and remember to smile for cameras and stay in yuh section when it’s time to cross de stage.

Your band may also include a goodie bag filled with condoms, coupons, jewelry, sunblock, creams, etc. Many bands will provide meals, snacks, alcohol, water and soft drinks on Carnival Monday and Carnival Tuesday.

Bring sunblock, beach towel(s), bathing suit(s), and wrap your valuables in a ziplock bag and keep them in a cute little pouch. You won’t want to carry anything big when you go to the fetes and Carnival.

Although it’s Dry Season during Trinidad Carnival, your delicious foreign blood might attract mosquitoes, so bring a citronella-based repellant and anti-itch creme.[/accordion]

[accordion title=”I heard that Trinidad and Tobago is seriously dangerous!” close=”0″]According to the travel advisories of several countries and local news reports, Trinidad and Tobago is a dangerous, crime-infested country. Luckily for you things are more peaceful during Carnival.

Most fetes and bands have tons of competent security. Don’t walk around paranoid but always be aware of your surroundings. The fete promoters and band leaders’ purpose is to give you what you pay for – the best stress-free bacchanalist time ever – so the riffraff stay away.
[accordion title=”Are Trinbagonians actually speaking English?” close=”0″]Yes, English is the official language of Trinidad and Tobago. However, Trinidadian English is a dialect with some unique words and a beautiful undulating accent.

Wining, bouncing, juking, pelting a waist, rolling a bumper, bending down low, etc are how Trinis get on bad and have ah time. It’s not considered nasty unless you’re hyper religious. At the fetes and Carnival men will teef ah wine from you. They will come behind you and wine up on ah bamcee (wine on your bum). If you let them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting them wine on you. But if at any time you don’t want it, just stop. He should get the point. If he doesn’t then glide away. No scene (no problems).

You will meet lots of men who will be interested in getting to know you physically. (If they ask) politely say that you’re staying with your cousin in Maraval. If you want them to trail you back to your hotel then that is your choice 🙂

You may get drama from some Trini men who may ask you how yuh doin dem like so gyul, etc. Some men will beg for it.

Trinbagonians are very blunt. They will tell you how they feel but usually in a funny, nonchalant way. You probably won’t hear many Trinis cussing (F bomb) unless they are seriously angry. They will use other colourful language instead.[/accordion]

[accordion title=”What do you actually do during Carnival?” close=”0″]Dance until your feet hurt, dance some more, drink ah rum (water, energy drinks, juice, sorrelmauby are fine too!), eat ah food (macaroni piecallaloodoubles, roti, BBQ chicken, pelau), meet new people, hold on to old friends, take lots of pics, get sun burnt, smile, laugh, have fun and don’t sleep until Ash Wednesday![/accordion]

This concludes The Trinidad Carnival Survival Guide. Tell us about your Trinidad Carnival virgin or expert experiences below 🙂

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Photo by Nabwood Fotos


I Love Trinidad Carnival

[quote]I. Love. Trinidad Carnival. #thatisall[/quote]

Trinidad Carnival is hands down the closest I have ever been to heaven! Blasphemy, YES, I know and I will not apologize. It is one thing to be a spectator on the streets on Trinidad’s capital Port of Spain. Stand around, snap photos of the sweaty masqueraders, bop to the thunderous bass of the Soca music on the big trucks. It is another – the ULTIMATE – to play mas!

To really understand modern Trinidad Carnival you will have to get the Caribbean island nation a few days – preferably on Fantastic Friday – before all hell breaks loose. You’ll need to drop allyuh (all of your) inhibitions and worries about your size and weight. You’ll need to lime (chill with allyuh friends) on Ariapita Avenue (De Avenue), eat ah Bake & Shark at Maracas Beach, go to ah All-Inclusive Fete, play Jouvert, play Monday mas & Tuesday mas – ALL without sleep!

Psst… this is the tour I’m going on > Trinidad Carnival Tour 2014

I stress modern Carnival because there are many beautiful and interesting historical facets to the festival that many newcomers do not know. I will touch upon certain aspects of traditional Carnival here leading up to Trinidad Carnival 2014.

Have you ever played mas? Have you ever been to Trinidad and Tobago? Leave your comments below 🙂

Gallery images by Nabwood Fotos

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