Island Tours and Other Attractions
It is a real treat to take an island tour with a good local guide. it is possible to learn much of the island and its people in a short time. Then you are able to explore in the future, what appeals to you. Some of the nicest tours are on Trinidad, Grenada, Dominica, and Saint Lucia. On Trinidad, it is especially nice as Jesse combines the tour with a his own unique spice and exceptional love of Trinidad. Some of the tours I have enjoyed:
Jesse's Taste of Trini, and Island Tour
Jesse James of Members Only Maxi Taxi and Tour Services was our leader. He has been providing services to the Cruising Community in Trinidad for many years. Eight or so years ago he came up with the idea of getting the cruiser out of the marinas in Chaguaramas and introduce them to local foods that Trini's eat and along the way have a lot of fun.
The tour begins before breakfast in Chaguaramas and continues east through Port of Spain to the east coast of Trinidad at Manzanilla Bay. It then turns south and follows the east coast to the town of Mefeking and turning West through the central mountains to intersect the Southern Main Road. Then North to Port of Spain and Home. With plenty of stops to gather food, we finished by early evening and consumed 80 or more dishes along the way.
A couple of years ago (2015), we persuaded Jesse to do a southern route Taste of Trina. We enjoyed many different foods and scenery that many of us had not seen.
Asa Wright Nature Center
I have returned again and again to the Asa Wright Nature Center. On one of my last visits, I was able to stay three days and was fortunate to meet one of the Premiere Trinidad wildlife photographers, Rodger Neckles, and the author of the "Field Guide to the Birds of Trinidad & Tobago", Martyn Kenefick. As I was staying longer, I got to trek down to the Oilbird Cave and see the strange Oilbirds. it was worth the hike in the rain to the cave.
Diwali, otherwise known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the most spectacular events in Trinidad (after Carnival). Although it is a Hindu festival, on the island it is a national holiday observed by people of all denominations. The day is marked by prayers, feasts and the lighting of thousands of diyas (small clay pots filled with oil in which a wick is immersed and lit) all over the country.
I have visited the Temple by the Sea on several occasions and am always fascinated by the story of a man, who made a promise to build a temple if he survived a storm at sea and then spent twenty or more years fulfilling that promise. There are also other Hindu Temples in the vicinity of interest as well.
The Pitch Lake is the largest deposit of natural asphalt in the world. It is mined and exported to places around the world. While not sounding interesting at first glance, it is a fascinating place. The wildlife is abundant.
Other outstanding Tours are described elsewhere on this site:
and of course,
Guyana is difficult to explore. it has little transportation infrastructure and is not set up to deal with tourists beyond those who fly into one of the few high end resorts. But, with a little patience and some persistence, it is possible to arrange some very good tours. While we were there three years ago (2013) we managed to arrange three very good ones.
The Essequibo River splits at Bartica and the Mazaruni River goes west. It is possible to follow the Mazaruni river for some 150 miles or more, but we went about 30 to Marshall Falls. A 45 minute hike on a well marked trail led to the falls. Not spectacular in height, but a good place to swim.
Rockstone is a fishing camp some 30 miles up the Essequibo River. We chose it for an overnight hammock camp. We prepared a fire and enjoyed getting out of the boats.
Kaietour Falls is the signature tour in Guyana. It can be reached by either a 1 hour flight or by a five day hike. I chose the flight, though some in our group did do the hike. The crux of the hike is the 850 foot climb up from the valley floor to the top of the falls. The guides take most of your gear up, but the wet trail and the climb is challenging.
Other Island Tours
On most of the rest of the islands in the eastern Caribbean, I was able to find some sort of local tours. The islands that have a large number of cruise ships calling have a well established tour business. However, in most cases these tours are not of interest to most cruisers.
Grenada - Island tour, Carnival
In Grenada, we were able to get tours conducted by the local taxi drivers who serviced the cruising community. A highlight of the tour was the rum factory that still uses a waterwheel to crush the sugar cane for making rum.
Saint Lucia - Island Tour, Bird Watching
A local taxi driver who had been driving for more than 50 years took us south along the west coast of Saint Lucia. We were also able to find a guide who specialized in bird tours. He took us on trips to the rainforest to see the local parrots and to a sea bird preserve in the southeast corner of the island.
Dominica - Island Tours
The PAYS guides are able to provide a number of great tours around the island or to places of special interest.
Trips to the two must see sites in Barbuda (the frigate bird colony and the sink hole) are easy arrange with one of the local guides.
Getting out and about by Rental Car
Islands where the local roads are good and sites easy accessible by car, A rental car and a good map is just the trick.
The roads on the island of Martinique are some of the best of any island in the Caribbean. The local maps are also excellent. Getting out and around the island is easy and rewarding. Only got lost a few times, but that is part of the adventure.
The island is so large and there is so much to see that a rental car is just about mandatory.
Saint Martin is a small island and is heavily focused on the cruise ship passenger, but even here a circuit around the island is rewarding.
A rental car is necessary to see much of the island. While you can anchor in many of the bays on the east side of the island, getting around is a long walk or not possible. Renting a car from one of the bays on the west or south side of the island is better.