|Turtle Beach Resort
is an Environmentally Friendly Place
Family travel expert Kate Pocock and her gang embark an eco-quest
around the island.
Text and photos by Kate Pocock
We hadn't been on the road long when our Bajan driver suddenly
stopped the minibus, got out and clambered up the grassy incline.
Stooping to examine a piece of vegetation, he waved for our three
kids to join him. Was it a piece of fruit I wondered, or crop damage
by green monkeys or mongoose, both native to Barbados? Neither.
What Ivor wanted to show them was something so unbelievably soft
and silky that the kids immediately asked if they could bring some
home. It was raw cotton, a tuft of white threads prodded from a
fat green pod.
That burst of white cotton was not the only surprise delivered
by nature that we discovered as we explored the island. Lots of
Canadians travellers know that Barbados is family-friendly. Our
kids were welcome wherever we went. But how many know that it's
also working hard to become environmentally friendly too? At our
Casuarina Beach Club hotel, recent winner of a Green Globe 21 award
as outlined by the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, activities
included walking tours and star observation on the beach. At the
Turtle Beach Resort next door, turtle nesting sites were protected
on the beach with a hotline number to call if you spotted an egg
hatching. As a result of these kind of influences (see sidebar),
the natural world has become as much as a tourist draw as any splashy
During our March break week, we and our three young teenagers embarked
on our own eco quest around the island. We started our journey at
the very top of the island in what was delightfully called the Animal
Flower Cave. Apparently, it's been a tourist attraction for centuries
since the smashing of the ocean waves created a natural cavern out
of the shore rocks. We gingerly stepped down into the watery cave
to see the colorful sea anenomes and the tiny octopus-like sea creatures,
or flowers, that opened and closed in our hands. Next on our tour
was the rough eastern shore that's often featured in TV commercials.
The water-battered rocks looked like sculptures and our teens loved
watching the wave action and the risk-taking (more like crazy) surfers.
From St. John's Parish Church we had an incredible view of the whole
coast. Then it was on for a rum tour at the Foursquare Rum Factory
and Heritage Park, where we learned about the importance of sugarcane
in the making of rum. My daughter found an abandoned stick of sugar
cane in a field and thought it would make a fine walking stick.
(We brought it back on the plane.)
|Swimming with the
turtles in Turtle Bay
Over the next days, we toured the west coast where the living was
easy and the water was calm. One of our best outings was aboard
the Harbour Master ship. "You've got to write about this," said
my daughter as she sidled up to the long bar for her umpteenth virgin
Pina Colada of the day. The four-hour cruise offered water slides
and rope swinging into the sea but even better, a ride in their
semi-submersible submarine attached to the belly of the boat. We
watched through the underwater windows as the divers distributed
hot dogs to famished sea creatures. Afterward, we were able to snorkel
among them at a calm beach. Even for the little ones, there were
enough masks, fins and snorkels that fit. This year, the company
offered a new eco experience on their Tiami catamaran-swimming with
the sea turtles. After much refreshment, we arrived where the hawksbill
turtles hang out waiting to be fed. They are huge. As you see one
below you starting to come up for a breath, you feel as if you will
be riding it any second. But out they pop from the water and look
at you, their eyes blinking as if you were part of the scenery.
"Gosh, they're as laid back as the people," said a snorkelling Englishman.
It was an amazing experience.
We couldn't leave though without visiting Barbados's most popular
natural tourist attraction, Harrison's Cave, where we donned hard
hats over tissues to descend into the bowels of Barbados. During
the mile-long ride aboard an electric tram, we journeyed past bubbling
subterranean streams, under huge dripping stalactites and up to
a large limestone cavern with a (12 metre) 40-foot waterfall. The
dark and echoes were spooky for some little ones although the path
was lit along the way. A big hit with everyone.
As we travelled from sea level to the high hills of the Scotland
District, we also encountered all sorts of interesting wildlife-furry
pelicans, wriggly mongoose, silver flying fish, haswksbill turtles
and black bellied sheep that looked like goats. At times, it felt
as if we were in the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. For our family,
Barbados turned out to be an eco delight full of creatures and natural
delights as well as creature comforts.
|A subterranean train
takes you into the depths of Harrison Caves
Travellers Tips: There are three things to watch out for
when travelling around Barbados with the kids. One is a type of
tree, the machineel, that tends to grow along beaches. Its crab
apple-like fruit is poisonous, and when it rains, the bark exudes
a poisonous sap that causes blisters if it drips onto skin. Usually,
they are marked with red slashes. So avoid standing under them during
a rainstorm. Underwater, the black sea urchins with porcupine-like
quills can cause damage if stepped on or touched accidentally. Seek
medical attention immediately. Lastly, the green monkeys are very
cute but they carry a virus that could be potentially fatal. So
don't let the kids get too cuddly with any that seem tame. If you
do run into trouble, however, Barbados offers excellent medical
Getting There: For direct flights from USA departures, contact
your travel agent. In Canada, Air Canada, Royal, Air Transat and
Skyservice all fly direct to Barbados from Toronto or Montreal.
Contact your travel agent for family packages offered by Signature
Vacations, Air Canada Vacations, Sunquest Vacations and World of
Where to stay: We stayed at the lovely landscaped Casuarina
Beach Club in the lively St. Lawrence Gap area in a wonderful two-storey,
family suite. Other family-friendly touches: cribs ringing the kid's
pool for sleepy babies and arts and crafts with nursery school teachers.
Kids 2 to 12 stay free. Many families opt for the all-inclusive
Turtle Beach Resort next door with its informal suites and great
kids club. Watersports included. The all-inclusive Almond Beach
Club on the quiet West Coast, a former sugar plantation with swimming
pools, eateries and a par-three nine-hole golf course is known for
its extensive activities programs including pool games, golf clinics
and free hair braiding. In some categories, kids up to 15 pay air
only plus $40. Signature Vacations offers family packages for all
three properties including air.
Almond Beach Village is now on sale - from $2088 for adults in
an upgraded family room, and from $598 per child for air and transfers
(one child between the ages of two and 15 stays, plays and eats
free when sharing with 2 adults).
At Turtle Beach Resort, adults pay from $2699. Children between
two and 12 pay $649, air only, as they can stay, play, and eat free.
At the Casuarina Beach Club, prices start at $1189 per person. Kids
two to 12 stay free, and pay $649 for air only plus transfers. Ask
about their two-story family suites with kitchen, living room, two
bedrooms, and upstairs roof patio. Prices are for weekly stays and
are in Canadian dollars. To book, contact your travel agent.
Day Cruises: Both the Harbour Master Cruise and the Tiami
Catamaran Sailing Cruise sound expensive, but they include refreshment,
music, a delicious hot lunch buffet, snorkelling gear and very congenial
hosts. The kids loved it. The Harbour Master starts at $123.00 Bajan
dollars, the Tiami starts at $130.00 Bajan dollars; half-price for
kids 12 and under. Contact the Tall Ships Company, 246-430-0900
or visit http://www.tallshipscruises.com.
|An eco-quest of
This push towards environmentalism began in 1994 when Barbados hosted
the United Nations Conference on the sustainable development of
islands. With only 166 square miles of land available for 250,000
citizens, it made sense that the Bajans would work at becoming self-sufficient.
Accompanying that conference was an initiative called the "Village
of Hope" where every resident could define environmental problems
and offer hopeful solutions. Some 45,000 people came to the resulting
exhibit and the Future Centre, similar to the Centre of Alternative
Technology in Wales, was born.
Today, all students study environmental science, turtle fishing
has been banned-you'll no longer find turtle soup on any menu-and
Bajans are proportionately the world's biggest users of solar water
heaters outside Israel. You can visit an attraction called The Flower
Forest, part garden and part nature trail, that sounds as if the
flowers had grown as tall as palm trees. It conjures up images of
Alice in Wonderland. Families can sign up to walk with the National
Trust across the green hills or even by the light of the moon and
snorkel with the fish and sea turtles.
The country even has its own eco hero- Colin Hudson, the director
of the Future Centre. His medicinal plant garden in recycled tires
is the largest known tire garden in the world and is always open
to interested families. You can see the same kind of excited enthusiasm
about saving the resources in people like John Leach, garden manager
of the renowned Andromeda Botanical Garden. Its biggest coup has
been the discovery of a timber tree, traditionally used in the floorboards
and handrails of the old plantation houses. "There was one tree
left in Barbados," Leach said. They found it and cultivated it.
"We're trying to save it from extinction." No wonder Barbados has
become a model for other developing countries and we were set to
take advantage of all this activity.
More info: The Barbados Tourism Authority,
105 Adelaide St. W., Toronto, M5H 1P9, Canada
Phone: 416-214-9880; Fax 416-214-9882
In Barbados, call 246-427-2623.
Kate Pocock's "Family Fare" column appears in the Toronto Sun
newspaper. She is also senior editor of Travel & More, magazine
for the Air Miles program in Canada, and recently contributed to
National Geographic's first family travel book. Great Family Adventures.