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bulletTrinidad and Tobago - Islands of Adventure
bulletTrinidad and Tobago - Kayaking in Trinidad and Tobago
bulletTrinidad - Searching for the Scarlet Ibis in Cedros
bulletTrinidad - Looking for the Bobolee - Easter Traditions in Trinidad

 

Trinidad and Tobago, Islands of Adventure

by Brian Ramsey

Trinidad and Tobago, two islands set in the Caribbean Sea. The name Caribbean conjures up images of blue seas and white sand beaches set against green hills. It brings to mind vacation images of lying on the beach sipping pina coladas or rum and coca-cola. For the holiday traveler Trinidad and Tobago meets those expectations. For the outdoor enthusiast however, Trinidad and Tobago can be islands of outdoor recreation adventure with hiking trails and hidden waterfalls, bird watching and turtle watching, cycling through verdant countryside or kayaking past wildlife filled forests.

Trinidad and Tobago has a range of hiking opportunities with hikes varying in difficulty from 1 to 8. There are tour guides for those who want guided tours and almost every weekend hiking groups visit various natural attractions. These hiking groups charge a small fee and welcome visitors to join in the hikes.

The 32-kilometer trail from Blanchisseuse to Matelot on Trinidad's north coast is considered a jewel. Along the hike one alternates from unspoiled rainforest to untouched beaches. Starting from Blanchisseuse you encounter Paria Bay after two to three hours (depending on the hiker's level of fitness). A short trail from the beach leads to Paria waterfall where there is a deep clear pool below the falls surrounded by heliconia, fringed lilies, and philodendron. If you choose to continue the hike after Paria Bay, the trail rambles over a succession of small ridges, crossing several small streams, until you next encounter Gran Tacarib, which is a 1.2-kilometer crescent shaped beach. From Gran Tacarib the trail continues to the Madamas River and then Madamas Beach. Both Madamas Beach and Gran Tacarib are nesting sites for Leatherback turtles, during the nesting season of March to September. After Madamas it is a continuation of the up and down hiking and crossing small streams and then the Petite Riviere River. The trail continues through abandoned estate lands with cocoa, coffee, tonka bean, nutmeg and papaya (pawpaw) until you arrive at the Matelot River and the village of Matelot. This 8-hour hike has been rated with a degree of difficulty of 8.

The La Sagesse Trace to Maracas Bay hike starts in the Santa Cruz valley and ascends the southern slopes of the Northern Range and then descends to Maracas Bay on the north coast. This 2.9-mile (4.7-km), 2.5 hours one way hike is possibly the most used hiking trail in Trinidad with a degree of difficulty of 4. The hike takes you through an abandoned tonka bean estate plus undisturbed forest and ends at Maracas Bay thus giving the opportunity for a refreshing sea bath.

A hike along the Yarra River on Trinidad’s north coast has been described as real therapy for one's mind, body and soul as every bone in your body rejoices from the serenity and peacefulness that envelopes the mountains and the trail that leads to this river. This three and a half hour, level 4 hike has a scenic forest walk up the gentle inclines of the Yarra forest combined with a downstream river adventure of swimming through pools and gorges.

The hike to Tobago’s Pool of Siloam can vary from 6.5 hours to 2.5 hours and from a strenuous hike to easy ridge walking depending on the starting point. This pool is Tobago’s largest mountain lake and along the hike there are views of the Caribbean Sea while ascending through abandoned cocoa estates, palm forests, bamboo clumps and then descending to the heliconia fringed lake. Numerous species of birds can be seen as you progress along the hike.

The Louis D’or valley in Tobago provides the adventurous hiker with the opportunity for a challenging hike. A level 6 hike of 2.5 hours that takes you in the midst of unrestrained nature with boulder strewn rivers where you are certain to get wet in river crossings.

For those who want to lie on the beach during their vacation but also engage in some outdoor activity there are several less strenuous hikes. Argyle waterfall on the outskirts of Roxborough in Tobago is an easy hike along the Argyle River to a three level waterfall. The Mot Mot Trail is along the coast between Arnos Vale and Culloden in Tobago is a beautiful walk with several hidden coves and beaches, which can be accessed from the trail. The hike to the Rio Seco waterfall on Trinidad's north-east coast goes through semi-cultivated land and then through stately mora forests to a small waterfall with a refreshing emerald pool, ideal for swimming. the hike to the Lagon Bouffe mud volcano in Guyaguyare is an easy 30 minute level1 hike, while the hike to the Karamat mud volcano in Moruga south Trinidad is a one hour level 2 hike through undisturbed natural forest.

Other popular hikes include:

bulletNorth Post to Macqueripe, Trinidad
bulletMaracas Valley to Las Cuevas, Trinidad
bulletMount Tamana, Trinidad
bulletMatelot to Madamas, Trinidad
bulletEl Tucuche, Trinidad
bulletArena Forest, Trinidad
bulletMount St. Benedict Birdwatchers Loop, Trinidad
bulletMount Dillion, Tobago
bulletGilpin Trail, Tobago
bulletNiplig Trail, Tobago
bulletLucy Vale Bay, Tobago
bulletFlagstaff Hill, Tobago
bulletWild Cow Trace, Tobago
bulletWild Cow River, Tobago

A very good source of hiking route information is "The Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalist Club Trail Guide", while a good source of information for the scheduled hikes is the Outdoors Trinidad web site.

Both Trinidad and Tobago abound with birds and at almost every turn an avian spectacle can be observed. Trinidad and Tobago has some of the most diverse bird species to be found in one location with over 460. This variety in species can perhaps be attributed to the fact that the islands lie close to South America so migration is easier, resulting in unusually diverse fauna. Asa Wright Nature Center, is Trinidad and Tobago's premier birding location and it has been widely recognized as one of the most successful eco-tourism stories in the world. The listing of birds that can be seen at this center has been identified in the vicinity of 159. Some of these birds include; Purple Honeycreeper, Green Honeycreeper, Crested Oropendola, Silver-beaked Tanager, White-necked Jacobin hummingbirds, Bananaquit, Red-legged Honeycreeper, White-chested Emerald hummingbird, Cocoa Thrush, Chestnut Woodpecker, Great Antshrike. This Nature Center is located at a height of approximately 1,200 feet in the hills of the Northern Range, seven miles from the town of Arima. It is reached by a single lane road that winds through verdant countryside dotted by small villages and isolated houses. There are numerous trails throughout the property and very knowledgeable guides. The center has several cottages that are available for rent.

The Pointe-a-Pierre Wildfowl Trust, is a wildlife reserve, of about 25 hectares of land within the Petrotrin petrochemical complex at Pointe-a-Pierre. The Trust has a Learning Center that houses information dealing with living organisms and their habitats, an unique mollusk collection and a small but comprehensive Amerindian Museum. A walk along the trails is a most relaxing experience and an opportunity to closely observe wetland birds in their natural habitat. Some of the species that can be seen include; Black Bellied Whistling Duck, White-faced Whistling Duck, Fulvous Whistling Duck, White-Cheeked, Wild Muscovy Duck, Olivaceous Cormorant, Anhinga, Purple Gallinule, Black-crowned Night Herons, Great Blue Heron, Tri-coloured Heron, Common Moorhen. As the Trust is located within a petrochemical complex, advance booking must be made (usually the day before) and there is a nominal entrance fee.

Grafton Wildlife Sanctuary, Tobago, is a former cocoa and coconut estate that was destroyed by Hurricane Flora in 1963 and as a result was converted into a wildlife sanctuary. It is approx. 200 acres in size and is covered in secondary forest. There are three main forest trails. As you enter, the first trail on the right leads downhill and is relatively short. The second trail on the left also gradually leads downhill and then eventually climbs uphill. The main trail, which is directly facing the entrance, leads uphill and winds past several abandoned estate buildings and stables. There are benches along the main trail and at some points they provide panoramic views. There are at least three smaller trails that branch off from the main uphill trail. It is possible to spend an enjoyable hour or an intense four hours. The entire sanctuary abounds with birds of varied species.

The Bon Accord Wetlands lie just north of Milford road and adjacent to Pigeon Point Tobago. They offer a range of habitats from mangroves fringing the Bon Accord lagoon, to freshwater marsh, drainage channels and four large ponds in the water treatment works. It is an excellent site for waterbirds and waders especially. At the water treatment ponds can usually be seen Great Egrets, Anhingas, Black-crowned Night-herons, Tricoloured Herons, Green Herons, Snowy Egret, Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Black-bellied Whistling-ducks, White-cheeked Pintails, Least Grebe.

Some other notable birding spots in Trinidad and Tobago include:

bulletMount St. Benedict, Trinidad
bulletOropouche Lagoon, Trinidad
bulletBon Accord Lagoon, Tobago
bulletLittle Tobago Island, off Tobago
bulletKilgwyn Swamp, Tobago
bulletMain Ridge Forest Reserve, Tobago
bulletGilpin Trace, Tobago
bulletAdventure Farm, Tobago
bulletMount St. Catherine, Chaguaramas
bulletChaguaramas peninsula in general
bulletBrasso Seco
bulletCaroni swamp, Trinidad
bulletGrand Icacos lagoon, Cedros, Trinidad
bulletWaterloo mudflats, Trinidad
bulletTrincity sewerage treatment ponds, Trinidad
bulletAripo research station, Trinidad
bulletNariva, Trinidad

An excellent source of information on the species of these two islands is A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 2nd edition, by Richard ffrench. Another good reference material is the CD, Discovering the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago are islands in the Caribbean Sea so there are myriad opportunities for kayaking. However for those who do not want to contend with large waves, ocean swells and ocean currents, Trinidad and Tobago offers a choice of sheltered saltwater and freshwater kayaking opportunities. Two kayaking areas of particular note are Bon Accord Lagoon and the Godineau River.

The azure waters of Buccoo Bay and the Bon Accord Lagoon in Tobago are sheltered by the offshore Buccoo Reef, providing a kayaking area with only gentle swells. Kayak rentals are available at the nearby Storebay and also at Pigeon Point. The fringing Mangrove swamps of the Bon Accord Lagoon provide a scenic contrast to the white sand beaches along Pigeon Point and at the center of Buccoo bay. The offshoots of the reef also shelter the adjacent Milford Bay, allowing one to kayak to the southeast from Bon Accord Lagoon around Pigeon Point and into Milford Bay or vice-versa.

The Godineau River in south Trinidad, also known as the South Oropouche River, is one of the rivers in Trinidad that provides a year round kayaking opportunity, as the water level is always sufficient. Kayaking in the Godineau area takes you through a variety of habitats, from saltwater mangrove swamp to fresh water marshland to partially cultivated areas. A variety of birdlife can be seen on these kayak trips including Scarlet Ibis, Southern Lapwing, Osprey, Savannah Hawk, Wattled Jacana, Cattle Egret, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-bellied Whistling Duck and a variety of migrating ducks (during the northern winter). This kayak trip can be started either from the sea along the area known as the Mosquito Creek or inland from the Woodland area.

Other kayaking areas in Trinidad and Tobago are:

bulletNariva River, Trinidad
bulletNorth Oropouche River, Trinidad
bulletRio Seco River, Trinidad
bulletYarra River, Trinidad
bulletChaguaramas, Trinidad – kayaks are available for rental
bulletCharlotteville, Tobago – kayaks are available for rental

For additional information on kayaking opportunities in Trinidad, visit the Outdoors Trinidad web site.

Trinidad's network of old agricultural & oilfield roads plus (relatively) quiet country roads, along with hiking paths provide a range of surfaces and environments for cycling. In addition terrain ranges from flat land to rolling inclines to hillsides. If you have a preference for road biking almost every area of Trinidad has country roads with reduced vehicle traffic. The cross-country rider will be able to find undulating land with natural vistas. The mountain biker can find forest trails with logs, bamboo and streams across the trail requiring navigation and dexterity. The Chaguaramas area provides such a wide range of riding surfaces that every type of cyclist will find a surface to suit them and bicycles are available for rental. The Arena Forest has numerous trails for those seeking a relatively flat tropical rainforest ride while the village of Brasso Seco provides old agricultural roads and hiking trails through the mountains of the North Coast. The northeast coast from Matura to Matelot is an area where you can combine the pleasures of cycling in hilly dense tropical vegetation with spectacular views of a rugged coastline. For the traveler willing to go the extra distance the Cedros area on Trinidad’s southwestern penninsula is approximately 2.5 hours drive from Port of Spain and 1.5 hours driving time from San Fernando. It offers very relaxing picturesque flat land rides as the roads wind through small fishing villages with coconut plantations and the blue ocean surrounding the peninsula. There are several cycling clubs that conduct group rides on weekends and tour services that will organise individual rides to suit your desires.

Tobago has everything that a mountain biker of any level can want and bicycles are widely available for rental. The southwestern part of the island is ideally suited for the beginning rider with relatively flat land and paved back roads. Seeking slightly more adventure, you can find wide jeep paths with gentle inclines and shallow streams, while surrounded by the flora and fauna of this tropical island. For the experienced rider in search of an adrenaline rush, the northeastern end of the island provides spectacular trails with breathtaking ocean views, steep climbs and exhilarating descents, while riding along and through rivers plus up to waterfalls. One particularly breathtaking ride is Chocolate Cake, which has been described as a two-mile collection of unrelenting high-banked turns and gullies, disappearing under a thick canopy of tropical vegetation. If you do not want to explore these trails on your own there are mountain bike tour services that will organise an itinerary to suit your skill level.

Trinidad has become one of the premier countries to view the nesting of turtles. The nesting season runs from March to September with May & June being the months of highest concentration. Five species of sea turtles nest on the beaches of Trinidad and Tobago and these are:

bulletDermochelys coriacea - Leatherback
bulletCaretta caretta - Loggerhead
bulletChelonia mydas - Green turtle, green-back,
bulletEretmochelys imbricata imbricata - Hawksbill, oxbill
bulletLepidochelys olivacea - Olive Ridley, Batali

The leatherback turtle is the most visually dramatic of the turtles that nest in Trinidad because of their size with adults varying in size from 600 pounds to 2,000 pounds. The beaches in Trinidad on which nesting turtles are found are Maracas, Blanchisseuse, Grande Riverie, Sans Souci, Rincon, Matura, Fishing Pond and Manzanilla. Grande Riverie is the premier site for viewing the nesting turtles. This popularity is due to the fact that the largest number of leatherback turtles comes to this beach caused by the conservation efforts in this area. Permits can be obtained at the beach and there are licensed guides to oversee the nesting and explain the process. For visitors interested in more than just viewing the nesting turtles, there are several hotels on the beach. Matura is another popular location because of the large number of turtles and the tours run by Nature Seekers, a community based environmental protection group.

In Tobago, Turtle Beach, Stonehaven Bay, Grange Beach and Starwood Bay in Speyside are the sites noted for turtle nesting, with Turtle Beach being the prime site. There are hotels on and close to all of these beaches and licensed guides are available.

So the next time you are looking for a vacation with a difference, experience Trinidad and Tobago, Islands of Adventure.

About the Author
Brian Ramsey operates the web site, Outdoors Trinidad, www.trinoutdoors.com and is the author of the CD, Discovering the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago, www.birdsoftt.com.

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Kayaking in Trinidad and Tobago
By Brian Ramsey

Trinidad and Tobago are islands in the Caribbean Sea so there are myriad opportunities for kayaking. However for those who do not want to contend with large waves, ocean swells and ocean currents, Trinidad and Tobago offers a choice of sheltered saltwater and freshwater kayaking opportunities. In this article we will explore some of these kayaking areas.

Nariva River, Manzanilla, Trinidad
Nariva, on the east coast of Trinidad, is Trinidad and Tobago’s largest wetland with some 32 square miles of fresh-water herbaceous swamp. It combines four major wetland types (mangrove swamp forest, palm forest, swamp wood and freshwater marsh) and has been formally designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. The bulk of the water from the area drains into the Atlantic through the short tidal Nariva River.

The Nariva River provides a year round opportunity for kayaking and empties into the sea at Manzanilla Bay. There are two easily accessible entry points; at the river mouth and at the bridge along the Manzanilla/Mayaro Road that spans the river. When entering or exiting the river at the river mouth during low tide care should be exercised to ensure that you are not swept out to sea, as the flow out of the river can be quite strong. Along the river it is possible to see basking caimans, while tarpon (known locally as grande ecaille) are sometimes seen near the surface of the water.

The Nariva Swamp is home to an incredibly diverse range of reptiles, mammals and birds, some of which are rare and endangered. There are over 171 species of birds in Nariva, including manakins, tanagers, antbirds, caracara and woodcreepers. There are 5 species of Parrots (including Macaws), 2 species of owls, 2 species of trogons, 11 species of hummingbirds, potoos, toucans and limpkins. It is within Nariva that the blue and gold macaws have been reintroduced to Trinidad. There are 59 species of mammals that can be found in Nariva including red howler and capuchin ( Cebus albifrons) monkeys, deer, porcupine, three-toed and silky anteaters and opossums. Trinidad's last surviving colony of the West Indian Manatee are located within Nariva. Also to be found in Nariva are various reptiles that include giant anaconda, the fer-de-lance snake and caiman.

Ortoire River, Trinidad
At the southern end of Manzanilla Bay, the Ortoire River empties into the sea and it is also provides a year round opportunity for kayaking. Apart from the entry point at the river mouth, another easy entry point to the Ortoire River is alongside the bridge that spans the Rio Claro/Mayaro Road on the outskirts of Mayaro.

Godineau River, Trinidad
The Godineau river is also known as the South Oropouche River. Kayaking in the Godineau area takes you through a variety of habitats, from saltwater mangrove swamp to fresh water marshland to partially cultivated areas. A variety of birdlife can be seen on these kayak trips including Scarlet Ibis, Southern Lapwing, Osprey, Savannah Hawk , Wattled Jacana, Cattle Egret, Yellow-hooded Blackbird , Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-bellied Whistling Duck and a variety of migrating ducks (during the northern winter).

The Godineau River is one of the rivers in Trinidad that provides a year round kayaking opportunity as the water level is always sufficient. This kayak trip can be started either from the sea along the area known as the Mosquito Creek or inland from the Woodland area.

Marianne River, Blanchissuesse, Trinidad
The Marianne River empties into the sea at Blanchisseuse and it is easiest to begin your paddle from the river mouth. This is not an extended kayak trip for most kayakers as upriver there is an area known as Three Pools that results in a somewhat difficult portage. Kayaking in this area is best towards the end of the rainy season as the water level is high enough to allow paddling for the entire trip. During the dry season there are parts of the river where the low water level requires walking the kayaks.

At the river mouth freshwater marsh vegetation exists along the banks of the river while freshwater swamp forest exists further inland with towering stands of bamboo. As you kayak along the river a variety of bird life can be seen including spotted sandpipers, kingfishers, gray kingbirds and striated herons.

At the river mouth, kayaks are available for rental every day, all year.

Fullarton, Cedros, Trinidad
The entire Cedros peninsula is a bird watching experience. The Fullarton Swamp is ideal for the armchair birdwatcher. The road from Fullarton Village to Icacos Village runs through the center of the Swamp and so it is possible to literally view the birds without leaving your vehicle. Greater enjoyment however comes from parking the vehicle and entering the water, allowing you to see many of the smaller birds that may be perched in the mangrove. The presence of the roadway makes entering and exiting the water very easy. In this area among the birds that can be seen are Great Egret, Scarlet Ibis, Black Skimmer, Black-necked Stilt, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Yellow-hooded Blackbird , American Pygmy Kingfisher, Yellow Chinned Spine tail, Common Moorhen, Snowy Egret.

Chagaramas, Trinidad
Williams Bay, Chagaramas provides kayaking opportunities in relatively sheltered ocean waters. In the bays on the coastline opposite the Military museum it is sometimes possible to see marine iguanas on the rocks and in the sea and capuchin monkeys in the trees.

Kayak Rentals are available every day all year from the Kayak Center.

Another kayaking opportunity in the Chagaramas area begins in the area of the Almoorings Fishing Depot/Crews Inn Marina. From this starting point it is possible to kayak along the coast to the Bocas or turn south and paddle to Centipede island and then across the channel to Gasparee island.

When paddling in this area one should be alert to the various power boats that are entering and departing from the various marinas, particularly on weekends.


Charlotteville, Tobago
Charlotteville is located at the end of the Windward road in Tobago, this small quaint village lies in a bay with Tobago's best deep water harbor. It is bordered by the lush greenery of high mountains on one side and the sparkling blue waters of Man-O-War bay on the other. This wide deep bay was once an anchorage for English fighting ships, as the name implies. Today it is used as a sheltered anchorage by visiting yachts. The northern part of the bay is called Pirates Bay, which gives an indication of its past. Several fringing reefs are found in this bay providing the sheltered anchorage. Kayaks are available for rental at the bay.
This bay is a turtle nesting site.


Buccoo Bay, Tobago
The azure waters of Buccoo Bay and the Bon Accord Lagoon are sheltered by the offshore Buccoo reef, providing a kayaking area with only gentle swells. Kayak rentals are available at the nearby Storebay and also at Pigeon Point. The fringing Mangrove swamps of the Bon Accord Lagoon provide a scenic contrast to the white sand beaches along Pigeon Point and at the center of Buccoo bay. The offshoots of the reef also shelter the adjacent Milford Bay, allowing one to kayak to the south-east from Bon Accord Lagoon around Pigeon Point and into Milford Bay or vice-versa.

When next you are considering your vacation activities, consider the kayaking opportunities in Trinidad and Tobago.

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Searching_for_the_Scarlet_Ibis_in_Cedros
By Brian Ramsey

Most individuals when thinking about Trinidad and the Scarlet Ibis immediately think about the Caroni Swamp and the guided boat tours that take visitors into the swamp to see these birds coming in to roost. Indeed the popular thinking is that the Caroni Bird Sanctuary is the only place where one can see these birds. The Scarlet Ibis however is much more widespread in Trinidad and can be found in other parts such as Carli Bay, Point Lisas, along the banks of the Godineau River, Rousillac and even on Gasparee. Most individuals however want to be able to see the Scarlet Ibis without having to clamber over mangrove roots or paddle several miles in a kayak. They want their nature viewing in relative comfort. For some if they can witness flocks of Scarlet Ibis and other birdlife without leaving the luxury of their car, they would consider it perfect, a kind of drive-thru nature watching. Well in Trinidad such nature viewing exists and it can be done in Cedros.

In January, Outdoor Business Group set out to Cedros to do some roadside birding in Cedros. The Cedros area which occupies the south-western peninsula of Trinidad is a flat region with small fishing villages lying on beautiful white sand beaches. At first as you drive through the entire area seems filled with coconuts and it is a succession of pastoral scenes with cows, sheep and goats grazing among the coconuts.



In each village in the afternoons, fishermen can be seen offloading their catch and sorting the shrimp by size. While young boys or older men herd their goats and drive them home.

As you proceed through the area however you realise that large sections of the peninsula are composed of mangrove swamp. On the road leading to Icacos you begin to see that other sections of the Cedros peninsula are composed of marsh just like the sawgrass plains in the Everglades. In between the saw grass are large open pools of water.


Finally on the outskirts of Icacos you come to the drive-thru bird watching site. The road runs directly through the centre of a mangrove swamp with a large open body of water on either side. Here is the lazy man's nature viewing dream. Bird watching without leaving your car.

Even before you get to Icacos, birds are prevalent. Yellow Orioles abound and their plumage seems to be a richer colour than seen elsewhere in Trinidad, with a tinge of orange to their yellow feathers. Great Egrets can be seen throughout the marsh area. Purple Gallinules stalk amid the reeds and if they sense you getting too close they dive below the water. At the outskirts of Icacos in our drive-thru viewing area, common gallinules are seen, along with yellow headed blackbird, pied water tyrant, striated heron, great ani.

But what of the Scarlet Ibis, the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago, the object of our trek. Alas, the Scarlet Ibis like the Tree Duck is not to be seen. But why are they not seen, for we have passed this way before and witnessed them from the luxury of our car. The answer apparently lies in the water level. In January the water level is high and it seems the best time for viewing in this area is in dry season as the reduced water level concentrates them in areas with water plus the lower level enables them to feed.

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Despite not seeing the Scarlet Ibis, relaxing in the evening on the esplanade in Bonasse village is a wonderful feeling especially with a drink in hand. With the cool onshore breeze from the nearby sea, watching the young ladies stroll by and waving to passing motorists, makes you want to remain to spend the night and maybe tomorrow you might get lucky.

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Looking_for_the_Bobolee – Easter Traditions in Trinidad

Temperate countries have seasons of winter, spring, summer and autumn driven by the weather. Very often we hear that tropical countries only have a dry and wet season. Trinidad however has many seasons and they are driven by the major activities in the country. Hence we have the Christmas season, the Carnival season, Lent, the Easter season, Divali season. Each of these seasons has its unique traditions and while the origins of some have become obscured with time, we continue to follow the traditions. Easter is such a season in Trinidad.

 

A very old tradition that continues to survive is the beating of the Bobolee. The origin of the word "bobolee" has become obscured with time but the actual word is still widely used. A bobolee is an effigy of Judas Iscariot made from old clothes stuffed with rags or dried grass. It is placed in a public place on Good Friday and anyone who passes is welcomed to "beat the bobolee" with sticks, kicks or slaps. The beating originally symbolised retribution for Judas for betraying Christ. With the passage of time the bobolee has also come to symbolise anything that is unpopular whether it is inflation or unpopular politicians. One would think that only children would "beat the bobolee" but adults are often immersed in the fun. The actual word "bobolee" has now become such a part of Trinidad culture that it is used to describe any individual who is taken advantage of by others or who has received a severe beating.

Finding a bobolee on Good Friday was once very easy as they were erected in every community. As time has gone by, it has become more difficult to find a bobolee in the city areas of Trinidad but in country districts you can still see them on Good Friday morning. The ones that are well constructed often surviving the beating and lasting into the evening. In the eastern parts of Trinidad, in the districts of Valencia, Sangre Chiquito and Sangre Grande you will still find bobolees placed at the side of the road. In the area known as the Valencia Stretch, one man has, for several years, faithfully constructed a bobolee every Good Friday and placed it in a chair at the side of the road. This effigy is so well made that as you drive past you often do not realise that it is a bobolee.

Bobolees however are not the only Easter tradition in Trinidad. Another Easter tradition is the flying of kites that is made easier by the strong breezes at this time of year. Kites were traditionally diamond shaped with wooden cross struts being in the shape of a cross and so symbolising the cross on which Jesus died. Their flying in the sky symbolised his ascension into heaven. Nowadays the tradition survives without any religious symbolism even though many have forgotten how to make a kite and most kites are purchased. The attraction is simply because it is good clean fun that can be enjoyed by persons of all ages. There are now several kite flying competitions at Easter.

Traditionally Catholics abstained from eating meat on Friday during Lent. This has now become a tradition that is followed by many of all faiths although some only observe it on Good Friday, when only fish is eaten. Another tradition whose origins have become obscured with time is the eating of ground provisions (yam, cassava, dasheen (taro), eddoes) on Good Friday. Yet another Good Friday tradition is the eating of Hot Cross Buns where the cross is a symbol of the crucifixion.

An old tradition that has more to do with myth than reality is the avoidance of bathing in the sea on Good Friday. In earlier times Trinidadians did not go to the beach on Good Friday. There was the myth that if you went into the sea on Good Friday you would either turn into a fish or you would drown. Why this tradition developed is unknown but now the tradition has died to the extent that only senior citizens avoid the sea on Good Friday.

A relatively new tradition is camping during Easter. With a public holiday on the Friday and another on the Monday, the Easter weekend is commonly called a "long weekend" and Trinidadians flock to the beaches in droves to camp along the shore.

So if you are in Trinidad during Easter go and look for a bobolee and release your tensions.


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