Author: Andrea MacEachern
Date of Trip: December 2014
Before I arrived in Barbados, I booked a Natural Wonders Sightseeing Tour through Expedia. It included a tour of some caves and visits to a tropical garden and a wildlife reserve. Not only do I like to see the scenery and experience the culture of the places I travel to, I also like to explore the natural wonders and see the wildlife.
A bus from Glory Tours picked me the morning of the tour and there were already quite a few people on board. Quammie was quiet at first, not saying very much like most tour operators do when you first board their bus. However, once all passengers were onboard and seated comfortably, Quammie was all talk! Like every guide I met on my trip, he knew everything about the island, including the things you don’t read in guidebooks.
We drove through many of the scenic areas I’d seen on the previous tour but I was glad to be seeing them again, especially Bathsheba. It wasn’t as crowded on this day because it was a Monday and I was able to get some better pictures without anyone getting in the way.
After a short but refreshing stop at Bathsheba, we drove for a little while until we arrived at Harrison Caves. These caves, which are naturally formed by water erosion in the limestone rock and are considered to be the top attraction in Barbados, were the number one thing I wanted to see on my trip (besides the Animal Flower Cave in St. Lucy that I, unfortunately, didn’t get to see) and I was looking forward to exploring the caves…except the “exploring” didn’t happen in the way I thought it would.
After a brief introduction, a video and a walk around some exhibits, we met our guide and were taken underground on a tram. “Wait a second, a tram?” was what I was thinking but didn’t say out loud. I thought we were going to enter the caves on foot and walk at our own pace with the guide leading. This is the way I have always done guided tours in caves. To me, a tram tour seemed impersonal and boring and too orchestrated but I boarded anyway. After all, the tour was already paid for.
The first thing I noticed that was wrong with this tram was 3 or 4 people were seated in each seat which meant the people sitting in the middle seats would have a hard time seeing and wouldn’t be getting very many good pictures. I ended up in a middle seat and I was not happy about that! The second thing I noticed about the tram was it traveled too fast for anyone to actually get a good look at anything and when it stopped for us to get pictures, it stopped once and only the people in front, who were stopped right in front of the picture-worthy sight, had the advantage.
We did stop a few times to get out and walk around in some of the bigger caverns but the stops weren’t very long. The caves were spectacular with some very large caverns and underground lakes (one of those lakes looked so inviting…the crystal clear, calm waters would have made for a nice swim but that was not included in the tour). Overall, I did enjoy seeing the caves and don’t regret taking the tour. However, the next time I am in Barbados, I will be doing an independent tour. I didn’t know independent tours were available but we passed some people who were walking around in the caves exploring on their own and I confirmed that they were, in fact, allowed to do that and that option is available.
After a too-long jaunt around the souvenir store (I always hate that part of any guided tour), we boarded the bus and headed onto our next stop, the Flower Forest. Located on the grounds of a former plantation, the Flower Forest is 53 acres of beautiful flower gardens and tropical trees. On this tour, we were allowed to wander about freely and I started with a leisurely stroll through a forest mostly consisting of enormous palm trees. The others in my group went in one direction and I walked in another, solo through the maze of paths and enjoyed the serene sounds of leaves blowing softly in the wind and birds chirping until suddenly, that peacefulness was shattered by a loud, crashing thud followed by shouting. I thought I was alone in that area but on the other side of the trees to the right of me, a couple from my tour was enjoying a leisurely stroll, just like I was, when a coconut came crashing to the ground about a foot away from the man’s head. Because falling coconuts are a fear of mine when traveling in the Caribbean, I became very frightened by this experience and those peaceful looking trees suddenly didn’t look so peaceful. I half walked, half-ran through that maze of trails trying to find my way back to the entrance before another one of those lethal coconuts came crashing down.
Back at the meeting place, Quammie mentioned the incident to the staff and they seemed to take it quite seriously. Maintenance men were sent out right away to make sure there were no more ready-to-fall coconuts along the trail (I’m not sure how one knows if a coconut is ready to fall or not) and the victim of the near-miss brought the crushed coconut back to home-base for all to see. It was quite shocking to see the size of it and the damage it sustained in the fall. I can only imagine the damage it would have done to someone’s head. Rum punch was served to soothe our rattled nerves while we sat around listening to that poor man talk about his near-death experience before we drove to a small restaurant where we had yet another delicious lunch and headed to the wildlife reserve.
Before we got off the bus to wander around the wildlife reserve, Quammie asked us to let him know if we didn’t see the famous green monkeys by a certain time. He said it was necessary that everyone see them before we leave. A half-hour into our exploring, it was evident that we wouldn’t need to have someone coax the monkeys out for us because they were already out in full force.
At one point when I was walking, I tripped on something and nearly fell flat on my face. I got up and realized I had tripped on a poor little turtle who had been trying to cross the trail. I don’t think I hurt him but I gave him quite a scare because his head was in his shell. Curious to see the little guy, head and all, I waited a few moments for him to relax and come out and, very slowly, his head poked through his shell. He looked up at me and I swear if he could talk he would have said “listen lady, watch where your going next time!” I gave a friendly little tap on his shell and let him continue his slow but sure attempt at crossing the trail. A little while later, I came upon another one of those turtles…parked right next to a hare! Not a word of a lie, I even have the picture to prove it!
For the next hour or so, I wandered around the trails, catching glimpses of various creatures. Deer, snakes and, of course, those little green monkeys. By the time I got to the end of the trail, the monkeys were already gathered and waiting for their afternoon meal. They were swinging from branch to branch and giving passerby high fives. I accidently got a little to close to one as I rounded a bend and he gave me a hiss that I presumed meant “back off”.
Our last stop was Earthworks Pottery. Visiting pottery shops is not usually my thing but this pottery shop was different. Not only were we provided with a tour of the shop and the area where the pottery is made, we were given the opportunity to watch some pottery being made. I watched as a man carefully molded a beautiful bowl into shape and watched as others carefully painted the designs onto finished items before they were placed on the shelf to be bought. I did some Christmas shopping while I was there. After all, how could I not buy something that was made right in front of me? I stocked up on keychains, coffee mugs and ashtrays and other little pottery trinkets that could be given as gifts.