Woodvines upcoming performances

Sunday March 15th in duo with Stefan Van den Bossche 7:30 - 9:30 Waters edge restaurant BougainvilleaHotel

March 28th and 29th Harrison College Mosaic II at the Frank Collymore hall

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Release... THE TURTLES!

The title of this post is inspired by the famous quote from the film "Clash of the Titans" where Liam Neeson, acting as the God Zeus dramatically announces "Release... the Kraken"...
Well, sea turtles in Barbados are a long way a way from Kraken, they are under threat and need our protection. Fortunately we have The Barbados sea turtle project an organization based at the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill Campus). For more than 25 years, they have been involved in conservation of the endangered marine turtle species that forage around and nest on Barbados, through research, education and public outreach as well as monitoring of nesting females, juveniles and hatch-lings.

Our family was introduced to the turtle project two years ago when my wife Louise dragged us all off to the Hilton beach in the middle of the night to follow members of the Barbados Turtle project as they hosted a turtle watch. At first I was not particularly enthused, although on the bright side I had zero chance of getting sunburn. As we learned more about these fascinating, ancient and vulnerable creatures we became hooked. The highlight of our evening arrived when the sand beneath our guide's feet started to erupt with hatch-lings. He had unknowingly been standing on a nest site and was forced to remain absolutely still as they crawled over his feet and 'flippered' towards the sea!
Since then we have been attending turtle watches whenever we are able.

Sometimes a nest of sea turtle hatch-lings may get confused, and instead of hatching at night they will hatch during the day.  In these cases, the BSTP will carefully collect the hatch-lings, place them in a dark moist container, and then release them that same night.

If you are interested, you can sign up to be notified when the BSTP are having a "turtle release", or you can check their Facebook page.

During the release, in support of their efforts, the BSTP staff also have some very cool t-shirts and pins for sale.

Interestingly, the sea turtles that tourists swim with while on various west coast catamaran cruises are in fact themselves tourists! They are green turtles which have probably hatched in Costa Rica. They spend their days hanging out on our shores, feeding and having their pictures taken by visiting paparazzi - what a life! they are stars on the west coast of Barbados and don't even know it.

Our family's most recent participation in a turtle release was a few weeks ago at the Drill Hall beach next to the Barbados Hilton Hotel. Earlier in the day a nest had unusually and unexpectedly hatched in the morning during daylight hours. The BSTP were called, they collected the hatchlings and kept them safe until they could be released at night.

A large crowd of us gathered in the dark with three buckets of energetic hatchlings ready to go, and I mean ready, those little things were moving! As we made our way to the launch site one of our party noticed a baby turtle in the sand. Our first thought was that it had accidentally fallen out of the bucket, we quickly found more and realized that a nest had hatched nearby. There were many red land crabs in the area who were actively pursuing and hunting the turtles. Several small skirmishes developed as we separated crabs from their turtle meal. I managed to rescue two turtles from certain digestion by tapping the crabs on their back causing them to drop their meal and defend themselves. The turtles were o.k. and we added them to the growing collection about to be released on the beach.

The BSTP staff had carved a wide smooth channel in the sand leading to the sea and at launch time, to the delight of onlookers, the turtles were gently taken out of the buckets and placed on the sandy runway where they enthusiastically flippered their way to the surf. Immediately after hatching in the dark, sea turtles will look for the brightest point which is usually the horizon, unless of course they are distracted by bright lights on shore. Turtles are unable to sense red light so while releasing them we make sure to use red light on the land side and stand by the surf shining a white light back towards them, encouraging them to make their way towards the water.

If you wish to report sea turtle activity or if you see a turtle in trouble, call the Turtle Hotline: (246) 230-0142.

Check out the BSTP's Faq for more fascinating sea turtle facts...

Only one in a 1000 turtles makes it back to nest in the area near where they hatched, with any luck it will be one of the turtles I prevented from becoming a crab's dinner!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

It must change

Sunday morning around 9:30am, in the area of the now demolished Ocean view hotel, my wife witnessed a young Brazilian tourist woman running down the boardwalk after having been held up at knife point. As the lady ran past my wife she was thoughtful enough to warn her that there was a man with a knife further along the path. The manager of the hotel where she is staying came to her assistance along with 5 construction workers who were working in the area.  Fortunately the victim was not physically harmed yet she was obviously traumatized.
We have thousands and thousands of people working so hard to develop and sustain tourism in this Island and then a handful who are so desperate and unimaginative, that in a single action they can negate all of our efforts. We can't stay silent, we can't pretend it doesn't happen and hope it will go away, it's not right, it's not fair, it must change.

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Barbados Open Badminton Tournament came to town!

Every now and again, in our sometimes sleepy island routine, the door of opportunity opens wide and a fresh new experience drifts in on the breeze. In this case it was the Barbados open badminton tournament. But first, a little background.

You only won two games Dad?
About a year or so ago my eldest son Liam started taking badminton lessons with Barbados junior national badminton coach Athelstone (Ali) Forde. My son Aiden watched the lessons for a week or two and asked to join in. Then on a whim, after seeing how much fun my kids were having, I asked Ali if I could have lessons with my sons. To my surprise he said yes, and the rest is the continuing true story of a dad hopelessly addicted to badminton. Fast forward to last week when my sons and I had the wonderful opportunity to take part in the Barbados Open.

I know if I look hard enough I might be able to find the shuttle!
We arrived at the Gymnasium early and were warming up on court when the competitors and support staff arrived by bus from their hotel.

Liam to serve!
As we watched everyone get acquainted with their surroundings, a tall, very fit and friendly looking player asked if he could warm up with us, and remarked that he hadn't played much badminton. Of course we said yes and I could tell immediately that he was a very good player and that he also had a fine sense of humour. What I didn't know then, and only found out later was that my sons and I were warming up with British Olympic silver medalist, Nathan Robertson!

Nathan Robertson and Dave Forde

Soon the Gym was full of players from all over the world warming up. Many players were from England, while others were from Germany or Holland. At least one had traveled from as far away as Singapore to participate! After warming up, we were organized into groups for a round robin type of tournament.

In the past, if anyone would have told me that at 50 years of age I would be chasing a feathered shuttlecock around the Gymnasium, I would have laughed my head off in disbelief. Yet there we were, team Woodvine, ready to do battle. I also have to say that as I served in the first doubles game of the tournament I actually felt quite nervous!

I needn't have been apprehensive, this was about the nicest group of people that you could meet. Many seemed to know each other from previous tournaments and although I played my fair share of errors and more, they were quite positive with their comments and encouragement. They were also very kind to my children, often holding back on some of their smashes so as not to take my kids heads off. I was a bit worried that the adults might object to having to play against young kids, but everyone seemed to get along o.k. The atmosphere was amazing.

"Christ Church" team posing with their certificates

On the second day the Barbados Junior national team and various other young players including my sons were invited to a training session with Nathan Robertson. What a treat. Nathan is one of those highly successful people who is gracious, charming, down to earth and fun to be around (not at all stuck up as the Australians might say :) He was particularly good with kids, always offering the most positive encouragement. We were very grateful that he was there - my kids spoke of nothing else for a few days after!

The Barbados Open is the brainchild of Mark Philips, an Englishman with very strong Bajan roots and associations. The tournament is structured as a part of a holiday package that includes accommodation and activities such as island tours and a catamaran cruise. Mark and his sister Michelle's relaxed and cheerful enthusiasm permeated the occasion, though they had obviously worked very hard to make the tournament and the holiday a success for the visiting players.

Posing with a champion! Nathan, Aiden, proud father and Liam!
On the Saturday following the two tournament days, the boys and I, along with my wife Louise, spent a great evening at the tournament's gala, where we got to spend more time chatting with the players and learning about their home countries and experiences.

From a tourism perspective this is just the kind of thing that Barbados needs, we hope that our new friends may get the opportunity to return soon!

(Thanks to Curwin Cherubin Photography for permission to use the first two photos in this post)

Monday, 10 September 2012

Walking through Harrison's Cave

The standard tour through Harrison's Cave in Barbados takes you underground in an electric car/train consisting of a drive vehicle towing additional passenger sections. We've done it several times over the years but over the summer I noticed an advertisement for a walking tour through the cave. I jumped at the opportunity and boy am I glad I did.

This is not water! it's a beautiful rock formation

Being able to walk through the cave was such a rewarding experience, you could take your time and look around without feeling rushed. We had an excellent guide, Jamal, who enthusiastically answered all our questions and was full of interesting information. Our kids brought one of their friends and together we had a ball learning about the cave, it's discovery, and development. We were allowed to hold a stalactite that had been removed from the ceiling (very heavy) and we tasted the water.

We all wore sneakers or good walking shoes and carried flashlights. The lighting in the cave is excellent but the flashlights were fun to shine around during our walk. The walking tours are for a limited time, every Saturday from August 11 - September 22, 2012.

Just in case you were wondering...
Stalactites hang down from the roof (they hold on tight), stalagmites grow up from the ground.

Harrison’s Cave is named for Thomas Harrison, who owned much of the land in the area in the early 1700s. In 1733, Harrison established a school that is today’s Harrison College. It’s not clear whether Mr. Harrison ever entered the cave that bears his name — but others certainly did.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, several expeditions ventured into Harrison’s Cave, none of which got very far. Because the natural entrances to Harrison’s Cave were hard to get to, and the cave’s inside passages presented many challenges, the cave remained an unexplored mystery until 1970.
Rediscovered and mapped in 1974 by Ole Sorensen, an engineer and cave adventurer from Denmark. He was assisted by Tony Mason and Allison Thornhill, two young men from Barbados.
After 1974 the Barbados government started developing Harrison’s Cave as a show cave and attraction, by excavating shafts and tunnels that could accommodate trams. The cave was opened to the public in 1981.
The entrance to the cave is through the Boyce Tunnel, named in honour of equipment operator Noel Boyce, the first member of the construction team to break through the bedrock and into the natural passageways of Harrison’s Cave.

Harrison’s Cave is a massive stream cave system at least 2.3 kilometres long.
The interior temperature is an average 27 degrees Celsius
Its largest cavern, the Great Hall measures 15 metres/ 50 feet high.
It is an active cave as it carries water. The stalagmites in the cave are growing by less than the thickness of a piece of paper each year — but that’s very fast in geological terms!

Maybe in the future we will try the eco-adventure tour where you crawl through parts of the cave not usually available to tourists!