Swimming with turtles..

Barbados –

Finally after years and years of planning, dreaming and waiting, we are finally approaching its shores, this destination is, after all, the motivation and goal for building our own “yacht Karibu” almost 20 years ago.

In the early hours of this morning our ship passed between the Islands of Martinique and St Lucia before altering to starboard and setting a direct South-Easterly course for Barbados. Our estimated time of arrival in Bridgetown harbour is 10:00am so we have several hours to watch this approach from various vantage points on the ship.

We organise a private taxi together with another couple and decide on a land-trip in the morning. The guide is upset that the salesman inside the terminal building, has capped the taxi at 4 people and isn’t in the best of moods, however, he does his best to share interesting information about the island, from early history to important cultural facts, as well as exquisite beaches and many attractions along the way, giving us enough opportunity to take photographs.

Barbados is unique in that it isn’t the typical peaked volcano shape, rather it is a relatively flat coral island with sprawling green sugarcane fields (mostly un-kept and neglected since this crop is no longer exported) rolling green hills in the Highlands area (which look exactly like the green hills of Natal, South Africa and reminded us of our homeland).

Located only 3-5km on the outskirts of the Capital, Bridgetown, our taxi driver stops at the famed ‘Boatyard’ the ideal restaurant/beach resort where tourists and Bajans (as the locals like to call themselves) come to relax and enjoy the friendly Barbadian hospitality – it is open 365 days a year and is a continual party…

We finish our land tour at midday, and head back to the ship to collect masks and snorkels, excitement mounting as we join our “swim with the turtles” boat excursion.

We board the boat and speed along the beach past the Malibu factory (yummy) and follow the coastline for about 20 minutes. The anchor is thrown out onto a sandy patch, at a depth of 6 meters. We get the run down on wearing a life-jacket and not touching the turtles anywhere except on their shell. Then about 25 excited passengers jump into the water after the guide, and proceed to huddle around him wanting to be closest to the turtles.

By the time I manage to jump we are surrounded; turtles swimming gracefully all around us, bodies everywhere, arms flaying, feet paddling, swimming and bumping into one another.

Unfortunately I find the experience a little artificial as the tour operator is in the water feeding and we might as well be in a tank, but I have a few precious moments when I am oblivious to my surroundings; a turtle swims right up to me looks right into my eyes and takes a piece of fish from my fingers. I have seen turtles on dives before and even come close, but having one take food from my hand was euphoric.

After re-boarding the boat, the crew offer delicious rum-punch and slices of fresh banana bread. By the time we are dropped at a nearby beach, where we are left to enjoy an hour of swimming, I have had 3 rum-punches and life is really good. My experience in Barbados is everything and more than I expected.

This is decidedly the highlight of my Caribbean Cruise and a memory which forever will remain one of my favorite.

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