Anyone for a 'Down the Islands' trip after Carnival? Perhaps today, to celebrate Valentine's Day? I am sure that you are ready to go on that boat. You expect to meet lovely beaches, gently lapping waves, a generally peaceful and clean environment. After all, this is what the brochures promote.
Our trip 'Down the Islands' to Chacachacare, the largest island of them all, revealed a very disappointing side to all this. From the moment we were easing into Chacachacare Bay, we could see litter floating in with the tide. When we disembarked, we found the vegetation fringing the beach based with all sorts of garbage. The thing about it was that there was not only water-logged garbage brought in with the tide but fresh ones too. Sharp bottles posed a serious threat in some parts.
Our boat captain took us around to the south of the island where we disembarked at Bande du Sud. The state of this bay was even worse than the eastern side of the island. It proved to be very difficult to walk freely along the beach because it was totally covered in garbage. Large and small glass bottles, plastic bottles, plastic cups and plates, old sneakers, cell phones, tangled fishing lines and an assortment of various sizes of cans formed a broad band below the manchineel trees that border the beach. Because it was high tide, we were forced to pick our way along this unsafe area.
Environmentalist Farouk Khan attempted to initiate a spontaneous clean up exercise but soon gave it up because the amount of waste far outnumbered the packs of garbage bags we had brought. Obviously this would have been a project best handled by a large group that prepared for such with lots more resources.
No trip to this southern part of the island would be complete without a visit to the nearby salt lake. The fringing manchineel trees
form a protective barrier between the sea and the lake. We picked our way through the garbage here and were pleased when we arrived at a clean scene. The border of trees had indeed protected the lake from garbage intrusion. The lake was as beautiful as it always was.
Because of the amount of rain we have been having throughout the past months, a wet dry season we call it, the blocks of salt that the First Peoples used to come down to the lake to collect are no longer there. The hot dry conditions necessary for the formation of the blocks were just not present. The lake was full of water that reached right up to the fringing vegetation and it was indeed salty, a condition contributed to by the high tides of rough seas that enter the lake.
We hiked north back to mid island at Chacachacare Bay then crossed the narrow neck of land west to La Tinta Bay.
La Tinta Bay remains as enchantingly lovely as ever. It was all that we expected it to be. Peaceful, beautiful and most of all clean. It was a heart breaking experience when the seven-year-old child with us asked her Daddy "Daddy, where is all the garbage on the beach?" She apparently expected all the beaches to be garbage-covered like Bande du Sud.
It is sad that our little ones should be thinking like this and regarding our littered beaches as the normal state of the environment. Is it too late to turn this into a positive outlook? It's worth an effort don't you think?