As coastal erosion continues along the coastline we begin to realise the value of natural protectors such as mangroves. In areas that are exposed to the battering of the sea, the shape of the coastline as we know it is fast changing. Where there were tracts of coconut and sea grape, water has now claimed territory. Where there were lush headlands, rock slides have left barren stone that is now exposed to further erosion.
However, looking at the present coastline with an eco-tourism eye, we can see some positive aspects resulting from the intense action of the sea. Aruba's eco-tourism sector benefited for years from the formation of a natural bridge along the island's coastline. This bridge copped the title as the world's longest natural bridge. It became the island's main tourist attraction. Much to the shock and disappointment of the people, this arch collapsed in September 2005.
In Trinidad and Tobago we do have our share of natural bridges that command the respect and admiration of the local people as well as visitors to our shores. This country is blessed with inland bridges that span rivers as well as bridges that compliment the coastline.
So far, only two of them have been given any sort of recognition. These are the Paria Arch or Church Rock as it is known along the north coast of Trinidad and the London Bridge part of the St Giles chain of islets off the north east coast of Tobago .These have been classed as being the most spectacular arch formations in the Caribbean.
Because of their inaccessibility however, lots of people do not get the opportunity to view these two wonders of nature. It is for this same reason that other prominent arches are not known.
Inland natural bridges such as Brasso Seco, Fig Wharf and the double at Cassave are remarkable examples of arches that deserve being listed as potential tourism destinations. These formations have been molded by the action of their respective rivers for years. The double bridge at Cassave even has a waterfall to complement its site.
However the remoteness of these sites works against the visitation of the auto-driven visitor. Adventure tourists on the other hand would welcome such tours.
Along the south coast of Trinidad, La Belle de L'Eau spans the width of the beach. This remarkable natural bridge is however located off the beaten track and so only hikers and fishermen are privy to this unsung wonder of nature.
Because of more intense erosion over the past years, additional bridges have been formed. The water is eroding into headlands and stacks, first forming caves then going right through to the other side to form arches. After a certain period of time, these arches collapse, leaving two stacks to mark the location as in the case of that beautiful arch at Huevos Island that is no more.
Now, we are seeing the formation of new arches. Along the south coast of Trinidad several new, beautiful examples have been formed. One elongated stack just outside Pied-de-Trois now features three arches in a line. Just last year when this writer was in the area, only two of these were in existence.
A little further out in the water, a rock known as 'The Steamer' is now being eroded into a line of several arches. Steamer Rock now has the potential of being a major tourist attraction in this area if it is so recognised. Again though, like Paria and London Bridge, access is limited to hikers and those travelling in pirogue.
Countries around the world have singled out and recognised the value of such geo-physical sites. As a result, thousands of tourists per year list these sites as part of their travel itinerary. Trinidad and Tobago, being blessed with a generous number of spectacular natural bridges can also include them on the list of tourist attractions while these sites still withstand the tests along the passage of time.