Exploring Chaguaramas

A tour guide (left) plays music on the stalagmite formation with a visitor at the Gasparee Caves in Gaspar Grand, Trinidad.

WESTERN BUREAU:Trinidadians take pride in the fact that their seaside properties are owned by locals and not foreigners. They make no apologies. Instead, they understand that keeping their biodiversity intact guarantees future sustainable tourism development.

And when the ‘Trinis’ talk about sustainable tourism development, don’t expect to find a laid-back paradise of piña coladas and poolsides. “Trinidad challenges the status quo; breaks the mould,” say the people who live there.

A week ago, Outlook had the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful spots of the twin republic, Chaguaramas – otherwise known as the land of the palms. Chaguaramas is a heritage site boasting 14,572 acres, consisting of a peninsula and five offshore islands.

Chaguaramas and other treasures in these the southernmost islands of the Caribbean archipelago are actually geological extensions of the South American continent and are managed by the Chaguaramas Development Authority.

Similar to Jamaica’s Tourism Product Development Company, their role is to set the stage for the development of tourism, leisure and marine-related industries, except on a vast scale. By extension, CDA wants to provide the ultimate experience in a world-class ecotourism destination.

The Chaguaramas National Park and Gasparee Caves were the selected site attraction during the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s, Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development, held in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

The group departed the Hyatt Regency hotel, which many say is the best in Trinidad. A warm bed, good customer service and tasty food, with carnival in the atmosphere, was enough for the Outlook team.

By 10 a.m., we were boarding a yacht at the marina (located on the Golf of Paria), for Gasparee Caves, the easiest accessible limestone caves in Trinidad and Tobago. The caves are located on Gaspar Grande and can only be reached by boat from the mainland.

Getting to Gasparee, the eyes are greeted by some of the most stunning seaside homes. “All these homes are owned by Trinidadians, not foreigners,” said our elated boat captain, his voice laden with pride. Within seconds, he was showing the 21 passengers his spectacular edifice where he hosts weddings and parties for cruise ship passengers.

The Gasparee Caves are nestled among the archipelagos, west of the Chaguaramas peninsula. The landing is on a historic site – Point Baleine, a former whaling station.

Access to the caves is a 10-minute walk up a 30-degree incline on the northern side of the island, then descending a 20-degree decline down to the southern side of the island.

The entire island was formed from limestone, and the soil carries a reddish-brown look called terracotta. The colour depicts the high level of iron mineral in the earth.

Seven species of snakes inhabit Gaspar Grande, and so does the Naked Indian tree, which sheds its skin regularly. Several hog plum trees line the island as well as sugar apple (sweetsop) and large cactus trees.

The beauty about Gasparee is that the CDA does not allow more than 20 persons at any given time to enter the caves. To appreciate the caves, you need to go deep inside to marvel at the Blue Grotto with its 30-metre-depth, where sunlight dapples the aquamarine water.

Inside this mysterious underground world, the stalactites grow from the roof of the cave, while the stalagmites grow up.

Of course, the bats are noisy, but they are vegetarians, so they are easily satisfied with the brown-looking fruits they have strewn all over the staircases. The water in the cave is salty, and gets it beautiful hue of blue from the walls of the cave.

The next stop was ‘The Boardwalk’- a combination of recycled plastic and concrete substructure.

The Boardwalk is lit by solar-powered lamps, which have minimal impact on turtles, the migratory birds and the flora and fauna.

Most important, the Boardwalk enhances the beauty of the area while providing shoreline protection and control.

These sustainable tourism projects show that Trinidad, the home of soca and calypso, has far more to offer.

Source / Fuente: jamaica-gleaner.com

Author / Autor:  Janet Silvera

 Date / Fecha: 15/05/13

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