We arrived in Bridgetown at seven in the morning and left the ship at 8:45 for the short drive to the boat launch where we boarded a catamaran to take us to the Atlantis submarine for our dive. It was a beautiful sunny, hot day and the seas were calm. There were 48 seats in the submarine; 24 on each side so people sat back to back facing large windows, but only 35 people were on board.John and I are fine in confined spaces or underwater but there were two young women accompanied by boyfriends or spouses who turned chalk-white as soon as the hatch was closed. The sub dropped 60′ and stopped so we could look at the coral reef and fish. A stingray swam by, which was unusual as they tend to be nocturnal. Also a female Leatherback Turtle which also surprised our guide as the turtles have usually left the Caribbean waters by that time of year. After we sat and watched the reef for awhile the sub went down to 145′ to a shipwreck that had been placed on the ocean floor by scuba divers to encourage fish and aquatic plants, etc. The water was nice and clear, there was no rocking or rolling so we had a great time. The two women however, were pale and clammy and clinging to their barf bags. I think it was the longest hour of their lives and their menfolk will never get them to do something like that again. We returned to the ship in time for a quick lunch and then went outside the terminal where the buses loaded to see if there were spare seats on the Green Monkey Eco Tour. As luck would have it there was room so we climbed aboard for the drive north and across the island to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve. We drove by this statue – the image on the right is a stock photo I found to show it more clearly. It was erected by the government of Barbados in 1985 to commemorate the 169th anniversary of the island’s emancipation from slavery – not just the people were slaves of the sugar cane magnates, the entire island was subject to bondage. Local people call it the Bussa after the leader of the slave rebellion in 1816.
The Barbados Wildlife Reserve was established in 1985 with seed money from the Canadian International Development Agency. It is located on four acres of natural mahogany forest. Mahogany is not indigenous to Barbados; it was introduced over 250 years ago. A Canadian Primatologist is the head of the center and program leader. Many of the animals have been donated – mostly the tortoises and several species of birds. The Green Monkey is originally from Africa and was brought to the island by early settlers. They have very long tails. Next door to the Reserve is the Grenade Hall Forest – a former dump site, now educational nature trails – and the monkeys will wander over there until 3 o’clock when they are fed fruit and vegetables at the Reserve. They are very dextrous.
Brocket deer roam the reserve as well. They too are an introduced species to Barbados although they are indigenous to other Caribbean islands. Brocket deer are small and shy and have very short hair. We were fortunate enough to see a fawn as well. The most interesting animal we saw was a Hutia Conga which is indigenous to Cuba, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. It looks like a cross between the agouti was saw on Devil’s Island and a rabbit. Cute little thing. The prize of the reserve is the Red-footed tortoise. It was once plentiful on many neighbouring islands but is now considered scarce to endangered and more live in the Barbados reserve than all the rest of the island. Barbados Wildlife Reserve has the best collection of these tortoise in the world.
They are fed every afternoon and they know where dinner will be laid out so they make their slow and ploddy way to the table every day. The Brocket deer and Green Monkeys know when it is feeding time as well so all of them congregate on the hill top and grapple for goodies. The monkeys clamber all over the backs of the tortoise and the deer stick their noses in where ever they can find a space to snatch some of the food. It was quite entertaining to watch. The peacock decided to put on a show of his finery. An endangered iguana species from Cuba lives at the reserve as well. They were very large with red eyes. As we were wandering the trails we saw a tortoise and a Green Monkey getting a drink in the stream, a rabbit, and three young monkeys wrestling and playing in a small courtyard. After we spent our time at the reserve our driver took us back to the ship along the south and west of the island so we had a nice overview of Barbados. It was a hot and humid day but a really nice one and we were glad to be able to catch the green monkey tour at the last minute.We had a day at sea before our final port of call at Gustavia, St. Bart’s followed by two sea days to reach Ft. Lauderdale for the end of our cruise.