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6th February, 2014

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Caroni Bird Sanctuary  excursion

MV Saga Sapphire sailed overnight along the north coast of Venezuela and entered into the Boco de Prai through the Dragons mouth, the entrance to the bay which Port of Spain is located. As we approached the port you could see what industry was in abundance just by looking at all the ships at anchor. There was an abundance of Gas Tankers, even some of BP, British petroleum, awaiting cargos of Liquified Natural Gas to export around the world. Also some oil tankers as well as Venezuela is a large oil producing country. There were a few oil rigs moored in the bay with the associated ships so it was a ships spotters paradise. We started to close on the main channel and I had to pilot the ship up the channel towards the pilot station. Either side of the buoyed channel was littered with wrecks and sandbanks so it was important to stay between the green and red buoys. There was a strong cross current so I had to adjust the course of Saga Sapphire so we “crabbed” down the channel sideways! As we approached the pilot station a large high speed car ferry left the berth on its way to Tobago and we were both not going to fit in the channel. However as she had a shallow Draft, the captain called us up on the Radio to say they would leave the channel before we met to give us enough space which was very civil of him. Once the pilot was onboard, I continued taking the ship into the port. I remember from previous experience, that the depth in the harbour is only about 9.0 metres which is only ½ metre under our keel so the ship is quite sluggish and slow to manoeuvre. So as we swung we churned up quite a bit of mud as the turbulence from the propellers stirred up the mud. Once swung we backed slowly towards our berth. You have to keep the speed down in these conditions as the ship takes a long time to stop but we were soon all fast for 8:00am this morning in Port of Spain. Port of Spain is the capital and commercial centre of Trinidad and Tobago and has architecture from around the World. It is a melting pot of cultures including African, Oriental, Indian, European and New World.

Port of Spain

As I usually do, I went onto the Quayside to see our guest off on tour, something I have done since taking over as Captain in 2000 and it is always good to see everyone in the morning and exchange pleasantries. The Port Authority had laid on a very colourful welcome for us in way of some very brightly coloured and flamboyant dancers who greeted our passengers as they walked ashore with music and dance.

As I was standing there, I was asked for a photo with them so who am I to refuse and ruin international relations!!

You can probably all see how uncomfortable I was as I am a shy person!!!!!!!

There were four shore excursions for passengers to choose from today, the first was ‘Mount St Benedict Monastery’ which was founded in 1912 after Benedictine Monks fled persecution in Brazil. Passengers learnt about the history of the monastery and had a guided tour of the site. The ‘City Highlights and Culture Show’ began with a panoramic drive, passing by the city’s main park, architectural and historical monuments before arriving at the Royal Botanical Gardens which is situated next to the President’s House for a guided walk. The highlight of this tour however was the cultural show featuring Flaming Limbo, Calpso and Steel Pan and Indian Dance. The third tour on offer today was a visit to the ‘Asa Wright Nature Reserve’. The nature reserve is located in the heart of the rainforest and covers 203 acres. It is a privately-run reserve and was a former cocoa and coffee estate. Today it protects a variety of wildlife and is world-renowned for its birdlife. After a guided walk into the rainforest, passengers enjoyed a buffet lunch which was served on the balcony allowing them to view rare tropical birds. The fourth and final tour on offer today was the ‘Caroni Bird Sanctuary’ which was established in 1953 and sprawls across a tidal lagoon and maze mangrove lined waterways. Passengers on this tour boarded a flat-bottomed boat and began a cruise of the dense mangroves, remote canals and shallow lagoons. The sanctuary is not only home to more than 130 species of birds but also home to iguanas, caiman and mudskippers, an amphibious fish that uses its pectoral fins to walk on land.

Unfortunately the weather today was a little disappointing, with some showers throughout the day. However the temperatures are still high so a little rain shower did not dampen the spirits.After another busy day in port, all were back on board at 6:00pm as we prepared to sail. This evening we had a variety of entertainment on offer. In the Britannia Lounge it was Classical Showtime with the Auralio String Quartet performing a concert of popular classics. In the Drawing Room, the Assistant Cruise Director, Resty and the Cruise Team hosted another night at the races, due to popular demand which is always a bit of fun.

Passengers retired to their cabins to get a good night’s sleep, ready for another visit to a beautiful Caribbean island.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.