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24th January, 2017

Port of Spain. Trinidad

We passed through the Boca Grande just after sunrise, Venezuela to starboard, Trinidad to port. Within the sheltered waters of the Gulf of Paria, close to the coast, were many anchored ships, waiting for orders no doubt. Some miles further out I counted eight great drill ships, laid up as a result of the reduced oil price. Our pilot explained the present world glut of oil has affected the economy of Trinidad considerably as they are a producer. One would have hardly guessed looking out through the port gates, where the six lane highway was very busy.

After a busy morning Mr R and I joined a small group going off to partake in a spot of kayaking (in 30 degree heat?!). The Caroni Wetlands are a 40 square mile mangrove swamp on the north west coast, which may not sound appealing, but in fact is just the opposite. Our group, led by an enthusiastic local chap, paddled through peaceful waterways that were often quite enclosed by tall lush vegetation. Being advised to keep an eye out for wildlife, it wasn’t long before we came across a snake ‘sleeping’in an overhead branch. The instructor seemed to take great delight in holding us underneath while he explained the ‘what and why’of mangrove snakes. Birds flew out from the trees from time to time and soon I caught my first sight of a Scarlet Ibis. This bird apparently gets its colour from a diet of crabs found in the mud of the swamp.

Our kayaking journey was to end, after several hours of fairly serious paddling, at a great lagoon where we were eventually joined by a number of shallow draft craft that brought many other Saganauts who had signed up for the same spectacle, but where personal fitness wasn’t tested. The reason for this gathering was to witness the birds coming into roost on one of the islands just before sunset. We waited, a few white Egrets started to fly in, then in greater numbers. And then the first Ibis started to arrive, their vivid red colour truly spectacular. The numbers just kept increasing, flying in overhead from every direction and settling into the green trees about a mile or so away. Eventually, as the dusk encroached, the trees were beginning to look as though they were in bloom, like a giant Cornish Rhododendron in full flower, an amazing sight.

There was, of course, the need to return in good time before the darkness made navigating impossible. We had joined one of the motor boats and the kayaks were tied to the stern. Our boat was the last to leave, but was delayed when a securing rope had become trapped. We lost some time and as we finally headed back the gloom really encroached. I was quite sure some of our guests were more than pleased to eventually see the bright lights of the operating base. Spooky places mangrove swamps after dark.

Captain Philip Rentell

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