Barbados is the easternmost island of the West Indies, and is a member of the Commonwealth. Bridgetown appears to be the central hub of Barbados, making it easy for us to catch a public bus north towards Holetown and the Folkeston Marine Reserve where we signed up for a snorkel/turtle tour. Afterwards, we backtracked towards Paynes Bay, and hopped on a bus back to Bridgetown. Overall, Barbados delivered on beautiful beaches and turquiose waters…we can now understand why the west coast is referred to as the “platinum coast”. We didn’t have enough time to check out Bridgetown itself, so it looks like a repeat visit may have to be in order.
20 Mar: Our destination today was Bridgetown, Barbados. After our usual morning routine of working out, showering and grabbing a quick breakfast, we disembarked at 0800. With no real set plans today, we were on our own. The port had a very unhelpful and unfriendly tourist information office in the terminal building, where we stopped to get a map. The guy behind the counter acted like we were a huge nuisance when we asked simple questions such as “what is a good beach to go see between Folkestone and Bridgetown” or how to take public transportation up to Folkestone Marine park. Regardless, we finally headed out for a brief walk to the Bridgetown bus terminal where we asked the friendly locals which bus to catch. It was $1 US or $1.50 Barbados for our fare (exact change only) and our bus driver was speeding along his route. At one point, some foolish driver tried to pull out in front of our bus, and we could see a catastrophic accident about to occur (we were going way too fast and were about to crush that poor vehicle). Our driver slammed on the brakes and we could hear the wheels noisily squeal against the pavement in a valiant effort to stop. Thankfully the crisis was averted as the bus driver managed to barely scrape by the car.
Our destination this morning was the Folkestone Marine Park. We read that it has an artificial reef, purposefully formed by the sinking of the ship Stavronikita which had been destroyed by fire in 1976. The ship rests in 120ft of water, less than half a mile from the shore. We were keen to check out the shipwreck. Once we arrived to Folkestone, we were immediately approached by a man who asked if we were there to see the turtles and the shipwreck. We agreed to pay $35 each for our excursion on the Shamon Too, which took off shortly after picking up all the passengers (another couple from a nearby resort and a young family of three). Much to our dismay, swimming with the turtles was pretty much a chaotic, unpleasant experience as it was way too crowded with novice snorkelers who swam frantically and kicked everyone within arms reach. We kept swimming away from the crowd but there were simply too many people for such a tiny area. The poor turtles were overwhelmed! They would dodge in to get the morsels of food being handed out by some guides, but raced away from people as soon as they could. Becky got lucky when one of the turtles swam directly towards her and she was able to pet its shell before the crowd descended and chased the turtle away. Even though we had asked our guide how long we had with the turtles and were told “as long as you want”, we were the last two snorkelers out of the water and were rushed at our subsequent stop (the Stavronikita shipwreck site). It was too bad as there were a lot of fish and the shipwreck was well preserved, and we wanted to explore it further. Our guide told everyone we had 10 minutes but after about 5 minutes, he rushed us all back on the boat…not cool! We quickly realized that all we had to do to snorkel to our heart’s content in the future was catch the public bus to Payne’s Bay where we could have swum out to the turtles for free (just look for the throngs of boats and people in the water.) The same was true for the stavronikita shipwreck (it is less than half a mile from the shore of the Folkestone Marine reserve). Regardless, we learned our lesson on how to do it on the cheap next time! We asked the captain of the Shamon Too if he could drop us off at Holetown, where we briefly stopped by a supermarket to get some drinks and change for the bus, and visited the colorful “chattel” village (now a bunch of touristy shops). We also realized that adjacent to the Folkestone Marine Park was the oldest church in Barbados, St James Anglican Parish Church, which was built in 1628! The church was definitely worth a stop, and we were glad that we had backtracked to reach it. Once we returned back to Holetown, we were on a wild goose chase to find free wifi (a sign was posted stating free wifi at the Holetown shopping area), but it was not meant to be…we had to remain in blissful ignorance for a while longer with no access to the news or email. Opting to save a bit of money, we decided that it wasn’t too far of a walk back to Payne’s Bay where we swam in the crystal clear water and laid out to catch some rays. After relaxing here for a few hours, we caught a local bus back to bustling Bridgetown and since time was running out, decided to head back towards our cruise. Our brief stay on the island was fun but we’d love a return trip as there seems to be a lot more of the island that we weren’t able to cover.