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.

Robby on a public bus out of Bridgetown (cost is USD$1 or $1.50 Barbados) The Folkeston Park & Marine Reserve (close to Holetown on the west coast of Barbados) Lifeguard shack; Folkeston Marine Park Rickety wooden steps leading down to the beach; Folkestone Marine Park Coral Reef Club's white sandy beaches (adjacent to the Folkestone Marine Park) The "Shamon Too" boat that took us off Payne's Bay (to swim with the turtles), and to the Stavronikita shipwreck site Barbados's "Platinum Coast" is located on the western side of the island, with a spectacular 10 miles of perfect beaches The boat captain of the "Shamon Too" Looks like this house was built way too close to the sea! Becky reaches out to pet the turtle Becky can't get enough of the hawksbill turtles Closeup of the hawksbill turtle that Becky swam with The crystal blue Barbados waters allowed us to clearly see this stingray located about 20 feet below us Robby flashes the thumbs up sign as he is suddenly swarmed by dozens of hungry fish Shipwreck of the Stavronikita which had been destroyed by fire in 1976 Smiling after our snorkel experience Crabs skillfully scurry from one algae covered rock to another Colorful parrot partition at a beachside restaurant An inviting place to shop; Chattel Village in Holetown More colorful chattel houses; Holetown Flowers from a cannonball tree; Chattel Village Colorful chattel house Love the extended balcony! St James is the oldest church in Barbados Holetown Methodist Church The original bell of St James Church. It is the oldest in Barbados with an inscription "God Bless King William 1696" St. James stands on one of the oldest parcels of consecrated land on Barbados, often referred to as "God's acre" A Barbadian woman strolls by a natural arch; Chattel houses in the background Access to the beach A large chattel style shopping center Cannons at the Holetown memorial (built on the site of what was the old James Fort, and some of the iron cannons are still in position) All beaches in Barbados are open to the public, just look for these "public access" signs for a route to the beach The local buses are a great (and cheap) way to explore Barbados Tree lined road leading towards Payne's Beach Becky at Payne's Bay Becky relaxing in the warm, clear and calm waters of Payne's Beach Robby just soaking up the sun; Payne's Beach Its counterintuitive to NOT stand under a tree when its raining but heed this sign...the manchineel tree fruits are poisonous! Bad location for the sun chairs (directly underneath the poisonous manchineel tree) What the other side of Payne's beach looks like Daphne's restaurant has a tree growing inside it! The fish market must be a happening place in the morning because by mid-afternoon it was dead Love the Caribbean colors of this house Interesting enough, all the bus stops in Barbados have feminine names. Becky found her namesake at Payne's Beach stop The caption on the side of the telephone booth says it all....Becky couldn't resist Quaint Barbados cottage These two were making such a ruckus that we had to see what all the fuss was about Interior of a public Barbados bus Shopkeeper in downtown Bridgetown Haggling over the price of fruit; downtown Bridgetown The Bridgetown bus stop takes you anywhere around the island you need to be, just ask the friendly locals to point out the right bus The Pelican craft center is located near the cruise ship piers, but appeared completely desolated when we visited Wall mural; Pelican craft center Boys playing some kind of racquet sport Lots of last minute shopping opportunities at the Bridgetown port area Peace, Mon! foto gallery lightboxby v6.1

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.

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