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Published: February 12th 2018
I had mixed feelings toward this port of call. It was meant to be Kingstown, St Vincent - the place I was most looking forward to. I'd read that St Vincent is meant to be one of the most beautiful islands, still largely undiscovered. I had a canoe + snorkel trip booked to Wallilabou Bay - the film set of Pirates of the Caribbean. I was very excited about this, and looking forward to also exploring the parrot reserve, and maybe some waterfalls.
But we arrived on our ship at the start of the week to discover a change to the itinerary, no explanation given. A local told me that Kingstown can only take two cruise ships and was probably full.
So anyway, we ended up heading for Bequia instead, the largest of the Grenadines. I was still sorely disappointed about missing out on St Vincent, but Bequia (pronounced Beck-way) still promised to be a stunner.
First of all it allowed me to indulge in one of my biggest animal passions, turtles, at Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. At 'the other side' of a 6 square mile island, it was easy to get a ride over for a reasonable
Old Hegg is a labour of love of Orton 'Brother' King, who has been running this sanctuary and rearing baby hawksbill turtles for decades. Brother is a legend all around the world, but unfortunately I couldn't get him on to the subject of turtles. I discreetly sidled away on the arrival of new visitors, while he was still mid-rant about young people and satellites.
Luckily his young assistant was around to answer some of my many questions. The sanctuary turned out to be pretty controversial. Walking round, many of the other visitors echoed my thoughts, "they should be in the sea". Many of the turtles looked to be adult-size and going stir-crazy in their little pools. Some were stuck in their own tiny pools, not even a metre square. And some were in bigger pools with a dozen others, aggressively jostling and biting each other.
On my second time round, I noticed a baby that had been separated from the others and left out of the water. Worried that a visitor might have done it, I alerted the young guy who worked there. But it turned out he'd done it. He told me that the babies
Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary
The babies with bite injuries
in that pool all had bite injuries, many in the eye. The one he'd taken out had an eye injury which he'd treated and left to dry.
The statistics he told me were that about 30% of the babies they reared made it to adulthood, whereas in the wild it'd be more like 1 in 3000.
They don't release the turtles until they are between 4-7 years old. As I heard Brother say to someone else (finally talking about turtles I presume) "I'm not going to waste my time just for a shark to get them".
The vast majority of the turtles there were intended to be released someday, apart from one big 19 year old with a badly cracked shell.
All of the turtles were hawksbill, apart from one random big green turtle among them. I never realised before how beautiful the hawksbills are, with their spectacular colours and markings.
I absolutely loved getting to see them up close, but I was torn about the ethics of it all.
From the sanctuary we walked around to the Sugar Reef cafe at Industry Bay, where our driver had agreed to pick us up later
that afternoon. Lunch at Sugar Reef was nice, but extortionate. They can charge what they like though as they have no competition!
Industry Bay itself and the beach there were nothing short of paradise. There were a few guests at the Sugar Reef, but further along we had the place to ourselves. It was idyllic.
There was meant to be good snorkelling at a reef offshore, but I did find the sea a bit rough, battering me around, so I never made it out that far. I just had to relax instead, not such a hardship.
I'm so glad we went round to Industry Bay. As we found out back on the boat, most people elected to stay at the beach nearest port so it got very crowded.
Port Elizabeth was really cute. I got the sense that it is developing quickly. They had a new mall with not a lot in it, we found more souvenirs across the road at the open air market, and one of the most colourful characters we came across. She had some banter, she said "I love the English! I'm English too!" (We didn't point out that we weren't actually
English, we get that a lot!) "In fact I was under London Bridge when it fell down. It fell on my head, but I got up again and I was Oooo-kay!!" What on Earth?!?!
She was crazy but lovely, and I loved the camaraderie between all the local women with stalls when she didn't have the t-shirt size we were after, the cry went out for "I need a dread dog in a 16!" and they all set about looking for the closest fit.
I loved our day in Bequia, it was pretty close to perfect.
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