How do we invite more and more visitors to our home and have them experience our island, while still preserving it as our home and not a guesthouse that really belongs to nobody and reflects the culture and values of nobody in particular? Visitors call such spots “touristy” , and do not take to these locations. Why should they? When they’ve just spent valuable time and money to travel, only to be confronted with a bad imitation of a strip mall from back home.
One of the great reasons to travel and see new places is to experience new and different things you can’t see at home. As a tour operator in a country whose economy depends on tourism for prosperity, we know we must help to preserve a delicate balance, both preserving and presenting the authentic Caribbean.
In this blog, we’ll try to tell the story of the issues we and our neighbors face as we attempt to find that balance - some successes, no doubt some failures; please join us as we explore together.
We begin, understandably enough, with the Turtles.
In many ways, sea turtles have an enviable lifestyle. They are born on the beach, and spend much of their lives swimming in warm tropical seas. However, there's a downside, primarily due to humans, six of the seven main sea turtle species are classified as endangered! Here in St Kitts-Nevis, we are home to four of these species; the Green, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, and, rarely, the Leatherback; all are endangered. Our guests often see adult Hawksbills up close while snorkeling on our catamaran trips - we instruct them to maintain a few feet separation, and just to observe.
As formerly deserted beaches are developed, often turtle habitat is destroyed. It doesn’t have to be that way, if we are careful, we can share this habitat however, and allow both people and turtles to successfully share our beautiful beaches.
Here in St Kitts, a local non-profit; the St Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network is doing important work in this regard, and we at Blue Water Safaris were privileged recently to host their guests in a familiarization cruise to see the habitat that so urgently needs protecting.
Sadly, not all tour operators around the world understand the balance between preserving and presenting — an example of what not to do http://ow.ly/SW2t9.
For those interested in learning more, here’s a link to a good primer on why you should care and the role sea turtles play in our local environment.