Friday, February 26, 2010

The book of Antigua & Barbuda plants is now for sale.

For anyone building a home in Antigua and thinking about their gardens, for anyone interested in landscaping, for anyone interested in any sort of plants growing naturally here in Antigua, please read about the new excellent book on all of Antigua's native plants. Don't go and bring in plants from abroad like many have done recently. This is always a bad idea for many reasons including the accidental importation of alien species like the Cuba Tree Frog which are now living all over Antigua it seems. Having a garden with local plant species is extremely eco friendly and a very good idea in my humble opinion. Of course knowing what is local and what is imported is half the battle, and this guide will help you figure it out.

This beautifully illustrated 400 page field guide is a comprehensive guide with photographs, identification keys and descriptions of nearly 500 species of plants, mainly native species, that adorn our countryside and provide a habitat for wildlife. It is intended for all who seeks to know more about beautiful tropical plants and their ecosystems. 
We will be organising field trips and running courses on plant identification using this guide as a basis.
The Field Guide is based on extensive surveys of Antigua & Barbuda by the authors. It includes over 1000 photographs taken in Antigua and Barbuda by the authors. Whilst every Caribbean island has it’s own distinct flora, plant lovers will find this guide of application in nearby Caribbean islands.
Obtainable from the EAG Office, the Museum and also from Best of Books, Hotels and book and gift shops. 
All proceeds go to EAG conservation work.
For more info email the Environmental Awareness Group on eag @  and tell them you heard about it on Eli's blog! (i put a space either side of the @ sign so that spam robots don't use it as i have heard that's what i should do).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Local fisherman and activist catches and then releases rare loggerhead turtle.

Usually the story isn't one like the caption mentions. Turtles in Antigua are caught and slaughtered often by net fishermen. Usually the turtles have drowned by the time the fishermen get to their nets. The legislation that deals with turtles is old and although the new legislation has been on the table for years and years, it still hasn't been passed into regulation yet. The old regulations which are still being used permit fishermen to kill turtles for most of the year as long as they are above a certain size. That last bit is the worst thing because as we know, turtles take between 20 to 40 years to become sexually mature. One in ten thousand hawksbills are lucky enough to live that long, and then if they are big enough they can be targeted by Antigua's fishermen for most of the year. IT's all total madness and my good friends in Fisheries ministry need to push the new regulations forward. The fisherman below would have been within his rights to kill the turtle. He is a shining example and hopefully with a bit more info he could be an ambassador for the turtle conservation movement. Well done!!! In Antigua our nesting turtles are usually Hawksbills and we occasionally get Green Turtles coming up as well as the massive Leatherback from time to time in their nesting period. This loggerhead neither nests here nor do we see them living here. They are very rare turtles here in Antigua and Barbuda, but generally speaking they are the most studied of all marine turtles. Remember that all marine turtles are endangered species. The video was taken by an old friend and I am told was shown on the local TV station.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Want to see some humpback whales?

Ok well the best best best way to go and see some whales off Antigua and Barbuda is to do a private charter on Xtreme when the weather is calm anytime between the start of Feb and the end of April. We often see them when doing trips around the island and to Barbuda at this time of the year. Although it isn't a sure bet, you do stand a good chance of seeing them when it's calm. Why when its calm? Well when there are fewer "white horses" or white caps out on the ocean you can more easily see the difference between a whale's spout and a bit of white water. When it's very calm you will know when a whale makes a splash of some sort too.

Private charters on big boats are not an inexpensive option and just joining in one of our regular scheduled tours does give you the opportunity to see them too. This week The Xtreme Circumnav tour came upon a mother and calf playing just east of stingray city. The mother appeared to have some sort of rope wrapped around her, but there was nothing captain JD could do about it. The whales didn't seem to be having any problems, but JD still says it was upsetting to see the fishing gear on the whale.
If you are not interested in seeing whales from a boat but you still would love to spot them as they pass through the islands, then all you have to do is look out past any barrier reef or barrier islands and just gaze into the see. Of course it's better to be up high as your chances are better then. I often see them while up on top of Great Bird Island which is a stop on the Eco Tour which tells you that you don't have to be that high. Verandah Hotel's restaurants are good places to look out into the Atlantic and if you are staying there between now and may you should keep your eyes on the ocean as much as you can.

Another excellent place to see them from is from what we call the Lookout. Almost every single time I go up there on calms days at this time of the year I spot them. Yesterday Mykl and I went to a lovely wedding at Shirley Heights and before going there we stopped off for a few minutes to look for whales. From the top there overlooking Eric Clapton's house and sunken rock you have the best view of the Atlantic Ocean and spotting them can sometimes be easy. Yesterday I just looked east and within a few minutes I saw some whales spout as they reaches the surface. They must have been two miles from me and it isn't always easy to see the spouts from that distance. If they breach (jump) or do any fluke or tail slapping then its way easier, but yesterday the whales would just spout gently from time to time. Needless to say, they were not easy to spot. If we had spent more time there then i am sure we would have seen more, but it was off to the wedding and the lovely sunset.
Pack a few drinks and go up to lookout to have a look.
Today, I read an interesting article from greenpeace about Japan and the whaling they do. For some reason, our government still supports Japanese whaling after taking their fisheries grants. You can read more here. 
And for a very cool video taken by Roddy who did the photos above on the same trip over to Barbuda on Xtreme, please check this out.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Endangered Green Turtle killed by Montserrat's Volcano

Caribbean Helicopter Pilot Greg Scott, took this photo recently as he made a stop with scientists to an area that had recently been covered by an ultra hot pyroclastic flow. The area is along the North East side of the Caribbean island of Montserrat and as they inspected the shoreline there days after the eruption, temperatures just below the surface were still above 200c. This unfortunate green turtle washed up on the shore after being killed by the massive eruption which happened on Feb 11th 2010. According to reports there was quite a wave of superheated ash in the massive pyroclastic flow that came down over the water and into the sea. Of course among many species of wildlife that would have been in the area would have been turtles like this one which feed and live in the area. On the island there were many other animals and plants that were killed this time as well. There was no human lives lost because of the evacuation ordered by government and careful work done by the scientists there. The 6 satellite photos below (click on the image for bigger version) show the huge plume of ash as it explodes from Montserrat. Photo 1 shows the start of the eruption on the 11th. Here in Antigua we were very lucky not to have had more ash particles landing on us than we received. As the sat images show, most of the ash moved east between Guadeloupe and Antigua. My boats still had a thin layer of ash all over them. What a mess!

This photo taken from 6000 feet by Greg shows the area hardest hit by this recent eruption. This was where the old abandoned airport was up up until the 11th. It is now totally covered by as and rocks. In the photo you can see new coastline that was created by the new flow as well.

This photo was taken a day or two after the eruption and shows water boiling around the newly formed coastline. You can even see geysers spouting over the top of what was once ocean.

According to greg and the international scientists there, this volcano is far from being done! Caribbean Helicopters takes guests there on trips most week days.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A private Eco Tour to Great Bird Island.

On average we do about 5 private tours or charters a month. This month we have had more than usual with childrens birthday parties as well as big birthday parites. We have taken out the skipper and crew off on one of the huge mega yachts from English Harbour and have even taken out incentive groups from Welch's Fruit company! It's been a busy one. Yesterday using the dolphin catamaran I had a very enjoyabe private charter coming from the Mill Reef Club. We have only done a small handfull of tours from there and it was nice to actually collect our group from their house right on the beach.
The tour was an eco tour kind of day where we sailed through the narrow channel near Devils Bridge and down wind towards Great Bird Island. The winds in the morning were fairly light and the sailing was slow but peaceful on the way down. Bird Island was very nice with the waters being very clear and the island not too busy. Our regular Eco Tour came up to the island while we were there and moved off to see Hells Gate before we left. Even though i have been there about a million times, I still love being out there and seeing all the cool stuff. While we were anchored up off the beach we spotted a huge spotted eagle ray, a little hawksbill turtle, red billed tropic birds as well as the magnificent frigate birds.

The small hike up to the top of the island was great, and it was the first time i had been to the top in ages. The view from there is probably one of the best in Antigua. The wind had come up and the birds glided happily above us along the ridge.
The sail back was a bit more choppy until we were inside the reef once again as the winds were up to about 18 knots. The kitesurfers and windsurfers up at Green Island were enjoying the wind. There must have been 25 yachts anchored up behind the reef there including Genesis, the sister to our Ocean Nomad.
Private Charters are often a less expensive way for a large group to see the islands, and one of the the only ways for a small group to be on their own. I enjoyed the trip yesterday. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Antigua's Donkey Sanctuary - interesting info

This info came from my friend Jennifer:

Antigua’s Donkeys

Historically, donkeys were a very important part of life in Antigua. They were used as work animals in the sugar cane fields and by crop farmers to carry their harvest to market. In the 1960’s, the economic focus in Antigua began shifting from agriculture to tourism and the donkey’s usefulness began to decline. Many were turned out to fend for themselves and, of course, have reproduced at will, resulting in a very large stray and roaming population.

While most of us appreciate the donkeys and their importance to the nation, the fact remains that when allowed to wander at will they invade farmers’ plots and residents’ gardens and eat down the vegetation. They also present a danger on the roads, especially at night, and need to be properly controlled.

The Antigua & Barbuda Humane Society, located on the eastern side of the island near Bethesda, offers a permanent home for donkeys at risk. The Donkey Sanctuary currently shelters more than 80 donkeys but this number is by no means finite. Although all stallions are castrated on arrival, more often than not the mares are already in foal when they arrive. As the gestation period is almost a year, there are frequently surprises in store.

In addition to the foals, a favourite of visitors to the Donkey Sanctuary is Stevie, an adult donkey who was struck by a vehicle and is now totally blind. Because of the special care and attention that is given to Stevie he is able to manage quite well and loves the extra attention he receives.

It is also the Humane Society’s plan to gradually bring all stray and roaming donkeys into the Donkey Sanctuary in order to keep them safe. The Government of Antigua & Barbuda has promised to allocate additional lands to make this possible. The Humane Society will have to find the funds for the fencing materials but the Government has promised to assist with fencing labour.

In addition to providing limited grazing and carrying water to them, the Humane Society also feeds the sanctuary donkeys purchased pellet feed every day, which is a significant drain on resources. In the past, the Society has received occasional grants for fencing projects and shelter construction but feeding the donkeys is primarily the Humane Society’s responsibility. When paddocks become overgrazed, the Society cuts and carries grass and bush, and begs stale bread from the local bakeries. The dry season, January to August, is particularly difficult. To help raise funds for feed, the Humane Society sells T-Shirts at the sanctuary and offers an ‘Adopt an Antiguan Donkey’ programme (see their website for details: ).

The Donkey Sanctuary is open to visitors Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors are welcome to help brush and feed the donkeys, and take as many photos as they like.
More here:
Dear Friends,

Please join me at Abra’s on Thursday Feb 11 from 5-7pm for a preview showing of “One Love One Heart”.

The pieces I am showing are mixed media: photos and paint, on canvas and recycled wood blocks, finished with layers of epoxy resin, a new medium for me!

Exhibition will run until March 10. Opening night Snacks and wine compliments of Abra’s team!

Sales to support The Donkey Sanctuary at the Humane Society-- With each piece sold one donkey will be fed and housed at the sanctuary in your name for an entire year—A representative from the Humane Society will be at the event with more information on this special program.

Feel free to pass on this invite, event is open to public.

Hope to see you there,

Jennifer Meranto

Monday, February 08, 2010

new video on the Xtreme Tour around Antigua

New video of our Xtreme round the island trip by Roddy Grimes-Graeme of (the best photo and video company in Antigua)

For more info on this excellent snorkeling adventure around antigua with an exclusive stop at Stingray City please visit

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Environmental Awareness Group 2010

Well as many of you know, an unofficial Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) membership drive was forged by some of us who felt that the EAG wasn't getting the support it needed to accomplish its stated goals. Their membership went from about 20 people up to over 200 within a few months. Finally after three months delay there was an AGM and a new executive board was elected which comprised of some of the new members mixed in with old board members. The EAG board is made up with the following people:

Lia Nicholson - Executive Director
Kim Derrick - President

Brian Cooper - VP

Chris Pratt - Secretary

Carol-Faye George - Treasurer

Hyacinth Techeira

Robby Breadner

Andy Williams

Ashton Williams

Eli Fuller
According to the accounts which reported up until June 2009, the total membership and fundraising efforts for the year leading up to that time brought in a total of under EC $800 or US $300. Without proper financing the EAG was unable to hire a full time Executive Director or CEO. With the help of it's new members and new board members the EAG is now dedicated and in a position to make sure that the ED is full time. The organization is looking very good for 2010 with all sorts of projects and events planned and/or being planned. There are four board members who are very web savvy and of the four, three are very good at internet marketing using new media. With the help of it's new members and board members the board members who have been running the EAG from it's creation will finally have the help they need to do more.

Within the next few weeks we hope to have a system set up that will enable people to send donations from abroad as well as for them to join as members using credit cards. Antigua's conservation movement needs plenty of help and we hope that you ca be part of the movement. Please visit for info on the EAG. There are changes coming soon to the site so please bookmark it and visit it again in the near future. Also, please look for them on facebook by searching for Environmental Awareness Group.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Shark attack in Florida

As a former kitesurfer, I was even more interested upon hearing about a fatal shark attack yesterday in Florida. I don't know the details, but it seems that a young man was bitten by a shark while he was out kitesurfing. Read here. I have actually windsurfed in the area that he was bitten, and know that every year there are huge migrations of sharks off the Florida coast as they follow huge schools of biat fish. In fact, I saw sharks many times while i windsurfed up and down the East coast of Florida. The waters along the coast are usually very rich with bait fish and other predators. In the very murky waters that you find along that coastline it is very common for sharks to come into very close contact with people. That being said it is exceptionally rare for anyone to be killed. We won't know what happened but my guess is that he fell in and just happened to be in an area where a large feeding shark was looking for prey. It's a terribly sad event especially with only a few fatal shark attacks in the USA every 10 years. As you know if you read my blog, my most visited page is the one I wrote a few years ago about sharks here in the Caribbean. The Caribbean gets very few shark attacks and we have never had one happen around Antigua. Of course there are sharks in most parts of the tropics, but with the very clear waters they can see their target prey very easily. Read here for more about Antigua's dangers.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Statistics on Antigua and the population census.

When I was a little kid in the late 1970s, we learned in school that Antigua had a population of about 80,000. I didn't know any Jamaicans, Guyanese, or people from Dominican Republic and most of the villages around were small and compact. During the 80s and 90s Antigua went through a huge construction boom while at the same time there came huge immigration form countries all over the Caribbean and the world with the above nationals being the largest contributor to our workforce. Villages grew and some new villages were born. Every now and then someone tells me that they live in a village I have never heard of. Huge areas of what was once bush and cane fields became residential neighborhoods. Now wherever you go you will meet nationals from all over the world who now reside here in Antigua. On Market Street it's more common to hear someone speaking with an accent that isn't Antiguan.

The point of all of this isn't to say anything other than most Antiguans believe that our population has grown significantly since the 1970s. In 1991 in the middle of the immigration and construction boom a population census was carried out. IT was also a time when a large percentage of the population didn't trust the leading party for one reason or another. I was living in a house with three other youth. One wasn't Antiguan and didn't have a work permit, and he chose to avoid the census. I knew so many people who decided to steer clear of the census because they were worried that somehow the immigration department would receive info on them. This was silly, but it did happen. There were so many people here working and living "under the radar" that it is my firm belief that the 1991 census was totally incorrect. Most people think that our nation's residential population is closer to 100,000 than the 68,000+ that is officially quoted.

So what is the big deal right? Well there are huge implications for all sorts of things including taxation, the social services, and of course general statistics. The crime rate seems to be the one quoted most frequently in the papers and on the internet these days. Our murder rate is one that has been quoted to death recently. Of course if you use the official population of 68K then our murder rate is high, but if an accurate figure was given on our population then the rates would seem more reasonable if that word could describe a murder rate. For some reason, people don't seem to think about this as a major problem. I do and wish someone would figure out that it's time to correct it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

good job JD and crew!

Sent: Saturday, January 30, 2010 3:53 PM
To: admin
Subject: 4-Snorkel Stop Adventure with Lunch

There were four of us - my husband, myself, our son & his fiancee - so there were a couple of age groups involved. We all thoroughly enjoyed the tour. My husband and I have done Stingray City in Grand Cayman but this one was exceptional as the rays seemed much friendlier here. The lunch we had was delicious and we were impressed with how well the crew cleaned up - I don't think you could tell anyone had eaten there. Our son and his fiancee loved the snorkeling and we were all very impressed with the crew. The captain was JD and one of the fellows was Jason - I'm afraid I don't remember the other boys name but they were exceptional. There were a group of people from Italy sitting behind us and they talked all while the crew were giving us instructions and explanations on the tour. The crew all handled the rudeness very well. Much better than I would have - they are to be commended.

In my son's words - "the tour was phenomenal" and I thought you should know how well your people are doing their jobs.

Linda Shymko
This tour was sold by a travel company for cruise ship passengers called Shore Trips. The real name of the tour is the Xtreme Circumnav (round the island). Check the video of the tour here:

Monday, February 01, 2010

whale tale

The night before was silent and starry after I left the Haiti fundraiser, and along Fig Tree Drive after midnight I knew that the next day's adventure would be memorable. We hadn't really planned a big outing, but a trip over to Barbuda was going to be a must. It had simply been too long, and when you have a sunday without any wind Barbuda seems so much closer. Of course 26 miles isn't that far, but the shallow shelf between the sister islands can provide some awefully choppy seas when it's windy. When I got to Curtain Bluff the stars reflected on the still water and lights were visible from Montserrat. Stunnning! I was exhausted after serving drinks for the past six hours but still excited about the prospects that were waiting for me in the morning.
I woke early and looked out the window. Ocean Nomad didn't move at all on the dock below and the water looked like it had turned to ice. Not a single ripple moved anywhere. I sent out a few texts to people I thought would be awake and might want to join us on a Barbuda trip, and quickly had a few replies. Within two hours we were leaving Jolly Harbour and on our way to Palmetto Point. As we passed the hotels on the west coast, I told everyone to keep an eye out for whales. I said it was early in the season, but very possible to see them in these conditions. We didn't see a thing on the way over until about a mile off when all of a sudden we spotted dolphins off our starboard side. These guys didn't want to hang out with us and only briefly showed themselves before going deep. Just after we got to the point we saw another pod of dolphins, but again they were not excited about seeing us. Usually a Barbuda trip involves plenty of snorkeling, beachcombing and other active sort of things, but as soon as the anchor was dropped into the sand below, a  bottle of wine opened up and I knew this trip would be more of a relaxing one. We had a swim enjoying the pelicans that were doing spectacular dives into bait fish nearby. After a few drinks and a bit of time to enjoy the beauty of the long beach we then decided to head up to Spanish Point. Just after leaving anchor I noticed something black break the surface of the water about two miles to the west. I told Roddy that it could only be one thing. Whales! Enjoy his video: