When we sailed along Trinidad's east coast last November, we sailed far offshore because of 1) the great number of oil platforms and associated ship traffic and 2) pirate warnings. We saw oil platforms and ships in the distance and luckily no pirates. We had heard, however, that the east coast was more remote and thus less traveled. For our land tour, this appealed to our “off the beaten track” attitude, so we booked in at one of the only resorts in the area for a couple of nights. Well, the hotel sucked, but the northeast area lived up to its wild reputation.
I won't go into too much detail on the Salybia Nature Resort other than to say, we got tired of complaining. Some of this can be chocked up to first world expectations in a third world country, but most of it was sheer negligence. In all fairness, the grounds were lovely and the pool was clean with a waterfall that worked intermittently. Most importantly, there was a swim-up bar which helped us forget how miserable the room was. The room was indeed awful … musty and ill-kept with lots of things broken or non-functioning, paint peeling and stained bathroom fixtures. A very tacky 3D picture of a lion and cub adorned the walls. The staff ranged from okay to marginal to surly. Hospitality was definitely not in their vocabulary. We never figured out why it was considered a “nature” resort because it certainly wasn't. Enough said.
It was the beginning of the leatherback turtle egg-laying season on this coast. Only night visits to the beach with permits and guides are allowed. We tried unsuccessfully to make reservations while at our hotel. We drove to the nearby Matura Beach to see what we could see ... which turned out to be absolutely nothing. The tourism infrastructure on this side of the island is minimal. Phone numbers and contact information are out of date and we were at a loss as to how to arrange for the tour and permit.
The coast in this area is rocky with big Atlantic swells crashing on the craggy shore. We drove up to Toco on the extreme northeast tip of the island to take a look at the Galera Point Lighthouse. Built in 1897, the actual lighthouse, surrounded by a small park and picnic area , was not accessible to tourists, but we'd seen it do its job when we passed by sea last autumn.
A couple of local cops were on the scene and we chatted with them amicably. They proudly pointed out that this was the point where the Atlantic Ocean met the Caribbean Sea.
They recommended the nearby Toco Beach for a dip. We beachcombed for awhile, collecting sea glass and interesting colored stones, but no shells were found.
We made our way further east along the rough route to Gran Riviere which is considered a key turtle-watching spot. Once again, narrow roads, potholes and fast drivers made for an interesting ride. We crossed several single vehicle, plank bridges and held our collective breaths as the planks strained and creaked under our weight.
Once in Gran Riviere, we found the permit office closed with no contact information available. A long trip for nothing. We asked around, but the few people we saw were unable to offer any information. We offset our disappointment with a cold beer and a light lunch at the small, but pleasant, Acajou Restaurant.
Once again, we retraced our route and ended up back at the hotel. Though the room was the pits, the pool was lovely. Previously it was crowded with daytrippers, not a lounge nor beach chair to be found. Today, however, it was nearly empty and we lounged and cooled off and swam up to the bar for pina coladas. Yum! We played cards and hung out till dinner. Dinner was ordinary with entertainment by Sir Natra, a Frank Sinatra lounge singer. I Did It My Way ... with a calypso flair.
The clock was ticking. We needed to head back to the west coast, regretfully without having seen the leatherbacks. Maybe next time. We're off to see the scarlet ibis of the Caroni Swamp tomorrow. Come on along.