My time in the Caribbean: Martinique

Travel

Welcome to my second installment of my mini blog series of ‘My time in the Caribbean’, this time I’m going to be talking about one of the French islands in the Lesser Antilles. Now, to be honest when my boyfriend and I were planning our travels, Martinique was not on our very small list of islands that we wanted to go to basically because we didn’t even know it existed (bad I know). But when it came to booking flights to and from the islands, the airline (we flew with Liat) had very set routes on how to get to certain islands, for example to get to Barbados you have to fly there via Martinique. So to save time and some money we decided to book our flights according to where the airline would have to go via…if that makes sense…anyway that’s how we ended up on this beautiful island.

View from the walk to the beach.

Out of all the islands that I’ve visited in the Caribbean, Martinique was weirdly the one that felt most like home. It was just so European, I remember getting out of the airport and it felt like I was in France, and I know it’s a French territory in the Caribbean so some people might say ‘Well what do you expect?’ But Montserrat is a British territory and that is like nowhere in Britain- believe me! It was just so refreshing. And for me, such a nice way to feel, landing somewhere that feels so close to home. Now, I don’t speak French, I’ve done so many years off it, all the way through to college when I sadly failed my first year (yes I got a U) so surprisingly I’m still not good. I’ve always loved the language, so I thought staying in a French speaking country for 5 weeks, my French must improve! Right? Kinda. Anyway, having the language barrier just added another challenge to our stay and I loved it.

The Air B&B we had was sooooo cute. A little studio apartment with a sea view, 5 minute walk from the beach. It was the sweetest little place, modern, quirky with plenty of living space for a couple. Check it out : Our little studio flat. Couldn’t ask for more really. The beach we were next too was called Anse Mitan, it was beautiful, clear waters, white sand and a lovely view of all the boats and the coastline. We were on quite a restricted budget, as this is the island we stayed on the longest and also the most expensive, so a lovely cheap day for us is spending it on the beach and grabbing a cheeky drink in the afternoon. Our favourite beach bar was called ‘Ti Taurus’ and be honest we discovered this place after using TripAdvisor to find the cheapest places to eat near to you. But it became so much more than that, the people were lovely (and spoke some English), great drink and food selection, anything from your classic burgers to local seafood and fish, and an amazing view of the ocean. So as you can probably guess we were there quiet a lot. My drink of choice while in Martinique was Desperado Red. Oh my gosh, x100 better than the original desperado for sure. If you see it somewhere, get it, you won’t regret it!

Our time in Martinique was incredibly chilled and to be honest you could say we were even pretty lazy, but that’s what you do when you’re on holiday right?! We spent most of our money there on drinks and going out for food- that’s just what we like to do! A few times we got exploring by catching the ferry over to Fort-de France and spending the day there. Fort-de France is the main city in Martinique so there were definitely a lot more city vibes going on, and a great place to be a tourist. Lots of shops, restaurants and attractions, and if you’re like us on a more strict budget, check out the museum (Musee Departemental de la Martinique), free entry and loads of interesting history about Martinique and the Caribbean islands in general (they had English translations obviously, but to be honest worth a visit just for the visuals). I’m not the biggest history person but even I found it really interesting- so definitely worth a visit. There is also an incredible market right in the center on the city, perfect for souvenirs, anything you can think off from Caribbean chutney, to bags, to furniture. I love markets, they are such a fun away to find individual unique things. I just wish I had the space in my bag and money in my wallet to buy things. If you go upstairs in the market, there is restaurant cafe, where we grabbed a bit of lunch on our second visit. Now if there’s one thing you can rely on in the Caribbean, it’s that the chicken is going to be the best chicken you’ve ever had! Seriously it’s always incredible, and that’s exactly what we got, curried chicken with rice, beans and plantain, delicious!!

Cutest market

I hope this gives you a little insight to the time I had in Martinique, I really loved my stay there. Well done if you’ve made it this far as I’ve rambled quite a lot!

Thank you so much for reading x

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Let’s talk about Turtles!

Travel

Bit more of a factual, conservation post for you today as I think it’s a really important subject that I’ve found certain inspiration for recently. Sea turtles are my favourite animals and always have been. They are such peaceful, gentle and intelligent animals and they need saving so they can save our oceans. There are 7 extant species of sea turtle and each one plays an important role in maintaining the diversity, habitat and functionality of it’s environment. Whether that’s grazing on sea grass, controlling sponge distribution, feasting on jellyfish, transporting nutrients or supporting other marine life. They are so important!

Green Turtle (Photo credit : National Geographic Kids)

All sea turtles are currently endangered which is such a scary thing. There are so many reasons why sea turtles are being threatened: natural threats, human threats, illegal sea turtle shell trade, commercial fishing, marine debris, artificial lighting….I could go on. Sadly, only an estimated one in 1,000 to 10,000 will survive to adulthood. One of the threats I have personally experienced is the recent hurricanes of Irma and Maria. They were so devastating for so many beaches and turtle nests. Going down to our local beach after the hurricanes, and where you normally see sandy tracks and carved out turtle nests, it has been replaced with tonnes of wood and debris from the ocean, all of the nests and eggs were gone- it was so heartbreaking.

Lime Kiln Bay (LKB) after Hurricane Irma

LKB: This used to be a sandy beach with turtle tracks and nests all over it.

So…what can we do?!?

Seeing sea turtles in their natural habitat is the best thing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve watched them nesting on a beach in Montserrat (I saw a green turtle and a hawksbill) and it was so special. If you go down to a turtle nesting beach at night, there are ways to help protect the nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings:

Keep your distance! If you get too close, you may scare them and they won’t want to nest.

• Use red LED flashlights on the beach at night, turn the brightness down on your phone- don’t take flash photos!

• Fill in holes that people have made in the sand during the day, so the sea turtles don’t fall into them and get stuck.

• Check the beach and correctly dispose of fishing line or anything that sea turtles and any other animals can get stuck in.

• It is illegal to harm, harass or take sea turtles, their eggs and hatchlings, including getting too close to a nesting female.

There are so many other things you can do from your home town no matter how far you are from the ocean. For example we all know plastic bags do not biodegrade. But we need to do more, currently less than 5% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide! Plastic bags that end up in the ocean get mistaken for food (such as jellyfish) by marine life including turtles and they ingest it. This causes blockages in their digestive system and eventually death. By reusing plastic bags or recycling them properly it could make a huge difference.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!

• Use reusable cloth bags when shopping instead of plastic ones.

• Don’t Litter

• Don’t release balloons into the air. They can travel very far and end up in the ocean, that turtles can mistake for food and ingest.

Green Turtle at Worthing Beach, Christ Church, Barbados

To finish on a happy note, yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of being able to swim with these magnificent creatures. I am currently staying on the West Coast of Barbados, so finding sea turtles isn’t that hard. I went for a snorkel on Worthing beach and there they were, peacefully grazing on the sandy ocean floor, in a pretty shallow area. It was amaaaazinggggg. I took some photos and videos, but at all times keeping my distance, respecting them and not touching them!! I strongly believe the current conservation work that is being done with the sea turtles is really making a difference but everyone can do their bit by respecting the turtles and just letting them be.

(I know my photos ain’t the clearest but for an iPhone in a waterproof baggy, I think it did pretty well. I am forever kicking myself I didn’t invest in a good waterproof camera before I went travelling, c’mon Hannah think!)

S A V E~T H E~T U R T L E S

Thanks for reading!

C L E A R your mind: How To Destress

Lifestyle

Super quick post for you today, I was at the beach today and it was so relaxing so I got thinking about the best ways to destress so I’ve put together my top tips of what I think really helps when you’re stressed.

1) RE-EVALUATE: With me, I always just like to think about the situation I’m stressed about first to check it’s even worth getting worked up about. I’m sometimes getting stressed over nothing and all it took to realise this was to just have a little think about it.

2) TALK TO A FRIEND: When you feel that you’ve got a stressful situation, it is always better to talk to someone about it, that way you get a second perspective from an outside observer and it gets it off your chest and out in the open.

3) DISTRACT YOURSELF: For me, one of the worst things you can do if you’ve got something stressful going on, is consistently worry and think about it again and again and again, it doesn’t help your mindset and perspective on the situation. So go out, get some fresh air and do something that you know will take your mind off it. Whether that’s a stroll through the park, grabbing a coffee, having a bath or even a bit of retail therapy!

4) GO TO THE SEA: This one only works if you live on the coast (obviously), the ocean is sooooo relaxing, the sound of the waves is so peaceful and to be honest even watching the waves can be so tranquil. If you live near the sea, make the most of it and destress by the ocean. I mean, who has ever been stressed while on a beach! Not me! Alternatively, there are so many apps now that have a lot of relaxing sounds and mini meditation guides, they can work just as well and that way you can destress on the move. Just taking a bit of time out of your day to clear your head. Check out: Headspace, Calm and Relax Melodies.

5) THINK POSITIVELY: This is the main one for me, everyone goes through stressful situations and you always come out the other side. You just have to try and remember that it’s not forever so not to worry to much (definitely easier said than done I’m a massive worrier!!).

I hope this was a little helpful. Thanks for reading and take it easy!

My packing extras: make the most of your trip!

Travel

I have always loved the idea of travelling to new places even from when I was really little, as soon as I was old enough to head off into the world I did! My first major trip without my folks being my month away interailing when I was 18. Since then I’ve done a few different trips and from each trip I’ve learnt different packing tips and tricks that have helped me make the most of my experience! Here is a little insight to what I ALWAYS take with me whenever I go somewhere.

 

Write it down!

I’ll start with one of the most obvious things, that I know a lot of people have already but I’ll still give it a mention: a travel journal! I first got mine years ago, it’s been all around Europe with me, to Canada and now to the Caribbean. I’m so happy I invested in one years ago as it’s really helped me document my experiences and how exactly I was feeling at the time. When I’m away I don’t write in it everyday, for me the best way is to write when you’ve had a particular special day, or you’ve done something new, met new people or even if you’ve had a terrible day, writing about it might help you get it out your mind and start fresh. You might feel silly at first (I know I did!) because writing what you’re feeling can sometimes be cringy and embarrassing but really you’re the only person that is going to see it so really it doesn’t matter. I was having a little glance back at mine and I’m so happy I kept it up on my trips because it bought back so many memories, stuff I’d forgotten and I even had a little chuckle to myself (I’m pretty lame sometimes). You won’t regret it!

Another quick reason why having a journal is great is to document your finances, I know this sounds suuuuper boring, but I think it’s essential especially if you’re on an extended trip. When you’ve got no money coming in, the best way to keep on top of it is just to write down what you spend everyday. I even set myself a rough budget for each week/month (miss cool over here) just to stay on track- easy peasy!

Home comforts

You can take the girl out of Yorkshire…

When I’m travelling, it doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, at some point I’m going to get a little homesick. It just happens, so when I’m ever feeling super down and maybe even lonely I find home comforts are such an important thing for helping me get over this little drought. One of the main things that reminds me of being at home in York is good ol’ Yorkshire tea. So I always pack plenty of teabags with me when I go somewhere, that way if you’re feeling a bit empty and low all you’ve gotta do is put the kettle on!

Keep moving!

For me travel is just a big old holiday and what does everyone do when they’re on holiday… Indulge. Calories is not a word when you’re on holiday right! You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want without that guilt!! Which for a 2 week trip is perfect, you can really let yourself go and enjoy going out but when you’re on a longer trip say 6 months, if you indulged like you do on a little trip on a big scale, you’re going to be packing on the pounds which is not goooood. I love fitness when I’m home so I always travel with resistance bands. I’m a massive fan of home workouts and there is such a variety out there that it’s so easy to find one that suits you, adding resistance bands just adds more of a challenge. I don’t stick to any particular workout schedule when I’m away, I just try to take advantage of the environment I’m in and do little workouts when I can. This way when I get back to the UK I’m not starting from square one with my fitness game.

Take your workout to the beach!

Stay clean!

The last one isn’t the most exciting but in definitely very practical! Depending on where you’re staying when you’re away you don’t necessarily always know what you’re washing situation is going to be. Air B&B’s don’t always specify and if they do sometimes it isn’t what you expected, so just to make sure you’re not caught off guard without a way off being able to wash your clothes I always a pack a little tube of travel wash. It’s basically a washing gel you can use hand washing or with machines. The one I got cost me £1.50 from my local hardware store. If you can’t get that, even packing actual washing powder is fine, there’s no major expense I always just think it’s better to be safe (and clean!) than being sorry (and smelly!).

 

 

Thanks for reading and happy travelling!

My time in the Caribbean : Montserrat

Travel

Wow it feels so weird to be writing a blogpost again, I’ve had a pretty intense year since I last blogged so I needed to take a break from it and spend time with the people that are closest to me, but I’m so happy to be back and with so much more to share! I’m actually writing this on my phone from the comfort of my Air B&B in Barbados, I just couldn’t wait to return to the UK to share stuff about my trip. The first sector off what I’m going to call a ‘blog series’ is going to be about my time in the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean – Montserrat!

When I told people I was going to Montserrat people thought I meant the mountain range in Spain, which to be honest is only fair as I had noooo idea where it was when until my friend recommended it to me. My boyfriend is a wildlife conservationist so he was looking for work in this field, while myself, I don’t have any experience in this area but I’ve always wanted to volunteer on a similar project. We found this organisation ‘Coral Cay Conservation‘ that did amazing work helping endangered coral reefs and tropical forests. They had a site over in Montserrat so my boyfriend applied for a job as a Science Officer and got it! It was such great news as we finally had a starting place for our travels! I joined him out there a few months after he arrived in May as a volunteer.

Views from my room

I don’t even know where to start when describing Montserrat. I’ve never been to any place like it. The whole island only has a population of 5,000 people so as you can probably guess there is a huge sense of community. Everyone was so friendly and trusting, there is (basically) no crime what so ever and everyone knows everyone. Montserrat is a mountainous island with an active volcano…yes meaning it could have erupted at any time, which was so scary to me at first but more I learnt about the volcano and the way they track and monitor it, I pretty much forgot it was even active, in fact if anything it made it more exciting.

Me showing my excitement for the volcano

Me being excited about seeing the volcano

Being a part of the conservation project meant I got to contribute to monitoring 30 different species of bird and 12 herptiles that lived on the island. Learning all these different animals was SO fascinating, I mean I’ve always loved animals but I never thought I would love bird spotting. It has quickly become a major interest of mine, everywhere we go now I’m pointing out birds and identifying what species it is from our book (yes we have bird book) and I love it!

Everyday on the project would consist of going on a trail in the morning then usually a shorebird survey in the afternoon. The trails were amazing, you really got to explore the depths of Montserrat’s tropical forests, it definitely was a challenge. Hiking in such extreme temperatures on top off the humidity is a real test, but ever so rewarding. One trail, called ‘Rendezvous’, ended in a beautiful white sand beach which you would have had no idea was there, so secluded and tranquil. Although this trail was a tough hike as it wasn’t the most covered from the sun and it took you straight over a cliff ridge, so it was fairly steep, it immediately became my favourite trail. Rendezvous Beach

Rendezvous Beach

Other trails were a lot more wooded, I’ve never seen forests like it, very Tarzan-esc with dozens of vines and roots of trees taller than 2 of you. These kind of trails were always more humid, as there is less of a breeze. Something I have learnt from doing all these treks is not to be embarrassed by sweat. I have never sweated so much in my life and you just learn to get on with it, my entire body just dripping, even in places I didn’t even know could sweat- just happens! So no more embarrassing sweat patches when I’m back in the UK as it’s nothing compared to this. On a less gross note, the ‘Oriole Trail’ was another one of my favourites, aptly named after the ‘Montserrat Oriole’ which is the national bird of the island. It’s a beautiful uphill hike to the top then a nice decline to the end. This trail also ended at a coffee shop which sold the MOST delicious chocolate milkshake! Not the most important reason to do the trail but I’ll tell you now after sweating and hiking like that, an ice cold milkshake is just what you need!

Montserrat Oriole (male)

Montserrat Oriole (male)

Views from the top of Oriole trail

Views from the top of Oriole Trail

So from Monday- Saturday our days were filled up with treks, surveys, daily chores and activities but as soon as the clock struck 6pm on Saturday it became ‘Beer O’clock’! Making sure all the science is taken care off we were free to spend our Saturday night as we please, whether it’s going out and having a night in with a few drinks. On the first Saturday I was there, we all decided to go out, I was so excited! I always think experiencing a place a night you really get to see a different side of the culture and meet new people. The first bar we went too, you wouldn’t even recognise it as a bar back home. It was a bright blue and green painted hut with dance hall music blasting out of an outside speaker with the owner sat on a plastic chair next to it. All along the back inside is the bar with a TV screen on your left where you can play FIFA on PlayStation. When you order a drink it was a completely unique thing again! It’s never happened to me before where you order a gin and tonic, for example, and in front of you they put the bottle of gin, a can of tonic, a full ice cube tray and a plastic cup- basically make your own! No measurements or limits and you pay the same price. Bartending is my trade back home so I think this so strange, but definitely not going to complain.

I could ramble on telling you about every experience I had in Montserrat but I highly doubt anyone reading will make it any further (if you’ve made it this far thank you). Overall I would recommend going to Montserrat if you’re are already in the Caribbean for a few days. There is not loads to do but definitely pop over if you are close. Hike! Swim! Snorkel! Dive! Also some beautiful sunsets (seriously I’ve never seen any like it). Being able to spend 2 months there working as a volunteer was truly an honour.

Sunset the night before Irma hit

Sunset the night before Irma hit

Thank you for reading.