Furry, Feathered, 4-Legged, No-Legged Citizens of Barbados: Part 1

April 22, 2017

My young explorers

This Easter break I wanted to take my godchildren sightseeing and after receiving some parental advice, decided on the Barbados Wildlife Reserve for the first excursion. Apart from the reserve’s neat set-up and the peaceful environment, admission also gets you into the Grenade Hall Forest and Signal Station right next door. Two for the price of one always wins in my economy! So, curiosity in hand, we whizzed up the highway into the hinterland of St. Peter on Barbados‘ west coast. After a wrong turn ushered us through some shady, twisting country roads, we finally found our way to the reserve.

The three year old was very intrigued by the tortoises

It was a hot day, so the umbrella of tall mahogany trees covering the reserve was very welcome. Here, most of the animals are free to walk about as they please — you simply follow the brown brick trail (these bricks are from 17th and 18th century sugar factories!) and view the animals going about their daily business. Our first marvel was a peacock that had just fanned out its blue and green silvery feathers; I barely had time to get out the camera before noticing a dull brown tortoise inching its way across our path. A slight rustling next to us turned our heads yet again; the brown and white-speckled deer almost camouflaged against the bush froze behind big dark eyes anticipating our next move.

We passed a cage dotted everywhere with slumbering puffs of white which turned out to be the fattest, fluffiest rabbits I’ve ever seen. Another noise followed by silence in a nearby bush drew our attention to a curious creature called a mara. We had to silently crouch down to discover that it looked like a cross between a rabbit and a deer! Just around the corner, feeding time had already begun in an open area of the reserve and all the free-roaming animals were convening for the daily communal meal of cucumbers, squash, and sweet potatoes.


It was a quiet frenzy of munching and picking as deer, green monkeys, turtles, and birds descended on the sun-flecked meal of orange, green, and purple. Further along the trail, we wandered into the bird and reptile sanctuary. We squirmed past reticulated pythons heaped lifelessly on giant banana leaves and pierced our ears through the shrieking of flaming red parrots before catching iguanas frozen in statuesque poses in the scorching sun.

My young explorers and I had a great time discovering these non-human citizens of Barbados which come from Trinidad, Guyana, Cuba, India, and the UK. Of particular interest were the green monkeys, which leave the reserve during the day (sometimes for the neighbouring Grenade Hall Forest) and return at feeding time or in the evening. They are considered pests throughout the island but with the reserve form part of a project of the Barbados Primate Research Centre, which finds positive uses for this natural resource.  Presently, green monkey cells are used in the production of polio vaccines.


Grenade Hall Forest cave

After a quick top-up at the snack shop, we ventured next door to the Grenade Hall Forest and its restored signal station. Here too is a self-guided trail through thick forest that was once a dump site. Walking along the shady path and catching frequent flashes of green monkeys in the adjacent greenery, we would stop every so often at humorous signs bearing information about a particular tree or plant. Intrigued by signs indicating a cave, we soon found ourselves crouching and crackling leaves underfoot in a little hollowed-out site that may have been inhabited by Rastafarians or escaped convicts; another dark cavern we stumbled upon presented a sign telling us we might meet some resident bats — we quickly hightailed it out of that one!

Inside the signal station

View from the signal station







Our final stop before emerging from the forest was the Grenade Hall Signal Station, one of six stations erected in the 1800’s as an early form of communication. Standing tall and proud like a lonely, pale-coloured beacon shrouded in the forest’s foliage, the station offers panoramic views of the island that enabled signallers to warn of slave rebellions and approaching ships. We made sure to look through every single window and stretch our view to the distant hazy blue of coastal waters. Descending the wooden steps and then making our way out of the forest into the afternoon sun, our tired footsteps mingled with the sounds of birds chirping overhead and monkeys wrestling each other on the nearby branches. We piled into the car and turned into the setting sun, appreciating one last time these newly discovered sights and sounds of the island’s charm.


Tags: , ,