Rescuing Aruba’s reefs
Mirissa De Four
The first weekend in July usually signals the beginning of school vacation, beach visits and fun in the sun. But for Castro Perez, public relations executive and eco-tourism manager at the Aruba Tourism Authority, it’s time for work, on the Aruba Reef Care Project.
As a scuba diver, Perez recognised the importance of Aruba’s marine environment and the role it plays in attracting 40,000 divers to the country every year, so he decided to do something to raise awareness. The project is now in its sixteenth consecutive year and is his personal initiative, with the full support of the authority.
In an e-mail interview, Perez said that last year almost the entire coast of Aruba, from the California lighthouse to Baby Beach, was cleaned by over 800 volunteers, ranging in age from four to 80. It’s a two-day undertaking, and volunteers work from 8 am till noon each day, cleaning not just Aruba’s beaches but the reefs that surround them. The collected waste (over four tons in 2008) is then transported to the national garbage disposal facility, with cans and glass separated for recycling.
The project is not limited to beach and reef cleanups, but includes an awareness campaign to protect and preserve the island’s marine environment, with year-round presentations to primary and high schools, the University of Aruba, hotels and service clubs. Recycling is promoted and schools are encouraged to come up with recycling ideas.
One of the long-term goals of the project is to create a marine park system, which will regulate where divers go and monitor the status of the reef, while pinpointing areas that need urgent attention.
For more information: contact Castro Perez at (297) 582-3777 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A high wind in Aruba
One of the highlights of a vacation or even a business trip to the Caribbean is the opportunity to spend some time in the tropical sun and enjoy the beaches. A good place to do that is Aruba Hi-Winds, a windsurfing competition scheduled for July 1 – 6.
Started in 1986 by Antony Blok, Ruben Croes and Jan van Nes, Hi-Winds was included on the Professional Boardsailing Association’s World Tour in 1988 (where it has remained up to this day, either as a pre-selection or a Grand Prix competition). Since then it has evolved into one of the premier windsurfing events in the world. Held on Eagle Beach in the early days, in 1996 it was moved to Fisherman’s Huts, Malmok, considered the best windsurfing spot in Aruba, as well as offering spectators a great view.
Co-ordinator Charles Meijer, who works full-time on this event, says the financial assistance provided by the Aruban government allowed Hi-Winds to invite the best professional windsurfers to compete. When, in 1997, the government had to reduce that support, the organising committee set out to make Hi-Winds a top amateur event, adding freestyle windsurfing and kite surfing to the line-up.
About 130 competitors take part. There are slalom races for all categories, including children, with the long-distance racing and freestyle competition taking place over the weekend. Meijer said many overseas surfers turn Hi-Winds into a family affair, bringing their children with them to give support and visit Aruba.
From juice to jewellery
Fruit is the flavour of the month – July, that is – at Nevis’s annual Fruit Festival.
Started by the island’s Department of Agriculture, the festival began in 2006. It’s an all-day expo/market in the grounds of the Villa in Charlestown, the island’s capital, where visitors can sample food and drinks made from a variety of fruits grown on Nevis.
Every year a “focus fruit” is chosen and features in a recipe booklet. Last year the jackfruit was chosen, but this year it could be anything else, from carambola to coconut.
“We decide when to have the festival, and what the focus fruit will be, depending on the availability of fruits between June and July,” explained Keith Ley Amory of the Department of Agriculture. “In light of the world economic crisis, the participation of the agro-processors is crucial, but we also invite all the farmers, and just people who grow a lot of fruit and want to participate.”
The department has worked toward educating people on the health benefits of fruit, and believes the festival has encouraged people to eat more locally grown fruit.
Growers also use the opportunity to make business connections and show off their versatility: they don’t limit their wares to jams and jellies, but also produce soaps and jewellery using their fresh produce.
“It has been growing every year, with participants and visitors,” said Ley Amory. “Tourists have also shown an interest, as they can have all the fresh fruit they could possibly want, and they might even get introduced to something they have never seen before.”
For more information: www.nevis1.com/nevis-event-calendar.html, or call the Nevis Department of Agriculture: (869) 469-5603 or (869) 469-7302
Pick of the Crop Over
It started as a celebration to mark the end of the sugar cane harvest, but today Barbados’ Crop Over is one of the most anticipated festivals in the Caribbean. Crop Over today generates international soca hits, produces acclaimed artistes and attracts hordes of revellers from other countries.
Like other carnivals, Crop Over features singing competitions such as Party Monarch, Road March monarch and Pic-O-De-Crop, where calypsonians vie for honours. The semifinals of this last event are held on the scenic east coast, with the sea as the backdrop. Other main features are Grand Kadooment Day when costumed bands parade from the National Stadium to the Spring Garden Highway, and a street market in Bridgetown that sells local arts and crafts and food.
The Crop Over opening gala, usually held in July, is the start of the festival. The last canes of the season are ceremonially delivered and the King and Queen of the Sugar Cane Crop Industry are crowned. The event also includes a parade of costumed masqueraders and decorated donkey carts, cars, trucks and bicycles.
Another highlight of Crop Over is Cohobblopot, a concert in which a potpourri of Bajan culture is displayed. Slaves, according to funbarbados.com, used the word to describe a stew with a variety of ingredients. So the show contains a variety of entertainment, such as presentations of the king and queen of the bands and performances from top local and regional acts.
For a detailed schedule of events visit: www.barbados.org/cropclnd.htm
Dominica Diving Festival
When: July 10 – 19
Where: Various venues
What: A festival aimed at educating people about scuba diving, one of Dominica’s main attractions.
For more info: www.avirtualdominica.com
Tobago Heritage Festival
When: July 11 – August 1
Where: Various communities
What: Tobago’s history and culture is showcased through food, dances, and traditions unique to each village. Special highlight is the old-time wedding in the village of Moriah.
For more info: (868) 639-4441
When: July 19 – 25
Where: Montego Bay, Jamaica
What: A popular music festival that attracts the top acts in the world alongside Jamaica’s own top performers.
For more info: www.reggaesumfest.com
St Lucia’s Carnival
When: July 20 – 21
Where: Castries, St Lucia
What: A parade of costumed bands, music trucks and calypso competitions.
For more info: www.stlucia.org
When: July 29 – August 3
Where: Pigeon Point Beach and Crown Point, Tobago
What: Jamaican dancehall star Busy Signals headlines this week of non-stop parties.
For more info: email@example.com or (868) 788-6409
35th Nevis Culturama
When: July 30 – August 4
What: Music, street jams, fashion shows, beach and house parties, boat rides, and dramatic presentations leading up to the Emancipation Day weekend.
For more info: www.nevisculturama.net
When: August 1
Where: Various venues in Trinidad and Tobago
What: A celebration commemorating the emancipation of slaves with parades, concerts, music and an Emancipation Village.
For more info: www.emancipationtt.org
When: August 10
Where: Various towns across Grenada
What: Calypso competitions, costumed parades, steelband competitions.
For more info: www.spicemasgrenada.com
Guadeloupe Festival of Women Cooks
When: August 8
What: Women prepare a sumptuous banquet in honour of St Laurent, the patron saint of those preparing food.
For more info: (590) 590-912-275