At the time of writing this blog, Bermuda has moved into phase 3. More businesses are opening and much more freedom for residents. Woohoo! However, a free for all is what it’s not. We must continue to social distance, wear face masks and wash our hands frequently. In phase 3, grocery days still exist based on surnames and a limited number of persons are allowed in stores.
Achieving phase 3 has encouraged me to get out and venture more. Also, at the time of writing this blog, the country has been put on notice that when we enter phase 4 on 1 July, our borders will re-open to commercial flights and visitors. Flights will be coming to the island from Atlanta, Toronto and London. Bermuda has done an amazing job of managing the Covid crisis. There are now three remaining active Covid cases on the island that are all recovering. With the opening of the airport, many residents are anxious about what will happen next, but the Government has laid out stringent testing protocols to prevent any further outbreaks of Covid in Bermuda. See our protocols for travellers set by the Bermuda Government here. For me, I can see both sides of the issue of reopening. Not re-opening could lead to an economic collapse that the island would never recover from. As a 21 square foot isolated island, and our closest neighbour located about 700 miles away, air travel is essential to our economy. On the other side of the coin, I also understand how others are feeling about re-opening to visitors especially since the pandemic is still spiking in the US, where most of our visitors would be arriving from. As we know the contagious nature of the virus, the concern is legitimate. Our Government has done a remarkable job so far so I am confident that they have the safety of the Bermuda community as a top priority.
My mission to support locals and MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises)
Throughout this pandemic, ensuring our dollars stay on the island by buying local has never been more critical. Although our borders will reopen in phase 4, it will be a while until the number of visitors returns to what Bermuda has become accustomed to. Supporting local tourism businesses will be key to their survival. I have a feeling it may not be too difficult for locals to support this sector as Bermuda is a great place to have a staycation!
As part of my mission to support small tourism businesses, I took the opportunity to venture to the west end of the island. I had travelled to the west end multiple times and had always admired the coastline for its small islands and secluded beaches. I took that admiration a step further by booking myself a self-guided kayak experience with a small watersports business to explore these quaint coastlines and beaches. I also invited another travel lover to come along for the kayak experience as she had never kayaked before. She was reluctant at first but now, will not hesitate to tell you that the experience inspired her to move outside of her comfort zone. She enjoyed it so much that she has plans to go kayaking again and has even invited others. I love the way sustainable travel can have a domino effect.
Travelling Amidst Covid – Travel Projections on Reopening the Borders
On the topic of sustainable travel and tourism, there have been many predictions of what travel will look like when it returns. The majority have predicted that slow travel will make a resurgence as travellers will take fewer trips, but will stay longer in destinations. Obviously, the economic benefits for the destination will be huge if travellers decide to travel in this way. However, the traveller also wins with slow travel. Travellers will have the opportunity to have more immersive and authentic experiences and by travelling less, their carbon footprint will be reduced. See our information about slow travel here and why slow travel is a sustainable way to travel.
Other predictions have included the demand for more outside activities or off the beaten path experiences, for obvious reasons, as people want to spend time outside after lockdown and these activities allow social distancing.
All these predictions are great news for sustainable travel advocates, like myself, who would like to see travel and tourism reimagined and reinvented to be more sustainable – travel that minimises any carbon footprint and has a positive impact on the local communities and economies.
Predictions have also pointed towards a return to local travel. Although international borders are re-opening, there is a chance that it will be a while before travel returns to normal. If you’re not ready to travel yet, why not explore at home? Support small businesses and locals and be inspired by exploring at home.
This takes me to my experience of travelling in my home island. Armed with my mission to support local tourism businesses and as an advocate for sustainable travel, I was happy to take a kayaking tour with a small business. Originating from the east end of the island, I had to get directions to find the watersports business (don’t judge me). I can now say that I can navigate a lot better in the west end of the island.
Before even entering the premises of the business, we were met with signage about their Covid-19 safety protocols. Health and Safety are paramount as businesses re-open. What is not often well-known is that the concept of sustainability also encompasses health and safety. As I entered, (masked-up, of course) I was met by one of the owners, Jamie who gave us a friendly welcome. He and his wife Nadja is the team behind the business. Leading up to the day, they were incredibly helpful and accommodating and, on the day, gave superb service. The business has an array of watersports tours and rentals to choose from, including sailboats, paddleboards, Boston Whalers, Jet Skis, snorkelling gear and fishing.
Jamie had two single kayaks prepared and set up for us to use. There were also doubles available, but we opted for a kayak each. As a self-guided tour, to make it easy for us, he made some great recommendations by visually pointing out places and showing us on a map which spots to visit during our tour. Each kayak had self-contained storage space at the front of the kayak, useful for storing personal belongings or whatever you wanted to take with you. A life vest was given to each of us for our safety. We were told that due to the low tide, we would see fewer turtles than normal. After being provided with safety instructions, we set off across the bay towards one of the secluded beaches. When we arrived, it felt like our own little piece of paradise.
We then opted to go in the direction of Daniel’s Head. When Jamie said it was low tide, he wasn’t kidding. After leaving the secluded beach, there were a few sandbanks we had to walk over before reaching the ocean. As we kayaked along the coastline towards Daniels Head, we started to notice large figures swimming in the water all around us. At one moment, just to the left of me, I heard a splash and when I looked to see what it was, I made eye contact with a pair of eyes looking back at me. I think the turtle was more startled than I was as he dipped back in the water and swan away swiftly. Turtles are shy creatures, but they are unassumingly very fast. I couldn’t help but laugh. I didn’t mean to startle it, but when we made eye contact, it took off like a bullet. That was one encounter with a turtle I will always remember!
As we approached Daniel’s Head, the remains of the former Eco-resort “9 Beaches” became visible. 9 Beaches was Bermuda’s first and only eco-friendly resort. Developed in 2005, the 18-acre resort consisted of 84 cabanas, but for a number of reasons closed in 2010. Today it stands as a ghost town. I think the concept was good, but it is unfortunate the development was not successful as Bermuda is in need of more eco-friendly options. It is also tragic that it has been left in the state it has at such a beautiful location.
We were told about the HMS Vixen, a shipwreck located off the tip of Daniel’s Head, and the multitude of fish to be found there. The Vixen is a shipwreck located about 1500 feet off Daniel’s Head. It is very popular with tour boats and jet skis so probably not a great place to snorkel. We didn’t get a chance to go to the shipwreck due to time, but would recommend it for a chance to see fish up and close. So long as it’s not too many motorised tour boats in the area.
As it was my friend’s first time kayaking, after hearing her thoughts on her overall experience, I can recommend kayaking for all levels, including beginners. There is no need to be a seasoned kayaker. Although we kayaked for about 1½ hours, it wasn’t strenuous for either of us. Honestly, we could have kayaked for much longer. My advice would be to book a minimum 3-hour kayak experience, with an early morning or mid-day start. Being up and close to the water and wildlife was breathtaking. Even though I didn’t get a chance to use my snorkel gear, (again time constraints) there were so many opportunities to stop and snorkel along the way.
Keeping it Local
It must be obvious by now that I support small local businesses and this business was no exception. Owned by a local husband and wife team, the business has been in existence since 1995. The family has deep roots in Somerset and employs all local staff. Their longest-serving employee has been with them for 25 years. All staff members must be very familiar with Bermuda’s local marine environment.
Kayaking is naturally a sustainable activity. With no carbon emissions, it is a zero-impact activity. Not only is good for the environment, but it’s also good for you.
The business is a strong advocate of keeping Bermuda’s shorelines clean, in what is an ongoing process as most of the plastic in Bermuda’s waters originate outside of Bermuda, even as far away as North Africa. In fact, plastic in the Atlantic Ocean has tripled since the 1960s. This is bad news for countries in the Atlantic Ocean, the health of our ocean, and the marine life that consume plastic, confusing it for food.
As slow travel makes a comeback, kayaking is a great way to take advantage of this travel style. Enjoy exploring at a slower pace. After being on lockdown for a while, you will have a far greater appreciation for nature and enjoying being outside. Enjoy the journey of exploring. Why not take the whole journey into consideration by reducing your carbon footprint overall?
Sustainable Travel Begins at Home
There’s no place to begin travelling sustainably than at home. Sustainability is about taking small steps that will eventually become habitual. Get out and explore and try something new. I guarantee you will be surprised at how much exploring at home will inspire you. See information here on how to change the world through travel and how it begins at home.
Plan your adventure with us. Travels & Paddles specialises in travel that will inspire confidence in you to try new things. As an avid traveller myself, I know the joys of exploring and adventuring outside of what I thought was possible. By working with us, you will be encouraged and supported to embrace new adventures that will challenge you just enough. I can guarantee you that you will love that you challenged yourself and won’t be sorry you tried something new!