The Galibi Beaches with STINASU and Biotopic

They have a saying in Suriname "The man with the hammer is waiting for you". It refers to how you put off you exhaustion until you can afford to feel its full force. Yesterday the man with the sledgehammer came down hard on my head. I thought I had Malaria, Leishmania and everything else that the forest has to offer. Apparently I had spent the previous night, delirious with fever, moaning in protest at all the diseases that I thought were attacking my body. So I didn't make it to Devil's Island but spent my day wandering around in daze from the Doctor to the Hospital laboratories checking myself out. I am happy to report none of my fears were realised and I only had exhaustion and a spot of blood poisoning from all the bites I have been scratching!

So back to today... after two nights in French Guyana we were happy to return to Suriname. The novelty of baguettes wears off after a couple of days and we were spending money fast in the vastly over-priced province of France. Over the last couple of weeks we have covered some quite heavy stories, ones that show a less glowing side of this beautiful country. No country is without its problems and internal divisions. In travelling through Suriname our aim has been to offer all the remote communities a window to the world, and to connect from the local to the global level. Today I am happy to say that we once again begin a positive story about this fascinating place.

It concerns the small Carib community of Galibi and the large Sea-Turtle population that use the near-by beaches of Pruimenboom, Baboun Santi and Spit as their nesting sites. Galibi is home to the people that call themselves Calin'ia which literally translates as "people' or 'human beings". They are a warrior people who were displaced from Curacao and other nearby Caribbean Islands by the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in the late 15th Century. They landed and displaced the Arawaks who were living here at that time who subsequently moved inland.

The situation on which we are here to focus concerns the Caribs and the Turtles. For centuries the Caribs have taken a harvest of the Turtle eggs as a source of food for the community. In recent decades, international conservation groups have been trying to protect the nesting grounds. Over the years, after mistakes and miscommunication the conservationists and the Carib Community have found a way of working together to both protect the turtles and to help the local community. At first outsiders came in and, excluding the Caribs, tried to fence off the breeding grounds. Not surprisingly the villagers would not co-operate with the conservationists as they were not included in the projects... worse they were seen as the problem rather than as part of the solution. The community-based approach being used here is becoming common practice in Africa and other parts of the world. It acknowledges that the people who have traditionally used the (globally scarce but locally plentiful) natural resources of an area must be included in the centre of efforts to preserve these resources.

So here in Galibi and in the nearby beaches we will be once again looking at the work of STINASU. They together with the WWF and a small group of researchers called Bio-topic are now working with the Galibi villagers to help protect this; the largest breeding ground in the world for the endangered species of Sea Turtle that come here to breed. Here the giant Leatherback (up to 2 meters in length), the Green Turtle, the Hawksbill and the Warana emerge from the sea at night and clamber up the short stretch of sandy beach, their heavy bodies unaccustomed to moving with the full force of gravity. They dig a hole and lay their eggs in a nest under the sand. Their life cycle is an astounding one. After hatching and the successful negotiation of the most dangerous few minutes of their life when they make a dash for the sea under the beady eye of the circling vultures; they disappear off to sea. They go all over the place and have been tracked down to the Antarctic and up to the waters off Alaska, and have been recorded to have dived over 2km deep into the ocean's depths. Perhaps most amazing is the fact that after the first 17 years of their life they find their way back to the same breeding grounds that they themselves were born on. I guess they are working on the principle well used in nature: "If it worked for me then why not my children".

So tonight we arrived at the STINASU lodge on Baboun Santi. We met up with Karin Lachmising, the Marketing manager of the Suriname Tourism Foundation and she has filled us in on the broader picture of tourism here and the plans for future developments. What is great to hear is how conscious she is of keeping a balance between tourism and the needs of the local communities and the environment to which the tourists go visiting. Likewise when we interviewed Reggie the manager of the STINASU lodge he made it crystal clear. "First we are here to protect the turtles, then come the tourists. Because we manage both, if the tourism becomes too much then we can simply reduce the number of tourists"... a good set of priorities.

It will be great to sleep tonight with the sound of the ocean waves lapping at the shore.... Maybe I'll dream it's still the rapids! But first we're off Turtle spotting in the moonlight.


Last Remains

Galibi - A Beach at Last!

Chatting to Karin Lachmising

A Late Night Glimpse!

Leatherback Turtle

LINKS - Foundation for Nature Conservation in Suriname
LINKS - Biotopic
LINKS - Ethnology
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