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Presenter : Justine Shapiro

Eastern Caribbean

Justine Shapiro travels to the Eastern Caribbean, a 600 mile long group of islands also known as the Lesser Antilles. Most people think of the Caribbean as a luxury vacation destination The beach on the tiny island of Carriacou for the rich and famous. But as Justine discovers, the Caribbean has a unique history and fascinating culture that will captivate the independent traveller.

She begins her journey in culturally diverse Trinidad, just 6 miles off the coast of South America. In the month of March the streets of the capital, Port of Spain, come alive with revellers at one of the largest street parties on earth. The carnival was introduced by French Catholic plantation owners who used to hold masquerade balls to celebrate the last 2 days before lent. When slavery was abolished, the masqueraders took to the streets and today more than 250,000 people take part in the festivities. Justine finds herself a costume and takes the opportunity to learn the Caribbean arts of chipping and wining.

With the party over on the stroke of midnight, Justine flies north to Trinidad’s sister island,Tobago. Famous for its unspoiled beaches and crystal clear waters, Tobago was a wealthy British colony until 1962, thriving on the coconut, sugar and cocoa plantations. Justine visitsRichmond Great House, a former plantation turned guesthouse, and witnesses a local gambling institution, the Buccoo goat race.

From Tobago, Justine journeys north to the spice island of Grenada. Here, she pays a visit to the thriving St. George market, which sells all the weird and wonderful fruit, vegetables and spices grown in Grenada. She samples a regional aphrodisiac known as souse, a hearty soup made of vegetables, cow skin and pigs’ feet, before catching a local bus to Pearl’s air field. Here she sees some old Cuban planes and learns about the 1979 coup by the people’s revolutionary government, when Grenada came to the attention of the world’s media.

Justine sails 17 miles north, over an underground volcano known as ‘Cancun Jimmy’, to the tiny island of Carriacou. Just 7 miles long by 2 miles wide, Carriacou is a small island with a big culture: every year the locals compete in Shakespeare recital contests, a tradition begun 100 years ago when a plantation owner who wanted to educate his slaves introduced Shakespearean masks to the island. Carriacou is also the home of internationally celebrated Caribbean artist Canute Calliste who claims to have been inspired by a mermaid he encountered on the beach when he was a boy.

Justine journeys on to Dominica, which was named by Christopher Columbus after the Latin word for Sunday, the day in which he first sighted the island. Dominica boasts the largest Justine dresses up for the Trinidad carnivalocean rainforest in the Caribbean and Justine hikes through one of the protected nature reserves. It’s also home to the oldest woman in the world, 125 year-old Ma Pempo. Justine pays her a visit to try and discover the secret of her long life. Next day, she sets out for Champagne Reef, one of the most dramatic dive sites in the Caribbean. Dominica’s underwater landscape developed around the crater of a submerged Soufriere volcano, which attracts an incredible variety of tropical marine life including the puffa fish, angel fish, trumpet fish and parrot fish.

For the final leg of her journey, Justine returns to the north-east coast of Trinidad to witness one of the most awe-inspiring events in the natural world, the giant leatherback turtle laying her eggs on the beach. Weighing up to half a tonne and measuring 8 ft in length, the leatherback is the largest turtle in the sea and one of the oldest species on the planet – leatherbacks have been around since the time of the dinosaurs.

Places Mentioned - Eastern Caribbean, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago

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