After our five beautiful sunny days at sea crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the Carnival Breeze made a port stop in Antigua. Anyone disembarking a cruise ship with no plans for that port would have absolutely no problem finding something to do. Walk off the ship straight into town where free wi-fi and shopping await. Boats at nearby docks have signs posted advertising their cheap harbor tour schedules. And once you walk a short distance to a large plaza sort of area, people with signs everywhere offer taxis or tours. You don’t have to look for cheap bus tours or taxis to beaches, they’ll find you.
We bypassed all that, having booked a Kayak and Snorkel Eco Adventure prior to our cruise. We just had to find the person with the right sign, which didn’t take much looking with the person holding tour sign right out on pier in front of ship.
We followed them for a little stroll through town to get to tour bus. We saw quite a bit of the area riding it to other side of the island while the driver talked about the sights along the way. When Antigua was a British colony, it had sugar plantations and a sugar mill. England paid more than the market rate for the sugar because it was a colony. After gaining independence, they could no longer collect a premium price for the sugar. Between that and high taxes, growing sugar cane lost its profitability. Now land once used for farming sugar cane gets used for new houses. We passed one old government building the driver said had gotten destroyed in a hurricane. After rebuilding and restoration it became a museum.
We got off the buses at a clubhouse with a dock out back and public restrooms. After a short stop to allow people time to use the restrooms everyone boarded motor boats that took us to the kayaks. Our group filled 4 boats. Two boats headed for the snorkeling first. Ours and one other went to the kayaks.
At a floating dock in shallow water, the guides pulled strings of brightly colored open ocean kayaks from where they had them tied in the mangroves to the waiting cruise ship passengers on the dock. Some people had issues getting on and got wet, but since the water was only waist deep falling off the kayak didn’t matter much.
Those who wished ditched their life jackets in the motorboat. Some chose to keep them on. The boat stayed there waiting for us so anything other than cameras stayed in the boat. Most people ditched their shoes as well. I wore quick-drying travel clothes, a good choice since the kayaks started out with a bit of water in them, and more tended to drip off the paddles. We had warm enough weather not to mind getting wet.
We paddled about the mangroves in a loosely packed group, some hustling to stay near the front while others felt quite content to paddle about near the back and catch the scenery. Now and then the guides stopped and grouped everyone together to give tidbits about the flora or fauna of the area, or pass around a starfish, sea urchin, or sea cucumber they’d fished from the shallow waters near the many islands we paddled by.
After the last stop the guide called for a race back to the dock – a fun way to get the whole group back quickly. They gave the old timers a head start, probably in hopes they would arrive first as they would likely take longest to unload. Everyone had a cup of water at the dock while waiting for the rest to unload. Then we all got back on the motorboats on which we’d arrived.
We arrived at a small marine sanctuary island called Bird Island where our guides beached the boats. Nobody lives there, but locals from the area had a booth set up selling hand crafted clothing and jewelry as well as local beer and other refreshments.
We hiked to the top of the island where we saw little lizards, awesome views, and giant gaps in the rock, one of which had the ocean splashing about at the bottom, which looked quite far off. I wouldn’t want to fall down that hole.
After the short hike we climbed back onboard the motor boats, which took us to the snorkeling area. Like much coral in the Caribbean, the coral there looked like most of it had been destroyed at some point. Likely by a hurricane. The area had young coral starting to make a comeback.
Quite a few colorful fish swam near the rock structure and coral. Some areas were very shallow and others a bit deeper. After swimming a bit farther from the boat than everyone else, I found some fan coral near the shore of one of the many nearby islands. It was part of a sort of coral garden with several types of young coral and quite pretty.
As usual, John got back on board early and I stayed out snorkeling as long as possible. That’s why I chose an excursion that included kayaking as well as snorkeling – he likes to kayak and I like to snorkel.
Although on this particular excursion the kayaking was better than the snorkeling because it covered a broader area and had more to see than the small shallow area where we snorkeled. Plus the open ocean kayaks were quite easy to paddle without getting sore arms.
After snorkeling time we returned to the dock and at the clubhouse they had some cake and a choice of rum or fruit punch for us. Cute little geckos scurried about the driveway and someone had a parrot people could pose with for photos. They also had gardens with some lovely plants, though I don’t know if any of them were native to the island.
The bus returned us to the ship by a different route, while the driver pointed out different landmarks and historical sites so we got quite a grand tour of the island on our way to and from the excursion.