The Nelson Island Experience

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The Nelson Island Experience

Holiday time usually signals a time to rest, relax, spend time with family … or hit the beach.

Well, this reporter did nothing of the sort, instead I chose to go DDI (Down De Islands), exploring just one … Nelson Island.

The Planning and Development Minister Penelope Beckles and the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago invited representatives of the media to join them for a Tour of Nelson Island on Sunday.

So, bright and early, flanked by my colleagues, Melissa Stanisclaus and Sparkle McIntosh along with my young daughter Zahara, we made our way to Chaguaramas to catch the boat to Nelson Island. Of course in true Trini style we were late, not my fault folks … rather the fault of others in the group who shall remain nameless!

Anyway they graciously waited for us and one or two other latecomers.

The boat ride (my first in a vessel that size) was surprisingly smooth, I say surprisingly because I was convinced we would hit a wave, capsize and everyone would make it besides me.
Yes, I know, a bit dramatic but my therapist assures me with extensive work we can resolve those issues!
Anyway, Nelson Island is rich with history, so rich that it took over an hour to tour the island with an incredibly capable tour guide, Marlon whose last name escapes me.
Nelson Island, Trinidad and Tobago is one of the Five Islands which lie west of Port of Spain in the Gulf of Paria.

Nelson Island is famous as the disembarkation point and quarantine station for indentured immigrants to Trinidad and Tobago in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Did you know:
At Nelson Island the Indian immigrants and the ship, food and stores were inspected by the Protector of Immigrants. Their bundles and blankets were fumigated and they were quarantined and allowed to recover and regain strength. This measure was designed to prevent the spread of diseases which might have been transported from India. Special effort was made to stop the spread of smallpox and measles. At Nelson Island, the immigrants were examined by a medical doctor and then transported by small boats to Port of Spain. The healthy ones were immediately sent to estates, the sick ones went to the Colonial Hospital in Port of Spain and those who only needed rest were kept at the Depot in Port of Spain.
In the 1930s Nelson Island was used as a detention center for prisoners, among them Tubal Uriah Butler. During World War II, the Americans built a gun emplacement at the eastern end of the island and a causeway to Rock Island to the west. Nelson Island became a detention center again in 1970 following the Black Power Revolution. Among those who were detained there were Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union president George Weekes, National Joint Action Committee leader Geddes Granger, Apoesho Mutope, Winston Suite and Clive Nunez.
Those who attended were divided into two groups, Minister Penelope Beckles was in our group along with U.S. Embassy Charg√© d’Affaires Shante Moore.

Minister of Tourism Randall Mitchel who also attended was in group two.
Minister Beckles spent some time chatting with Zahara as she was the only person her age there and they seemed to enjoy their convo.
With the blazing hot sun bearing down on us I have to say I could understand when Sparkle said … “Hear nah, ah eh go make it … between dis sun an my lack of stamina … ah eh go make it!” And my daughter … “Mummy, I am all for culture and history, but it needs to be done in air condition comfort!” And of course Melissa who wanted to sit on the side of the path but swore her ‘old knees eh make fuh dat’!
Challeges aside, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience!
When the tour was over we got to learn how to play the Tabla.
A tabla is a pair of twin hand drums from the Indian subcontinent.
The teacher who was quite entertaining and informative did a wonderful job.
I don’t remember his name but in my defense I was fighting the effects of a sun stroke!
We were then treated to roti and sweet indian treats!
Then, all too soon it was time to make out journey home.
I must say it was a Sunday well spent and I can’t wait for another tour!