|The yellowy trees in the centre are Manchineel|
|Coconut palms in Saltwhistle Bay, Mayreau|
- probably less dangerous than the beach bar's pinacoladas
For several weeks Temptress’ crew wondered about the various trees fringing the beaches we explored - is that a manchineel or is that? Noneof us really knew. We soon heard though the urban myth (or should that really be” beach myth”) that more people die from coconuts landing on their heads worldwide than from shark attacks and no longer need reminding by our local friends to not stand under the crown of a palm tree when chatting! Eventually we discovered in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou what a manchineel looks like; at this time of the year yellowy small oval leaves and virtually every beach has several fringing the sand. Wide spreading limbs and dense foliage even in the dry season make them ideal shade…until it rains, and their abundant lethal fruit look just like small green apples. Then at Easter we learnt about and saw the effects of another poisonous plant referred to as “Brazil” by some American friends but correctly the Brazilian Pepper tree or the Christmas Berry; Schinus Terebinthifolius . It is part of the cashew nut family of trees and therefore a relative of poison ivy. This pretty red berried tree can cause skin irritation (think 1-2cm yucky blisters that go sceptic) when brushed against. The blisters we saw were acquired despite the victim wearing long trousers for a hike in the hills of Bequia – moral is to avoid trails where the vegetation has not been cut back or take a machete to hack it back.
Or you can simply stop taking walks into the hills or sitting on the beach and avoid the water unless prepared to be stung, bitten or stabbed by spiny urchins (the skipper forgot his shoes when swimming ashore to check our line in Cumberland Bay and promptly stepped on a spiny urchin, no easy cure he just had to wait for the spines in his heel to break up and stop feeling uncomfortable). Why not sit on the deck of a beachside bar and enjoy a sundowner instead? Well ok as long as you cover yourself with insect repellent containing plenty of DEET (at least 25% is recommended) – sand flies bites can be very itchy whilst the local mosquitos carry the risk of Dengue fever (which can be fatal if untreated) on some islands and specifically here in Bequia there have been a dozen or more cases of the almost unpronounceable and unpleasant Chikungunya disease in recent weeks.
|Our first barraacuda|
The good news is though that there are few Caribbean islands with venomous snakes and the sea snakes seen when snorkelling or diving and warned about in our old pilot guide are in fact harmless spotted snake eels. There are no sea snakes in the Caribbean or this part of the Atlantic apparently due to the salinity of the water. For some excellent pictures of this shy and quite pretty snake-like creature see here and here.