Caribbean with Simon Reeve
"As I walked out onto the beach in Barbados, my bare toes crunching onto golden sand, I started fumbling through my pockets, looking for the most important bit of kit I was taking with me on a journey around the Caribbean.
In other regions of the planet my life has depended on a flak jacket or a head torch. In the Caribbean you can’t risk stepping outside without a decent pair of sunglasses.
Almost everything, everywhere in the Caribbean is saturated with colour. Normally photographs of lovely sites around the world need to be tweaked and Photoshopped to increase the vibrant blues, yellows and reds. Not here.
With shades protecting my eyes and brain from a sensory overload, and a filter on my stills camera to tone down the deep blue sky, I could revel in the view of a sea that must have been artificially coloured to make it so farcically inviting.
I was visiting Barbados on a long journey around the edge of the Caribbean Sea for my latest BBC TV series. My plan was to start on the exotic island of Hispaniola, and then circle the sea and travel up the Caribbean coast of South and Central America, finishing my journey in glorious Jamaica, which I’d always wanted to visit.
It was a great gig, of course. Who wouldn’t want to travel around the Caribbean? But it was also a journey that showed me there’s much more to that part of the world than just the clichés of beaches, cricket, rastas and reggae.
The Caribbean is a vast area of one million square miles, and a real home to tens of millions of people. There are stunning holiday resorts with infinity pools and swaying palm trees, although BBC budgets meant I was peering in from afar. But there are also mountains, jungles, volcanoes and hidden coral reefs, including the Meso-American reef, the world’s second largest barrier reef, which in many ways is more interesting than even Australia’s stunning Great Barrier Reef.
Whenever and wherever I travel I love to learn a bit more about the places I’m visiting, and the Caribbean has bucket-loads of dramatic history, issues and memorable characters.
I went for a magical night-dive, beat the Prime Minister of St Vincent at dominoes, harvested bananas in Colombia, stayed with remote indigenous people on the coast of Nicaragua and even visited the gang wing of an extraordinary inmate-controlled prison in Honduras.
The Caribbean is a place of utter extremes. One day I would find myself sailing across the Caribbean to one of the most beautiful islands on earth, then on another I would be meeting an inspiring man running a cookie cutter factory from a shanty skyscraper. In Jamaica, where crime rates have fallen dramatically, I was even put through a lie detector test by the Jamaican FBI.
Who wants to visit somewhere that fades from the memory within a few weeks of returning? Day after day the Caribbean offered extraordinary sights and experiences. Travelling around it was a journey I will never forget."
The BBC describes Simon Reeve as British TV’s most adventurous traveller. Simon has travelled extensively in more than 120 countries and has presented multiple award-winning TV series for the BBC, including Australia, Sacred Rivers, Tropic of Cancer and Indian Ocean. His series ‘Caribbean’ is showing on BBC2 from 22nd March.
Simon's Caribbean adventure:
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