An expert's tips for safe hiking in T&T
With a wealth of beautiful forests and waterfalls, hiking Trinidad and Tobago is a popular pastime and a frequent hobby for nature lovers.
LoopTT sat down with Courtenay Rooks, director of Paria Springs Tours, who outlined several essential safety measures that all hikers should familiarise themselves with.
LoopTT: As a first-time hiker, what kinds of things should I look for to make sure my hiking group is capable/safe?
1. Firstly one should talk to the leaders of the group to formulate a relationship in advance of the event and develop on the day. Use this to get a "feeling" of the people involved. Listen to your gut.
2. Ensure that the leaders understand that you are a beginner, does your level of fitness match the level of the hike?
3. Look at comments on the page from past hikers and especially, take the time to read about your specific hike.
4. If this is your first time, align yourself with at least one other person you can trust who will stay with you no matter what.
5. Are their safety measures non-existent or unclear? If you ask for clarity and you do not get it, then do not go!
6. Ensure they have proper safety gear such as first aid kits and life jackets.
7. Ask yourself "Can the leaders manage a group of this size in an emergency?"
(Photo: Paris Springs Tours)
LoopTT: Are there any red flags I should note during the hike?
CR: "Note if the hiking leaders are vague or if they refrain from answering your questions. Hiking leaders should be able to clear and up front with all information about the hike."
LoopTT: What if I'm tired or injured and start to lag behind?
CR: "If you are tired, cramping up, light headed or any such issue immediately tell a leader. If they do not respond, take it up with other leaders. If you are injured and your hiking leaders are not paying attention to you, ensure that your friends stay with you, NEVER BE ALONE."
LoopTT: On a personal level, what precautions should I take?
1. Make sure you have enough water and food that provides hydration and energy for the hike, with extra to spare.
2. Have any meds, or first aid specific to your needs.
3. Have a working flash light or head lamp in a dry bag.
(Photo: Paria Springs Tours)
LoopTT: If I do happen to lose sight of my group or get lost, what should I do?
CR: STAY WHERE YOU ARE! The more you wander, the more danger you put yourself in as you may be going further away from the trail. Stay put, call for help, and await assistance.
LoopTT: If it's getting dark and I still don't see anyone, what should I do?
CR: Plan to spend the night in that spot. Again the more you move the more danger you put yourself in. The two things that lead to most deaths in Trinidad's forests are cliffs and snakes. You won't walk off a cliff in the dark, nor will a snake come up to you and bite you if you stay still. So just stay put!
LoopTT: Is there anything else I should keep note of when hiking?
CR: Hikes are to be healthy fun, so from the get-go, form relationships with your hiking leaders and other hikers, get people who will look out for you and in turn look out for them. And most importantly, have fun!
(Photo: Paria Springs Tours)