The World Nomads Podcast: The Caribbean

In America and staying close to home during COVID-19? Revisit this episode exploring mountain peaks, dense rainforest, active volcanoes and safety tips for female solo travelers.


Photo © Getty Images/ Jason Ondreicka

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The World Nomads Podcast: The Caribbean

With COVID-19 still affecting the way we engage with the world, it’s important to plan wisely and travel responsibly, both for your own safety and that of the places you visit. But as we reengage with the world you're likely planning vacations not far from home. World Nomads can help by providing travel safety tips, inspiring content, and travel insurance designed to protect you while traveling.

What’s in the episode

01:08 An idyllic childhood

04:12 Is Jamaica safe?

07:50 The beauty of bioluminescence

10:42 Hiking a volcano

15:42 Recapping White Island

20:23 Australian bushfires

24:44 Getting our rhythm on

27:42 The history of Bomba

34:03 Saving the sea turtles

39:30 The turtle spotter's program

42:47 Next week

Quotes from the episode

"The interesting part of the Caribbean is that each of the different ethnicities, the different communities come together and participate and contribute their part of their culture to create that one Caribbean flavor depending on the Island that you go to. And it's different variations based on the Island." - Diedre

" was a pretty fun hike cause you go through about three or four different ecosystems coming from the thick jungle of the sea level, and going through kind of a cloud rain forest...and you can see the trees changing as you go up. So we get to more of a volcano type summit with hard rocks and ash and some pretty challenging winds at times." - Bill

I ended up in the South West of the country, in a province called Baraona. It's actually the least visited region in the Dominican Republic, but it's very rich in outdoors and it's also the least developed." - Lily

"As we have spread our populations around the planet and invented technologies like motorized boats and things like that, we've been able to access turtles even easier. And so we've had a substantial impact on them." David


Experience the Caribbean World Nomads style Download our free guide

Who is in the episode

Born and raised in Jamaica, Diedre McLeod is the bilingual and adventurous WanderWisher behind the blog Diedre in Wanderland. Diedre is on a mission to bring the world closer to Caribbean women via her travel adventures. She also shares tips and tricks on how to travel without breaking the bank so that women are empowered to wanderlust on a budget.

Check out her top safety tips for women traveling to the Caribbean.

Bill Fink is an award-winning travel writer based in California, specializing in adventure travel, with credits in the San Francisco Chronicle, Outside Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, and many other publications. He's tackled hikes in dozens of countries across six continents, including summitting an unnecessarily large number of volcanoes. Follow his adventures @finktravels and

Bill wrote a piece for our Caribbean guide about climbing the active Soufriere volcano on the island of St. Vincent.

Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning travel journalist, photographer, and guidebook author who loves to show places through culture and the outdoors and encourages sustainable tourism as a vehicle for social impact. Her work appears in numerous publications, including CNN, Lonely Planet, and Delta Sky. She's also widely referenced in media outlets, from Oprah Magazine to TravelPulse. Originally from Ethiopia and fluent in four languages, Lily is currently based in the Caribbean. Follow her adventures online at Sunshine and Stilettos

Read her article she wrote for the guide on traveling to the Dominican Republic.

David Godfrey is Executive Director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy an organization carrying out the world’s most successful sea turtle protection and recovery programs.

Thanks to your micro-donations the World Nomads Footprint Network raised more than the US $25,000 for a project to reduce the impacts of climate change on sea turtles and promote eco-tourism to build sustainable conservation programs that provide revenue for local communities.

This film about the project was a finalist in the 4th Shorty Social Good Awards.

Resources & links

Near is the New Far. Whether it’s a call from your mom or the call of the wild, we’ll help you prepare for your trip and help you stay safe while traveling.

Travel safety alerts.

You can get in touch with us by emailing

About World Nomads & the Podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips, and specialized travel insurance for the independent, volunteer, and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.

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We use the Rodecaster Pro to record our episodes and interviews when in the studio, made possible with the kind support of Rode.

Kim: If you think the Caribbean is just sun, sand and sea, then don't go anywhere as we show you the Caribbean you never knew existed.

Phil: Welcome to the World Nomads Podcast delivered by World Nomads, the travel lifestyle, and insurance brand. It's not your usual travel podcast. It's everything for the adventurous independent traveler.

Kim: Thanks for tuning in wherever you get your favorite podcast, Kim, and Phil with you discovering the Caribbean.

Phil: [inaudible 00:00:25] look this episode sitting alongside the Caribbean guide that was released in late 2019 and that's highlighting a region that's much more multifaceted than its picture-postcard reputation might suggest. It's the region of the Americas that consists of the Caribbean sea obviously, it's many islands and the surrounding coasts from mountain peaks to dense rainforest and volcanoes, the Caribbean is diverse, culturally rich, and as we sign the guide, as vibrant as anywhere on the earth.

Kim: Yeah, in this episode, we'll chat with a few other contributors to the guide and fill you in on some exciting news about our travel writing scholarship. So let's kick it off Phil with Deirdre MacLeod, a Jamaican woman who had an idea like childhood for me.

Deirdre: For me yes it was. It is like I still live here. I've moved around a bit, but it is idyllic, it depends on also what your version is. But for me, growing up in Jamaica is having sun all year round, being outdoors, playing with all of your cousins, and having like a big family, which is an extended family or friends, immediate family. going to the beach, and just being able to explore. So for me, that was a big part of growing up.

Kim: Well we know that the Caribbean is more than beaches and reggae music.

Deirdre: Exactly.

Kim: It's true then that does sound like an idyllic childhood, but take us through the diversity. It's not just white sand and clear water.

Deirdre: It really isn't just the sun and the sea. You also have language differences. So you have the Spanish speaking Caribbean, so you have Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. You have the English speaking Caribbean, which includes Jamaica, St Vincent all the way to Trinidad and Tobago. But then there are also other islands like Saint Martin that it speaks French with [inaudible 00:02:24] and Guadalupe as well. We also have Dutch side of Saint Martin and Serena which is, we also like to reclaim Serena, we do share lots of history.

Deirdre: So you have language differences across the Caribbean. You also have different ethnicities because of our history. To take Jamaica as an example, we have a large group of Chinese, a Chinese population in Jamaica. We have a big Indian community. We also have of course persons of African Caribbean descent. We also have persons who are white. But I would say one of the big ... for me it's an interesting part of the Caribbean, is that while you have this, it really is a melting pot of cultures.

Deirdre: So, our Chinese community comes together with our Indian community, with our African Caribbean community to create the Jamaican culture. And this you can see across the Caribbean. So you can see through our food that recreate. So we have curries, which are a big part of our cuisine. You can also see through our music in terms of we have different ... we have carnivore which talks about [inaudible 00:03:42] you can listen to Calypso, you can also have reggae and dance hall, you have Zook.

Deirdre: So for me, the interesting part of the Caribbean is that each of the different ethnicities, the different communities come together and participate and contribute their part of their culture to create that one Caribbean flavor depending on the Island that you go to. And it's different variations based on the Island.

Kim: Is Jamaica a safe place to visit?

Deirdre: For me, yes. So one of the great parts of experiencing Jamaica is that I moved away for seven years and I came back. And so I have a good example of coming back as like a foreigner, as like a visitor, because I'm returning, but I've also experienced Jamaica like a local, and I see the different dichotomies. But for me it really is safe in the sense that you can travel around Jamaica and the Caribbean as a solo traveler, which I do. I just jump in my car or gets a driver, and I go to different parishes. You can also walk around and just explore. You do have to pay attention to ... which is for me, general safety rules, no matter where you go. Pay attention to how much jewelry you have on, or maybe taking care of the amount of money that you walk around with, and just paying attention to going out alone at night.

Deirdre: But for me, this is something that I would do no matter where I am and what's important or what's interesting as well is that I had the opportunity to speak with over 30 other visitors who are women, in Jamaica, who have visited Jamaica and they all share the same sentiment. So they all are saying, "Yes, just pay attention to your valuables, know where you're going beforehand, take chartered or regulated transportation, which is available everywhere." But you're also safe. We had women who motorbiked around the country for three weeks and were okay. So for me, it is generally, just a generally safe place. It's not crazy. It's not, "Oh my God what's going to happen to me?" [crosstalk 00:06:16]

Kim: And those rules would apply to any type of traveler.

Deirdre: Yeah. I would say though that one caveat might be, as a woman in the Caribbean, which for me it's no matter if it's inappropriate, good, bad or inappropriate, we do have our men who like to share their appreciation for the female form. And so you might be called and said, "Hey beautiful." That can sometimes be alarming.

Kim: No, I would love that.

Deirdre: You would love it, but I've had friends who are like, "This is so strange." Like everybody just says, "Hey", or "Hi, you're so sexy today." Or "You look great." And it was a strange, not necessarily overwhelming, but sometimes it might be, but that's also something for my friends who have visited, they've commented on as something different.

Kim: And I'm not being flippant because I know that people don't like being commented on about the way they look. But when you get to a certain age, bring it on. So you have written an article for us on travel safety tips for Jamaica, women's safety tips for Jamaica, which we'll share in show notes, but some of those being a local, can you share with us some of those off the beaten path places that might not necessarily be on everyone's radar.

Deirdre: One of the places which I really enjoyed was, in Jamaica, we have a great big spot for bioluminescence. So that's a lagoon where when you go, it lights up. When the water moves, it lights up in this great big neon blue. And for me, it was just a really great experience. It's in the dark, and you do it at night to make sure that you really see the brightness of the light. So that's one thing that we have. We do also have like a lot of adventure and counters that you can go on, so you can do cave spelunking across the Caribbean.

Deirdre: We have a lot of limestone caves as well in Jamaica. You can do a lot of zip lining, or waterfalls. It's not just one. We have the main one for Jamaica, Dunn's River Falls, but there are so many. Each parish has a waterfall that you can explore and discover. These are some of the off the beaten path things that you can do.

Kim: Now, as you said, you come and go, and you've spent a lot of time in Europe, so you've very well-traveled. You all saw Diedrich in Wonderland. Does that cover travel tips and stories from every place that you've visited?

Deirdre: Yes, it does. My mission for me is to get Caribbean women to travel more, to understand that it's attainable, so I do it by sharing my travel adventures, the places that I've been, sharing the different tips that I found out while traveling. I've been traveling, I recently found out since I was 10 years old, every single year I've gone someplace. So, I won't tell you how long I am now, but it's over 15 years of just yearly annual travel.

Deirdre: And I do try to share my tips and open up the world to the Caribbean for me, women as well because I find travel to be an empowering and exhilarating activity. And I want Caribbean women to know that they can do it as well as solo travel, in the group, and it's something that is attainable and you can curate your own experience no matter your budget.

Kim: Thank you, Deirdre, links in show notes. And a parish, by the way, is like a province or a state. So I learned something there. There are a lot of people to thank for their contribution to the guide, including Ellen Holo, editorial producer, North America who says our next guest, Phil, can chat about anything Caribbean.

Phil: All right. It's Bill Fink and he wrote a piece for our Caribbean guide about climbing the active La Soufrière volcano on the Island of Saint Vincent. Last year a tragedy unfolded when many visitors to a volcano in New Zealand white Island died when it erupted. We asked Bill if he thinks exploring volcanoes is safe?

Bill: I think it depends on the situation, it's something where you need to check in with local experts to see how active it is, if there is any real danger of going there, or if it's kind of a safely observed. The trip that I wrote up for the Caribbean guide, on La Soufrière on Saint Vincent, that's a volcano that hadn't really had an eruption for a hundred years, was covered in jungle, and lakes, and waterfalls. So it's something that I really did consider being safe, particularly with the local guide that I have.

Kim: With white Island though, it hadn't erupted for around a hundred years either. So, I guess you've got to just take on board the warnings from operators and guides.

Bill: True. I think that's that volcano is more in a situation where it really was, even though there hadn't been on eruption, it was very active with bubbling sulfur for pits and gasses coming up. So it seems to the untrained eye like mine that it would be a more dangerous situation. But, obviously, you have to go with what the experts are saying and that was really an unfortunate situation where they seem to be wrong.

Kim: Now. You're not a volcanologist, you're an adventurist, tell us about your experience with the volcano in the Caribbean.

Bill: Yeah, it was a situation where I wanted to do something to get away from the standard, just sit on the beach type holiday. And I found out about this adventure tour led by a local company that had been doing it for a while. Where you a hike up to the summit of the 4,000 foot, I guess that's about 1,300-meter elevation volcano of La Soufrière. And, it was a pretty fun hike cause you go through about three or four different ecosystems coming from the thick jungle of the sea level and going through kind of a cloud rain forest, a lot of misting and you can see the trees changing as he goes up. So we get to more of a volcano type summit with hard rocks and ash and some pretty challenging winds at times. But it was a really fun experience and it was a good day, a full day of exercise to get up there and back again.

Kim: Ellen tells us, and you have contributed the article for the Caribbean guide, but you can chat, well she says this, you can wax lyrical about adventure travel in the Caribbean. Is she on the money there and what else did you experience?

Bill: Yeah, absolutely. I've had all kinds of wild adventures around the Caribbean by land and by sea, have gone on some fun sailing trips around the Virgin Islands where you can really explore hidden coves and to some underwater adventures exploring the reefs and stopping at little deserted beaches and climbing up into the hills and discovering all kinds of cactus that you didn't think would exist on a Caribbean Island. So, word to the wise there is, you're hiking inland, dress for it. Don't go up in a swimsuit and flip flops cause some of these islands to have some pretty gnarly prickly plants up there.

Phil: What do you enjoy most about that when you get onto one of those places?

Bill: I think it's the sense of discovery to getting off the beaten track a little bit. I tend to go crazy if I'm just sitting at a beach in a lounge chair for too long. So I think it's the sense, even though that I know that probably people have been to pretty much every spot on these islands, it's to get to a place where most people haven't been before. To have a little bit of a unique experience and to have a story to come back with to tell people that, "Hey, did you know the Island of Saint Martin is riddled with hidden caves that pirates used once and I climbed up and saw a couple of them." That's a better type of adventure story than coming back from a trip saying, "I changed from SPF 30 to SPF 50 sunscreen on Wednesday."

Phil: Can I just make it quite clear that you saw a couple of caves up there, not a couple of pirates?

Bill: Yes. Not to my knowledge anyway, the guides seem trustworthy.

Phil: Without giving away your sacred place, have you got a favorite spot?

Bill: Maybe some of the lesser-visited islands, Saint Vincent might be one of them. That's really kind of off the standard tourist track. It's a little less developed, seems like more of a local scene versus going to the say built up beaches of the Dominican Republic where you're in this self-contained bubble of a resort. But even there as well, if you get off the beaten track, I think there's plenty to see.

Kim: Well Bill, we are all about getting off the beaten track. But let's rewind to that disaster that was the eruption of White Island in New Zealand last year and revisit a chat we had with a volcanologist for World Nomads travel safety article in which he mentions the volcano that Bill climbed. But we asked him why the volcano on White Island exploded not once but twice.

Richard: Yes, it's an interesting case and it's not unique around the world, but this particular eruption is one that's hard to predict and it stems from the interaction of magma, liquid rock that's over a thousand degrees Celsius, with cold dish groundwater. And the interesting thing about white Island is it's a crater, atop of a 1500 meter, mostly submarine volcano, the crater is breached to the East and in that crater accumulates rainfall and also seawater can get access to the structure. So you've got a magma body sitting in the crust below the crater, and the geologists are really interested in that because the magma giving off gases and also interacting with the groundwater produces a series of minerals. I know this is a complicated answer, but a series of minerals that can form something of a seal to the magnet chamber.

Richard: If that seal is broken, groundwater can directly interact with the magma and that is an explosive combination. The groundwater will flash over to gas more than a thousand times increase in volume. And if the seal and the lid on the volcano, let's say the crater floor fails, all of that comes out of the ground in a rush. So let's say an explosion which doesn't have a lot of precursor warning because it's like a structural failure.

Phil: I mean it's not unique, but it's a very special type of volcano in that respect.

Richard: No, it's not unique at all. There've been some classic cases of this kind of event. For example, I did my Ph.D. on the volcanoes and the lesser Antilles on the Eastern Caribbean. And one of the volcanoes in that chain was experience interruption, somewhat like this. It was La Soufrière volcano on Guadalupe. And there was a division amongst the scientists, about what this represented. There was a group that saw that it was a so-called Phreatomagmatic eruption. Now Phreatomagmatic is a fancy word for a magma water interaction. An explosion of this type is just like the White Island, we think. And another group has thought no, the eruption that occurred was a precursor to something much more serious, like an initiation of a cycle of eruptive activities such as a good on Mount Agon in Eastern Bali a couple of years ago. In the case of the latter, that's serious news cause you've got to get people out of the way, the volcano, and it could go on for weeks, months, or whatever, but you can't predict it.

Richard: But if it was a one-off kind of a short-lived event, like a free automatic explosion, then okay, that's a real nuisance. But we're not going to get everybody out of the way because maybe nothing else is coming for a while. In the case of Guadalupe, they decided to caution, they evacuated everybody. Nothing else happened and gradually people drifted back to where they were living in the main town and slept slopes, the volcano, so it's happened in the past. Volcanologists have had difficulty predicting these kinds of eruptions and understanding them, and there's ongoing work, intense work by New Zealand scientists and international colleagues into how this works and how it happens.

Kim: Well, given that it is difficult to predict then, from a scientist's perspective, do you believe it's wise to hike or travel to an active volcano?

Richard: Good question. I think there are many ways that human beings can do damage to themselves and various kinds of extreme sports and that question is hard for me to answer because I wouldn't blink. I've always relied on the alert levels and the expertise of the tour operators when I visited White Island. And you accept that they know in their case more about the local situation than somebody like me who visited sporadically and pays attention to alert warnings only when I'm going there. But for the average member of the public, they probably are not aware of the extrinsic risks, but of course, we are in the public except all kinds of things where we rely on experts to set safe.

Richard: It's also accessible so you can take your yachts, chartered yacht, or whatever and go on more on the Island unless they put some kind of police person stopping you getting on onto the Island, it's going to be difficult to control access to it. And if it's not in the hands of expert tour guides and that's intrinsically riskier, people are less likely to pay attention to warnings and they would if they were in the care of a tour guide.

Phil: One takeaway from this would be don't go volcano hiking on your own. Make sure you go on an organized and properly credited tour.

Richard: I think that's right. There's an intrinsic risk to this. Anytime you go to a volcano and active volcanoes and intrinsic risk.

Kim: Professor Richard Arculus from the Australian National University there. Phil, what is travel news?

Phil: I was talking about disasters at the time of recording this. Australia was in the grip of some pretty major bushfires. They've even caused the US state department to raise the travel alert for Australia, but I think it's important that people don't overreact to this at the moment, despite the media reports, not all of Australia is on fire. It's a massive 26 million acres of land that has been burned. The affected areas about the size of Southern California. But Australia is a big place. It's almost the same size as the USA and in the area, it's actually 1.9 billion acres. So the fires have affected about just over 1%, 1.3% of the landmasses and that's burned land. Fire has passed through those areas. It's not still on fire everywhere in that 26 million acres.

Kim: And those communities want people to go back and, start spending money.

Phil: Yeah. I was trying to check on this. I don't think there are any parts where people are not allowed to go still at the moment.

Kim: [crosstalk 00:21:25] there's no way [crosstalk 00:21:28] Yeah.

Phil: Okay.

Kim: But that's again at the time of recording.

Phil: Okay. And don't forget as well as Australia is a big country. Our tropical North is in the middle of the wet season or summertime there. So from Cairns to Darwin and including Kakadu and over to the Kimberley in Western Australia, that's their wet season up there. So they're completely unaffected by the fires. And now major cities where many of our most popular attractions lied. They're large urban conglomerations. So while they may be thick with smoke from time to time, really thick, they're not under the direct threat of it. So don't write Australia off right now.

Phil: We appreciate all the support and help come through. And these are really very devastating fires that have been through. But don't mistake it. The whole place is not on fire.

Kim: It's a huge country. Can I put this on record?

Phil: Yes.

Kim: I had drinks with someone from the country on the weekends. They know a beekeeper and the beekeeper said the way the bees are behaving at the moment that we should see flubs in Australia in March.

Phil: I love a sunburnt country. Last bit of Japanese. Remember when we did the episode on the Philippines? I mentioned the world's largest island in a Lake on an Island.

Kim: I think it was that great quiz question you used to [crosstalk 00:22:44]

Phil: Yeah, that's right. Well, it's not there anymore.

Kim: What.

Phil: The volcano in the Philippines?

Kim: Yeah.

Phil: Yeah, it's that, it's blown up.

Kim: Oh no.

Phil: The lake in the Taal Island is the cold era of the volcano South of Manila that's just gone off and closed Manila airport. So I don't know if that's that at the moment. In the last reading I think there are 80,000 people evacuated from the nearby region just as a precaution, but Manila airport was closed because of Ash cloud, so I'm not sure when that was going to open. It is the second most active volcano in the Philippines, so it's kind of like 36 times in the last decade. But anyway-

Kim: It doesn't exist. That's terrible, that again at the time of recording, is that it?

Phil: Yeah, that's it. [inaudible 00:23:33] remember we promised some news on our travel writing scholarship. Well, if you're a keen writer and interested in traveling to the Caribbean, then make sure you're subscribed to the scholarship mailing list to be the first to hear about an upcoming opportunity, link in our show notes. Go and check it out.

Kim: Thanks for that Phil. Now let's get back to the Caribbean because we're going to talk Bomba with Lily, but I thought I would put out the call around their talented staff here in the Sydney office to see if anyone could play Bomba music, which is specific to Puerto Rico.

Phil: Okay.

Kim: So Mona said, "No, I can't do that, but I can do salsa." I thought, "Is that during a [inaudible 00:24:12]" Because you don't want to disrespect the Bomba, but I have since read-

Phil: [inaudible 00:24:17]

Kim: Don't disrespect the Bomba. That Bomba is both a traditional dance and music style of Puerto Rico, which Lily will explain, but today Bomba can be found anywhere on Puerto Rico and infusion with styles like jazz or salsa music. [crosstalk 00:24:32] There's the link. Thank you. And you really nervous, aren't you?

Simona: A bit just because I usually play with music.

Kim: Oh, we could get something up I suppose. But how did you learn to do the ... is this a bongo drum?

Simona: No. Okay. So I play the congas. The congas are a drum which comes predominantly from Cuba. And when I traveled to Cuba back in 2016 to celebrate my graduation from the [inaudible 00:24:57], I went with a friend and I absolutely fell in love with everything percussion. As a child, I used to play the djembe drums in Senegal. I grew up there. So when I went back to Cuba I was like, "Oh, I have to go back into drums." And so I started taking classes with a percussionist in Canberra from Chile and ever since then I just play for fun and I've played at some nights so.

Kim: We didn't know that [crosstalk 00:25:17]

Phil: Wait a minute, Senegal? [crosstalk 00:25:21]

Kim: This is why we have to ask around the office. It's just some incredible people sitting there with this history. So you know about Bomba music then?

Simona: Yeah, I know. I love Bomba music, it's very hard to play it. It's played with it slightly different drum, but it's from Puerto Rico. Myself, they share very similar rhythms.

Kim: So do you play in a band?

Simona: No. I don't. I've played at night before, but not in a band. I haven't. My conga drums are in Canberra and I live in an apartment here. So it's a bit hard.

Kim: Yeah. A little bit hard. So this one is called what again?

Simona: It's similar to a djembe drum which is from I think Africa.

Kim: Oh cool. So you said you normally play along to a song. So this is putting you to the test. Because we just want to get into the chat with Lily with a little bit of rhythm pattern.

Simona: Sure.

Kim: So we shake our booty.

Simona: Yeah.

Kim: Take it away.

Simona: Okay. [inaudible 00:26:16] another rhythm.

Kim: Can we clap on? Wow, I can't do anything. Any skills like that. That's really cool. Thank you for doing that.

Simona: That's different to the congas because you have two, but you want improvisers.

Kim: That is very, very cool. So, some stage you obviously like traveled, would you consider going to Puerto Rico and [crosstalk 00:27:12]

Simona: I would love to that's the next on my trip. So to go back to Cuba, I'd love to volunteer with some kids there and then go off to Puerto Rico, which is the capital of reggaeton music.

Kim: And just really getting amongst it.

Simona: Yeah.

Kim: Well thank you so much.

Simona: No thank you.

Kim: Well, let's learn a little bit more about Bomba in the Caribbean with Lily.

Lily: So Bomba is one of Puerto Rico's original music jazz and it's a dance as well. And it was brought by enslaved Africans when they came to Puerto Rico. And, yeah, so it's mostly played in this town called Louisa in Afro-Puerto Rican municipality just about 10 minutes East of San Juan, really quick cab ride over from downtown San Juan. It has the highest concentration of Afro-Puerto Ricans. So Bomba is amazing. It's basically drum-based music, and you have to learn the steps and it's like so many steps and there's this community center in Louisa that teaches Bomba and hosts workshops for tourists or locals or anyone who wants to come and learn about Afro-Puerto Rican culture.

Kim: Yeah, I'd love to learn about it, but I don't think they could teach me to do it.

Lily: Actually they're really good. The instructors is really good. They give you the outfits. For the women, they give you a skirt, like a big preliminary, colorful skirt, red, yellow, green, and some of the movements you have to use the skirt.

Phil: Puerto Rico, a question I've got there. We've got an article in the travel safety section which has started a lot of discussion amongst the community there, about whether it's safe or not. And it seems, it's a bit like the Moscow, Saint Petersburg, New York, Los Angeles, Sydney, Melbourne argument there. They talk about, one side of the Island is more relaxed than the other side. And I think that's where someone is a little bit more sketchy.

Lily: No, I traveled there, well the first time there was actually something like 10 years ago. And then when I went back there this year I went solo. The first time was with college friends and this time I went solo and I actually felt the complete opposite about Puerto Rico. I thought it was super safe. I thought everyone was absolutely helpful. I stayed in San Juan, I did an about few days in old San Juan, but then I also spent time in some of the other neighborhoods like ocean park, Sten, I spent a day in Louisa. I didn't rent a car, I used some of the rideshare services, but no, I didn't feel unsafe at any moment whatsoever, which really surprised me coming back because, yeah-

Phil: It does have a reputation doesn't it?

Lily: Yeah. It's sort of unclear really. It's one of those where you're not really sure. I'm not sure why, and I will tell you, I remember one time, I was in a cab and I was going to this, there's a Monday night, I sure recommend that for live Bomba. There's a spot in Santurce which is a neighborhood in San Juan. And there's an outdoor Bomba and a play now, which is another Afro-Puerto Rican music. Live Bomba I play every Monday night in Santurce at this bar, outdoor bar. And it's really doesn't look like much when you get there instead of just a ramshackle kind of place, they serve fast foods, like Puerto Rican foods and then they have a live show, drumming and it's literally one big street party every Monday night.

Lily: And when I was heading there in the cab, I just kind of feeling a bit weird because for a while there we were going down really dark roads and I was wondering whether it was a good idea and I asked the cab driver, "Have you haven't been to this place?" And he said, "No, I've never been there, but I've heard about these Monday nights live bands, but I've never been there. So I can't say." And then he felt that I was unsure. So when we got there, I did see that there were a lot of people there already, but he said that to me. If at any point you feel uncomfortable you can call and I will come back and pick you up and take you back to your hotel. And I thought, "Wow, that's super nice."

Phil: That is super nice. Also, can I just give a golf clap for a party on a Monday night?

Lily: Yes. Yeah, I actually left thinking, why don't we have this elsewhere in the Caribbean?

Phil: But you also got away from the tourist sites and went and joined a rural community. Tell me about that.

Lily: I did. I spent a year in it to make it public, while I was working on a book and I made it my mission to dig up the lesser-known areas. And I ended up in the southwest of the country, in a province called Baraona. It's actually the least visited region in the Dominican Republic, but it's very rich in outdoors and it's also the least developed. So basically what you see is what you get. This is a place where people go just to hang out, enjoy the rivers, and the sea and beaches. The beaches are very different, they're Pebble stone beaches, and it's just the kind of place where you just get in a car and go on a road trip. I ended in a community that is run by a group of women and it's in [inaudible 00:32:45], this particular town. It's a very small kind of village sized really. They run their own community tours. To this day. It's still one of the most unique things I've done. It was a really eyeopening, very local experience.

Phil: A good way to disconnect from the world.

Lily: Not so much disconnect as much as it is really feeling the culture. The first thing I did when I got there was going to a local birthday party and the neighbors across the street. They're very family-oriented here. It's music, [inaudible 00:33:14] a lot of dancing, a lot of food. It's a very loud culture here. Very vibrant and very loud. So you get a real glimpse of that, in that area. And then at sunset and everyone goes to the boardwalk area and the beach or swimming or playing baseball or whatever it is, interacting. It's a real glimpse into a regular everyday neighborhood.

Kim: Which Lily is the beauty behind travel. Links to Lily in show notes. The World Nomads footprints recently funded a project in Costa Rica in the Caribbean by the sea turtle Conservancy research program and organization carrying out the world's most successful sea turtle protection and recovery program.

Phil: David Godfrey is the executive director of the sea turtle Conservancy. David, what's the problem with sea turtles? Why are they in danger?

David: Well, that's a not a super easy thing to answer because the reasons are complex and varied and they range from, really centuries of harvesting turtles by humans for meat and eggs and shell. Even back to indigenous times, people were harvesting and eating turtles for meat. And as we have spread our populations around the planet and invented technologies like motorized boats and things like that. We've been able to, access turtles even easier. And so we've had a substantial impact on them in addition to our direct ... I say our, of course, we as humans, not everybody does this, and hopefully very few people today do it, but, we humans have had a substantial impact on them in that way, and also from accidentally harming them.

David: And this happens in the form of certain types of commercial fishing activities in which we accidentally catch turtles in nets or, in the long line fisheries. We set miles of baited hooks and wait for certain things to come along and take that bait. And unfortunately, a number of turtle species take that bait as well and get hung up and die before they're ever reeled in by these commercial fishing vessels.

Phil: So we've got two main problems. And you'd tackle them both?

David: Well, we don't have a long time to talk. I realize I only got through two of them, but, if I can summarize the last main issue, I would say it's habitat loss and harming that habitat. Again, unfortunately, mainly through our own actions, development on the beach, the introduction of lighting on beaches where turtles were trying to nest, and even climate change and how that's impacting turtles in their nesting habitat. So, yes, all of these things are affecting them. Our organization has been working for 60 years to try to systematically address all of these threats. And in many cases, we're making substantial headway and doing good things for turtles and they're responding.

Kim: Well good things have been done for the turtles on the coast of Costa Rica. Is that true?

David: Absolutely.

Phil: I suppose the problem is just going back to the first of the issues that you mentioned there were for hundreds, possibly thousands of years, they've been part of what has amounted to an economy. So, they're very much [crosstalk 00:36:51] capturing, part of the food and the shell. And so that becomes very much a part of the culture and the economic viability of people living in that area. So the problem is you can't just take that away from people. You need to replace it with something.

David: That is absolutely correct. And the way you described that is how I would have described it in the 1950s and sixties.

Kim: He thought you're going to [inaudible 00:37:17]

David: What I mean by that is, they were a part of the diet. They were a part of the economy of different coastal regions where they had become dependent on harvesting the turtles for income, and profit, and meat. And literally the name Tortuguero in Costa Rica is the place of the turtles. It was given its name by the people who went there to harvest the animals. When our organization started working on that beach in the late 1950s, virtually everyone was making their living by taking the turtles. And we have systematically put in place, of course, laws and regulations to protect them. I say we've worked very closely with the government to convince them that that needed to be done.

David: And the government of Costa Rica has responded and put laws and protections in place. They created the Tortuguero national park to protect the nesting beach. And we, of course, knew we needed to work with the local community to replace the income that was derived by unsustainable harvesting turtles and replace it with a sustainable source of income. And that is ecotourism, people from all around the travel to Tortuguero every year to have this amazing opportunity to see turtles and experience them in their natural environment in one of the last places in the world where green turtles nest in really substantial numbers.

Kim: So how do travelers get involved then?

David: There are a variety of ways. We've worked with the community to establish a tour guide association so that all the people who are permitted to take tourists out on the beach are local people. The money goes to them as opposed to outside organizations like ours, or even for-profit businesses that come in there. We want the money to go to the people. They are permitted and trained how to take tourists out on the beach, to observe turtles nesting up-close, and do that as safely as possible. Whenever we've noticed over the years that there are any harmful impacts from the tourism that are occurring on the beach, around the turtles, we actually developed a new program that's on top of the tour guide program. It's called the turtle spotters program. And that is a way of having a limited number of people on the beach looking for turtles that are at the appropriate phase of nesting during which tourists can go up and safely observe the process.

David: The turtle spotters identify the turtles, radio back to the guides with their group of tourists and lead them directly to the turtle that's ready to observe as opposed to having bands of dozens, or 50 tourists traipsing up and down the beach, all over the place, or many dozens of tourists and guides on the beach at any time. So rather than having them all searching for turtles at the same time, they're led directly to a turtle that they can safely observe. In that way, it lets the most number of tourists see turtles, observe them without harming them. And on top of that whole program, the turtles are nesting in increasing numbers, which is very important.

Kim: Now thanks to the micro-donations from our travelers through the footprints project.

David: 100% I've been working for this organization for 25 years and the World Nomads footprints program has been one of the most amazing things I've seen in terms of quick response and an infusion of financial support to help specific projects when it's most needed. It can take sometimes almost a year to develop a relationship with, say a private foundation or a donor, write a grant proposal, and wait for the board to review it and finally reward the money and then get that money to you. And literally a year-long process. The footprints program is very efficient. We can describe a project and what urgent need we have in a relatively short period of time. We can have a project put up on the website and the clients begin to make these micro-donations immediately and you can watch the goal be met relatively quickly. And that's important in conservation because you can respond to threats quickly, and you can take advantage of opportunities for community support when it's needed and we just couldn't be more pleased to be associated with the program.

Phil: There is a film in show notes about the project, which was fun, that's in the fourth shorty social good awards recently. [crosstalk 00:42:32] It's grateful.

Kim: Well, that wraps up our episode on the Caribbean links to the guide in show notes, which you can download for free. And thanks for listening. There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there and you've chosen to listen to ours. So don't forget to tell your friends about it. Next week, Phil.

Phil: Lungi, who was afraid of the open sea but is now an accomplished sailor, described herself as a humbled Zulu girl.

Kim: Bye.

Phil: Bye.


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