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Earlier this year, Julian got a call from a colleague, needing a flatworm expert to travel with him and some other marine biologists to study the meiofauna of Tobago. Julian did not have to be asked twice.

It has been a busy summer already. We spent the month of May in Innsbruck, then went to Stockholm so Julian could attend the meetings of the ISFB (International Society of Flatworm Biologists). We then showed up for the last four days of our regular family week at Oak Island. That kept us occupied through June. In July, we made a couple of trips to the IMS (UNC's Institute for Marine Science in Morehead City, NC).

We got back from a week at the IMS on Saturday, July 28th, at 3:00 PM, got all of our clothes out of our suitcases, washed them, and put them all right back in. Twelve hours after rolling in the door from Morehead City, we headed to the airport to catch a 5:45 AM flight to Trinidad and Tobago.

By the way, if you ever want to make sure that all your carry-on and checked luggage gets thoroughly searched by security, I recommend carrying a bunch of scientific instruments and lots of pipettes. The people behind us in line just loved us.

We flew from Charlotte to Miami, Miami to Port of Spain, Trinidad, and from there to Tobago.

Trinidad from the plane
Trinidad from the air.

Tobago is the smaller of the two main islands of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad lies a mere 6.8 miles from the coast of Venezuela. Because the islands were once part of the British West Indies (achieving complete independence only in 1962), English is spoken here, and everybody drives on the wrong side of the narrow roads. This is one of the wealthier of the Caribbean nations, with a thriving petroleum industry and a median income of more than $20,000 (U.S. dollars).

We were met at the Tobago airport by Burton, one of the employees of Manta Lodge in Speyside. After an exciting 1 1/2 hour ride during which we hurtles up narrow, winding mountain roads and tried not to be too aware of the wall of rock on one side of the car and the sheer drop on the other, we arrived at Manta Lodge. (I should state in all fairness that Burton is one heck of a driver, and that I'm damned glad neither of us had to make that drive.)

Trinidad from the plane
Outside the airport in Tobago.

Manta Lodge is a dive resort, which means, among other things, that my worries about being surrounded by women with perfect pedicures were unnecessary. The atmosphere is very laid back. About half the Lodge's current residents are members of our little scientific expedition. More than half of us are divers; Julian and I are not, although we plan to get in some snorkeling, and hope to get our diving licenses at Winthrop this winter.

The rooms are really nice, large and comfortable. There's air conditioning, but there's mostly been enough of a sea breeze for us to just open up the windows and listen to the surf.

Our room at the lodge
Our room in the Manta Lodge.
Coconuts being harvested outside our window
Coconuts being harvested outside our window.

Meals are served three times a day, and consist of whatever the staff cooks that day. They have, so far, been excellent. Alcohol is on the honor system; you take what you want from the fridge, and mark it down in a ledger with your room number.

Tobagan beer is quite nice, it turns out.

Clyde with our lunches
Our host, Clyde, bringing our curried beef on rice with vegetables.

It is harder than I had hoped to explore by myself much beyond the Lodge and the adjacent beach. We're sort of in the middle of nowhere, on a narrow, winding road (no sidewalks), with enough traffic and little enough visibility that I hesitate to wander down it -- although the locals seem relaxed enough. But then, they're used to people who drive like bats out of hell, and on the wrong side of the road. However, there are plenty of organized trips to enjoy. I'm considering a night walk through the rain forest, and Julian and I will be joining the divers with our snorkels and fins, just as soon as Julian has a chance to take a break.

View of the beach from the Lodge
View of the beach from the Lodge.

During the day, Julian and I go collecting. So far we've only collected on the beach, but once he finishes identifying the animals he's found there, we'll go farther out.

Julian collecting
Julian collecting on the beach by the Lodge.

When Julian isn't collecting, he's in the room the Lodge has set aside for us to use as a lab.

Julian in the lab
Julian in the lab.

When he's in the lab, I spend my time on one of the verandas, selecting photos for the web site, surfing the web, and watching birds. I brought my iPad with me, so I also have plenty to read.

Bananaquits at the bird feeder on the veranda.
These are bananquits. They are as ubiquitous as sparrows are at home.
View from the veranda
The view from the veranda.

Or, of course, I can always walk on the beach.

Julian collecting
The beach.

All in all, I'm surviving.

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Tobago 2012
© 2004 - 2014 Diane Rudulph & Julian Smith III
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