A Jaunt Through the Rainforest: Exploring Grenada’s Grand Etang National Park
Recently, my husband and I visited Grenada for our honeymoon. There were plenty of days spent on the beach, obviously, but you know we had to get a hike in as well. Never having been to a rainforest, the Caribbean or Grenada, we chose a guided rainforest trip mostly for convenience. Experienced hikers may not consider going on a guided hike. Sure, you know how to walk. Yes, you’ve already logged days, weeks or months hiking various trails. Exploring independently has so much to offer, and it’s often the best way to go. But guided hikes can be great too—here’s why.
Unknown terrain. If you are exploring a completely new environment, you won’t know what to expect. Your guide has a much better handle on the area than you do. S/he travels this particular trail on the regular and knows how strenuous it will be. He suggests an additional “hike within a hike” based on your pace or desire to explore. He knows exactly where the tricky spots are because he just saw someone fall in that mud yesterday. He points out exactly where the rock groove is for you to place your hand as you’re sidestepping barefoot through a slippery, uphill stream.
Flora/fauna identification. Of course you can glance at a guidebook during a hike. Another super-convenient method: your guide identifies them for you. This can be especially helpful while abroad. Our guide showed us hibiscus, lime, guava, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar cane, papaya, almond, avocado, ferns, lizards, monkeys and more. Added bonus: a monkey walked across my arms/shoulders to eat a banana I had waiting for him at the end.
Historical and cultural knowledge. Hiking with a guide is the perfect opportunity to discover the place you’re visiting, especially if you are abroad. Our guide answered every question we had about the history of the island. Learning the context made the experience richer. Much of the island conversations were in the car, which helped distract us from riding on the left side of the road.
Human interaction. Our guide was incredibly enthusiastic about hiking. He has been guiding hikes for over 12 years. On the way to the trail, we stopped at Grand Etang Lake, where he showed us how to catch tilapia with our hands (with the help of some bread). He loved to point out things we were not familiar with, and encouraged us to exercise all of our senses. Before identifying trees or plants, he would make us guess. If we did not know immediately, he would place a leaf in our hands and have us smell or taste it. The preliminary stroll from car to trailhead was exciting enough on its own. Once we reached the trailhead, the guide had us close our eyes for one minute to “listen to the songs.” After opening our eyes, he asked what we heard. I thought I heard a dog barking and the ocean waves. He said the dog barking was actually a monkey, warning other monkeys that we were there. The ocean was actually a distant river in the valley. A couple sounds we heard during the hike were beetles, and bamboo creaking in the wind.
Hiking with a guide doesn’t suit every circumstance. A guide’s personality can make or break an experience, but there’s a vast web of information out there and you can most likely read reviews before you decide. For this trip with this guide, I have two words: worth it!
Location: Grand Etang National Park, Grenada
Trail: Seven Sisters Falls / St. Margaret’s
Guide: Lennox (highly recommended!)
Total distance: about 4 miles, out & back
Time: about 2 hours at a leisurely pace, including a swim in the waterfall pool pictured above & a visit to Grand Etang Lake beforehand
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