A feeling of elation came over Allister Nanan, a director at Nanan’s Caroni Bird Sanctuary Tours, when it was announced on Saturday by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that the historical recreational space had the green light to resume its boat tour operations which began 90 years ago, once all health protocols—mask-wearing and physical distancing remained intact.
The other historic recreational space that also received an exemption on Saturday was the sister isle’s Buccoo Reef Boat Tours, as the Government disclosed slight relaxations of the COVID-19 restrictions.
Nanan, in a telephone interview, said immediately after the announcement was made, the Caroni Bird Sanctuary Tours Facebook page was flooded with people expressing their gladness at the eased measure and wanting to book tours. Needless to say, the operation’s phone also rang off the hook.
“We are very pleased with the decision by the Prime Minister and the other ministers to exempt the Caroni Bird Sanctuary Tours operation and allow us to do the tours,” Nanan expressed.
He said he wanted to believe the decision was taken after several letters had been written and sent to the Prime Minister, Chief Medical Officer, Attorney General and the Minister of Health asking for their consideration in exempting the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, as it had observed and continued to observe all Government strict COVID-19 measures.
He said they were even in the process of creating a COVID-19 structural plan involving temperature checks, paperwork for the use of contact tracing and all other measures adhering to the safety of patrons.
Nanan, who represents a third generation in the family-owned and operated Caroni Bird Sanctuary Tours, which began with his grandfather Simon Nanan, who petitioned to save the national bird—the Scarlet Ibis in 1948, said the shut down due to COVID-19 placed a heavy strain on the operation.
“We have been promoting the Caroni Swamp of Trinidad for many decades. We prided ourselves on educating people especially the young ones about the flora and fauna of our country always noting conservation as the main aspect. It is also a nice recreation for families to spend time together, but with the restrictions COVID-19 brought, for the first time in years, this was not possible,” Nanan related.
He said even during the period of the Government’s phased reopenings, operations were not as they were. But they remained monitoring the site with the police and Forestry Division to ensure the birds were okay. He said however, there were great possibilities now with an exemption.
Nanan who was in the middle of sanitising one of its tour boats when Guardian Media spoke to him, said currently, free boat tours were being offered to students who recently sat the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam. They would also be distributing puzzles and snacks to these children.
He said such packages were all part of the operation’s promotions of the boat tours as business picks up again.