Paolo Kernahan, fresh from completing the second Bush Diary DVD, suggests we take a closer look at our natural environment:
Three men, loaded like mules with camera equipment and supplies, stand at the forest’s edge. The romanticism of producing a local nature documentary series in Trinidad and Tobago got them this far. They would have to dig deep for the endurance to carry them the rest of the way.
Powered by dreams of capturing video of the elusive river otter in the wild, the small television crew pushes through the six-hour slog into the Brasso Seco forest in the Northern Range.
The sun slips lazily behind the mountains as they wait in absolute silence on a river bank for the otters to put in an appearance. Unfortunately, something else shows up. Some insect phantasm, that can neither been seen nor swatted, attacks ferociously.
Frenzied itching drives all three men down to a river too shallow to grant a merciful suicide by drowning. There would be no relief. And, while there were lots of tracks and trails of half-eaten crayfish, there would be no river otters either.
This was the tortured birth of the Bush Diary documentary series, a chronicle of adventures in the wilds of Trinidad and Tobago.
The crew later learnt the insect behind their unremitting agony was the dreaded bête rouge. A small red mite nearly invisible to the naked eye, it rests in the forest undergrowth until a food source like a hapless television crew passes by.
The trauma inflicted by that little arachnid assassin would be salved, though, by all the amazing creatures eventually captured on camera in the Brasso Seco forest.
Bush Diary with Robert Clarke is a guided tour of ourselves, a fearless romp through the fascinating nature trails, wildlife sanctuaries and rugged beauty that fill the frame of this many-layered country unlike any other in the Caribbean.
The neo-tropical porcupine, white-bearded manakin, the silky anteater; with an expansive cast of characters, Bush Diary illuminates lesser-known corners of Trinidad and Tobago. The series connects citizens with the remarkable creatures and places often unheralded in a country associated more with Carnival, beaches and rum cocktails.
The series was broadcast on local television stations CNMG and CNC3 and is also available on DVD. The first DVD was released in 2012 and features the episodes “Caroni Swamp”, “Avian Wonders”, “Mangroves” and “Forest Fires”.
The second Bush Diary DVD, which was sponsored by Atlantic LNG, was launched just three weeks ago. It contains the episodes “Leatherback Turtles”, “Nariva Swamp” and “Wildlife Rescue”. There are also featurettes on Orange Valley, Kernaham Village and Turtle Conservation.
The Bush Diary team pulls together Robert Clarke, Paolo Kernahan, Narrisa Mandol and Rajnauth Lal, all of whom have had long careers in the media. Spurred on by a belief that there are important stories about Trinidad and Tobago largely side-stepped by traditional media houses, this committed team resolved to do something about it.
So the slacks and hard shoes were switched out for rubber boots and khaki shorts. The polish of the citified reporter was ditched for the disheveled finish of an exhausted hiker replete with a bouquet of sweat and Anthisan.
People can’t be expected to cherish something they know little or nothing about.
While government bears responsibility for policy and enforcement of environmental protection, sustained education can produce enlightened citizens who understand the relationship between a healthy environment and a healthy society.
Bush Diary also offers insight into how apathy towards the environment can ultimately affect our quality of life. For example, snakes are killed on sight in Trinidad and Tobago because of irrational fears and lingering superstitions. But snakes eat rats and significant declines in the snake population allow these disease-carrying rodents to multiply unchecked.
Then, of course, there’s the tremendous potential of ecotourism to consider. There are countless hidden nature nooks all over the country. Such natural assets provide fertile ground for community-based businesses like B&Bs, tour guiding operations, restaurants, etc.
But for these businesses to thrive, there must be something for visitors to see. Wildlife must be conserved if we expect them to serve as attractions.
Additionally, beyond hosting visitors and ferrying them around the islands, citizens need to know what they are talking about when in the company of curious tourists.
Selling our islands as a bucket-list destination means knowing everything there is to know about what makes this place special. Maximizing the ecotourism potential of this country will in turn ensure the survival of all species for future generations.
Editor’s Note: You can order the Bush Diary DVDs at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Idiom team will personally deliver the DVDs to your home or work place.
The DVDs are also available at Paper Based Bookshop at The Normandie, St Ann’s, Rainy Days at Ellerslie Plaza, Maraval and Signature Stationery and Business Works at Valpark Plaza, Valsayn.