Hiking is one of the most enjoyable activities when on a Caribbean vacation and there are a wide variety of environments for hiking, ranging from seaside to tropical rainforest to mountains to leisurely river walks. Many individuals however when encouraged to go hiking express a fear of snakes and this fear keeps them from experiencing the beauty of our natural world. Within the Caribbean this fear is misplaced because poisonous snakes exist on only four Caribbean islands. The four Caribbean islands with venomous snakes are Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia and Trinidad. Even on these four islands the fear of snakes is an exaggerated concern and by following some simple rules most persons will never have any threatening experiences with snakes.
When hiking, you should not go barefooted or in sandals but wear hiking boots or heavy walking shoes, along with long pants. These provide foot protection against bites from snakes and also protect against insect bites, scorpion stings and cuts from sharp stones. Coral snakes for example have small fangs that are usually unable to penetrate the fabric of a boot.
When walking through heavy brush or tall grass look down, look where you are walking. Very often poisonous snakes are lying on the forest floor among the leaf litter and so by looking down you will be able to see them and avoid accidentally stepping on or next to them. The beauty of our natural world often captivates us and so there is a tendency to look at the scenery as we walk. When hiking it is better to stop and look around to admire the beauty of nature, rather than walk and gaze around. One should always look at the trail while walking.
Fallen trees or logs across the trail are a common occurrence when hiking in the forest. Most persons simply step across the fallen tree, however depending upon the size of the log it may not be possible to immediately see on the other side of the log when you are approaching the log. It should be remembered that snakes often lie below fallen logs. The more appropriate method is to step on the log, look to see if there is a snake lying on the other side and then step down.
Depending upon how strenuous the hike is, there will be intervals when you stop to rest. The natural inclination for most persons on a rest break is to sit and fallen trees are an inviting location for resting weary bodies. Do not sit down without first checking the area and especially do not lean on fallen trees or rocks without first checking them well.
Snakes and scorpions often lie in hollow logs or in rock crevices therefore you should avoid thrusting your hands into dark places such as hollow logs, under logs or rock crevices without first thoroughly investigating the place. Similarly before you place your hand to pick up an object from a place that may be a resting place for a snake, such as under bushes, among leaves, rocks or logs, you should check the area first. It is a good idea to hike with a long stick that can be used to probe among rocks and under logs.
If your hiking trip involves overnight camping you should not leave your boots outside of your tent at night because snakes may crawl into them to escape from the cold. Before putting on your boots you should turn the boots upside down and shake them to ensure that no snakes or scorpions have crawled into the boots.
Never attempt to pick up a snake unless you are an expert. Even a freshly killed snake should not be picked up as their nervous system may be still active and they can still deliver a bite.
By following these simple rules most individuals will never have to worry about being bitten by a poisonous snake.
About the Author
Brian Ramsey operates the web site, <A HREF="http://www.trinoutdoors.com"> Outdoors Trinidad</A>, www.trinoutdoors.com and is the author of the CD,<A HREF="http://www.birdsoftt.com"> Discovering the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago</A>, www.birdsoftt.com.