Sustainable & Cultural Journeys

Sustainable & Cultural Journeys

Cycling Into Fun and Sustainability

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Local tour operators in Bermuda, like tour operators in the rest of the world, have been hard hit as a result of the pandemic.  Our borders have been closed to visitors since 20 March and only on 2 May, were we allowed to come out of sheltering in place.  Although our borders are still closed, the Government is making arrangements to safely reopen them.


As summer approaches, tour guides are open to the possibility of selling their tours to the local market just as much as locals are eager to emerge from the shelter in place to venture outdoors again.


I like to think of myself as an adventurous explorer, but when I'm on island, I normally tend to stay indoors much of the time. This is of course unless there is a new adventure awaiting me!


So as I emerged from the shelter in place and began to enjoy what came with the end of sheltering.  I felt the urge to explore and be adventurous with the new lease on life I felt like I had been handed.  When I'm abroad I always try to arrange a tour with a local tour guide.  I prefer having a personal guide although I have been on a group tour, but I much prefer a personal guide or small tours.  I think having a local guide is a great way to get insight on the country and its culture.  When I was in Cozumel, we had the option to tour the Mayan ruins ourselves or hire a tour guide.  Getting a guided tour was hands down the best thing we could have done.  It was a mere hour tour, but we learnt so much about Mayan culture hearing it directly from a Mayan.  We would have never been able to have had this experience had we chose to go it alone.  That's why I think hiring a local guide is so awesome!  Not to mention that hiring a local guide contributes to the local economy.


At the time of writing this, Bermuda is still under certain heath restrictions such as social distancing, a curfew and wearing a face mask while in public places.  Even with these restrictions, there are a host of activities that can be enjoyed.  As a local I felt almost embarrassed that there were some areas of the island that I had not explored at all or had not explored deeply.  I mean the island is only 21 square miles long.  Should I explore on land? Should I explore on the ocean?  These were some questions that came to mind, but I knew that I wanted to support a local tour guide, and heck, because they do tours for a living, I can have a guided tour rather than wander around aimlessly hoping to come across some hidden gems.


I opted to tour with an electric bicycle tour company.  Not having operated anything electrical before, especially a vehicle, it sounded cool, even novel.  Bicycling on its own is a low impact activity.  There are little to no carbon emissions and no other negative impacts on the environment.  In fact, bicycling is a form of slow travel that allows the rider, especially as a traveller in a new place to connect more with the destination and have a more immersive experience.  Read more here about slow travel and immersive travel experiences.  Obviously, it's also really great exercise and healthy for you!


I booked my electric bicycle tour for 10am on a Saturday morning as a guided tour with the tour guide and myself, the unwittingly electric bike newbie.



THE ADVENTURE BEGINS


On arrival to the bike shop, I masked up and entered the place where my adventure would begin.  I was met by Mike, the friendly and jovial owner and the one who would be leading my solo tour  I was also met by the most awesome selection of electric bicycles I had ever seen.  All colours, sizes, double seaters, bikes fitted out for families with young children and even a bike that offered accessibility features.  There was definitely something for everyone of all ages!  They even had a bike especially for me 'the island girl' – painted out in turquoise and coral.  I can be shallow when it comes to aesthetically pleasing things, and this bike was no exception.  It was the prettiest bike I had ever seen and I felt it was designed just for me!


The 'Island Girl' bike


SAFETY


Mike explained that even before Covid-19, they used sanitation practices by cleaning their bikes with 90% rubbing alcohol as it is not only effective in killing germs but also in removing dirt and grease on the hand grips and seats. He added that they regularly use rubber gloves when working on their bikes and have introduced "1 customer" at a time policy for their shop location. Curb side pick-up is available and starting in June they will be offering island wide bike rental delivery service.  Contact during payment was minimal as the shop offered card payments only and gloves were provided so I could write my signature.  A waiver was also required.  The tour promised to be fun, but the waiver was in case I decided to get out there on the tour and get carried away.  If I did, that was on me.


TYPES OF TOURS


Three different routes are offered as a tour with each being 2 hours long, but you can customise your tour to whatever you like.  Maybe a little swimming, rock jumping or whatever you so desire to do.  The tour around Harrington Sound was not possible due to the bridge on the railway trail being under construction.  The next option was a tour of St. George's.  I considered this one, but being from the east end of the island and living in St. George's for 8 years, I felt I pretty much had this area covered.  Somehow, in hindsight, I think I overestimated my knowledge of St. Georges and will definitely go back and do that tour.  I opted for the Coopers Island Nature Reserve tour because it is more off the beaten path and was the most unfamiliar area to me.


After giving a demonstration and providing a detailed explanation of the bike's gears and how the bike generally works, I was confident I had a made a good choice of tour.  I packed the pouch on my bike with my reusable water bottle, phone and whatever else I think I'd need along the way.  However, packing a snack would have come in handy as I had worked up an appetite after riding for the first hour.  I was also provided with a blue-tooth earphone so Mike could guide this newbie and we set off on our journey to Cooper's Island Nature Reserve.

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Tour Route
Tour Guide, Mike


TOURS


Riding from St. George's to St. David's we encountered some traffic, but it wasn't long before we were on bike trails and back roads to avoid the traffic.  Also, there isn't too much vehicular traffic in St. David's and none at Cooper's Island, for good reason.  We were taking bike paths and back roads I never knew existed. Cooper's Island is the epic unspoiled natural attraction.  Clearwater Beach and Turtle Bay are the more well-known beaches, but you would be remiss not visit the beaches, which have been kept immaculate, and located off the beaten path.  I was getting accustomed to operating an electric bike and my tour guide was patient with this electric bike novice.  At least about 20 minutes into the ride, I was changing gears correctly and even operating the electric throttle like a boss .


We stopped on the way to admire the scenery.  Castle Harbour waters were shimmering in a gorgeous aqua colour on this day.  It was just stunning.  There are many opportunities to stop and stretch your legs and trust me, the tour is set at a maximum of 2 hours for a reason.  Don't get me wrong, the seats on these bikes are way softer than any bike I've ever ridden, but after 2 hours of riding, you'll start to notice that you are sitting on a bike seat.  The next day, amazingly, I wasn't sore!


One of the many beaches at Coopers Island



There is much more to the Nature Reserve than its beaches.  It features a Wildlife Observation Tower, which provides the perfect vantage point to watch for birds, whales and other wildlife. Inside the Observation Tower are posters highlighting the types of fauna, flora and other wildlife you will see in the area.


WHAT I LOVED


Fun!  I'll say it again, it was fun! In Mike's words, "they sell fun" and they definitely delivered.  Getting to the destination is fun and no matter how far you ride the fun continues as you won't be angst about having to ride back.  Electric bikes are game changers!  They allow you to go further and explore more.  That is a winner for me!  Electric bikes are great for any fitness level. I didn't need anything too strenuous when I'm just trying to chill and explore, so this tour was perfect.  I also like the idea that this tour is accessible to seniors.


Locally owned


Mike is a local and has deep family roots in St. George's and his establishment provides employment for other employees who are all local.  While not a historic bike tour, they are in the process of developing a "Self-Guided Tour" app to allow customers to explore all three tour routes with audio guidance, map and a brief history. Understanding that social distancing may be with us for a while, the App will give their customers the same tour route and guidance with the benefit of moving at their own pace. Their goal is to release the App by the Spring of 2021.


Sustainable


This tour was tons of fun, and honesty, I felt like a kid again.  As an added bonus, it was also sustainable.  For islands that depend on tourism, sustainability is key and just as islands rely on tourism dollars, islands equally rely on their natural and cultural assets to sustain their tourism industries.  Bermuda is no different.  This activity is a great way to see the island and I felt confident knowing that it was an activity that had a low impact on the environment and producing carbon emissions was optional, only if I decided to take advantage of the electric battery.


The other reason this activity is great for sustainability is that it is an activity that can be enjoyed year-round.  Islands like Bermuda are popular for beach vacations.  The downside to travelling in this way is that it can lead to seasonal travel which is when too many tourists visit the destination at the same time which can lead to tourism becoming unsustainable.  In addition to Bermuda's beaches being available to enjoy year-round, this is also an activity that can be enjoyed throughout the year.  Travelling during slower periods when there are fewer tourists also adds to the economic stability of the destination, and you'll avoid the crowds!  


Special rates for locals


They are offering locals weekend rental family discounts at half price. Family of four-day bike rental (4+ hours) is normally $240 has been reduced to only $120.


Get in contact with us Here for more information about this tour operator and their tours.


Does riding an electric bike to explore appeal to your tastes?  


Eco Island Travel is a social enterprise travel company focused on helping travellers discover exploration and adventure through sustainable and cultural journeys. Eco Island Travel makes exploring and having new adventures in Bermuda easier by letting you know the best ways to explore and by creating experiences tailored around you, that all have a positive impact.


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Sunday, 29 November 2020

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