Regular blog contributor and freelance writer Jan Hinman recently took a cruise with her daughter Julie, an amateur photographer. The two are interested in geocaching and took time on their recent trip to the Caribbean to see what they could find. Read on to find out which ports have these hidden gems (hint: there’s even one in our most popular Caribbean call!).
Geocaching is a Great Way to Explore Ashore
by Jan Hinman
No matter where you may travel on a Holland America Line ship, chances are that in any port of call you will not be far from a geocache. On a recent Southern Caribbean cruise on ms Maasdam, my daughter and I decided to see if we could find a few of these caches at a couple of our ports of call.
Worldwide, millions of enthusiasts have hidden small caches, called geocaches, and logged their geographical coordinates (and possibly some hints about their location) so that others may hunt for them. Geocaching.com, the website that coordinates this outdoor treasure hunting game, says that “you can do a search just about anywhere in the world and be able to walk, bike, or drive to a nearby hidden cache.” That’s what we intended to do.
We knew our biggest challenge would be transportation to the locations of the caches, so we did some checking before leaving home to find sites within a reasonable distance of where Maasdam would dock. Much to our delight, we discovered we could search for a cache on St. Kitts that was hidden within sight of the ship. Another on the same island would require a bit of adventure, but we were game to try.
Upon arrival at St. Kitts, we quickly found the first cache, signed the enclosed “log” and went on line to notify the owner (the person who originally hid the cache) that we had found it.
Then we set out to find the next cache. Following hints online, we walked a short distance into town and looked around for vans that serve as the island’s public transportation system. I don’t know if we were lucky, or if all the vans go everywhere on the small island, but the first driver we asked told us his van could take us to our destination, a veterinary college a few miles out of town. We hopped on with a van full of locals and, after one lady loaded several bags of groceries around my feet for the driver to deliver, we paid $1 US each and we were on our way.
The ride took about 15 minutes and we saw parts of the island we would never have seen any other way. The van wound through residential areas and into more open countryside, with locals getting off and others hailing the van with the wave of an arm. When we arrived at the veterinary school the driver told us it was time to get off. We climbed over the groceries, and others on the bus helpfully kept pointing out the guardhouse we had said we were looking for.
In just a couple of minutes we had found the cache, signed the log, retrieved a “travel bug” from the cache and left a travel bug of our own for the next person to find. Travel bugs are identified by a numbered tag and the idea is for geocachers to find them in one cache, take them to another and tell the owner (online) about the bug’s travels and locations. The one we found on St. Kitts had been traveling the world since 2001, not long after geocaching was invented in 2000. It had started in Northern California and had traveled the world for the past 15 years! We left a travel bug that was just starting out, originating this year in our home community, Alderbrook Golf and Yacht Club in Union, Washington. We hope to follow our bug for years.
To return to the ship, we hailed a van just like we were seasoned locals. As we returned to town, the radio was playing a song about “sad movies” and nearly all the locals on the bus were enthusiastically singing along. Cool!
Caches are everywhere, and on Holland America’s private island, Half Moon Cay, we found another. This one was on the Captain Morgan pirate “shipwreck.” We retrieved another travel bug from this one and we took both for a long ride back to the Northwest where we put them in our community cache for others to find and to take on around the world.
Geocaching is a fun way to experience ports of call and see sights you might otherwise miss. On St. Kitts we spent about hour on our hunts, leaving plenty of time to take a shore excursion or go shopping had we desired to do either. At the other extreme, we have friends who have spent their whole time ashore exploring the area looking for geocaches on rented motorbikes.
You can sometimes combine activities, searching for geocaches while shopping or during a break on a tour. For instance, looking online as we shopped on St. Maarten, we could see that several caches were hidden within 100 feet or less of our location. But you might not want to geocache all the time. Instead of finding the caches, we opted for a cool drink at inviting beach bar!
Have you done any geocaching while on a Holland America Line cruise? Tell us where below!