The safety of hikers remains an issue of concern for hiking groups in Trinidad and Tobago.
This after several dangerous incidents have affected hikers in recent times.
On Thursday a man and woman were attacked by an armed man at Cumaca Road in Valencia. After his escape, both victims visited the Valencia Police Station to file a report. They were then taken to the Sangre Grande Hospital for treatment.
Additionally, in June two young men drowned at the Rio Seco Waterfall in separate incidents following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. Nineteen-year-old Tristan Mathison of Sangre Grande and Stephon Logan of Siparia both passed away after experiencing difficulties while in the water.
According to Michael Jattan, director at Hikers INC, safety issues are nothing new in the hiking community. Some groups, he said, have resorted to hiring security personnel to ensure vehicle and personal safety. However, he noted that larger, certified groups are a better guarantee for individual security.
“In terms of safety, have security coming with you on the trails. Hiking used to be an escape from the world but the world has followed us to hiking. We have discussed safety at length and we might have a situation where we need some kind of security to guard hikers. Some groups have engaged with the regiment and are going on hikes with soldiers, that may have to be a permanent fixture.
“One of the problems hikers have been facing is vehicle safety. Sometimes when you park your vehicle you may come back and find it broken into. What we recommended is that persons who go hiking, hike in formal groups and that these groups hire security personnel to accompany them. We also say that you stick to that recommendation of groups of 25.
“These are some of the concerns we would have had even before the restrictions were lifted. People were going by rivers and streams and people started back hiking to waterfalls. Hiking was allowed in groups of five but it was that persons and informal groups started back hiking almost immediately, with little regard for numbers,” he said.
Jattan added that recommendations were made by several groups in the past years to provide better guidance at waterfalls. At deeper waterfalls, suggestions were made to train guides and install signs that indicate depth, he said.
“Drownings at waterfalls unfortunately are not something new. What we have done when this happened before is made recommendations to the relevant government authorities. In hiking, destinations such as Rio Seco or Mermaid pools which is also known as the Mathura Basin, they should have persons there.
“Persons in these villages can be trained as tour guides and be present at the trail to caution and guide persons. Rio Seco has a very deep splash pool, 25 feet in some places. Some people are not aware of that danger. We also recommended signage be put up but all these recommendations fell on deaf ears,” he said.
Safety in numbers
Representative of the Hikers TT group, Quintin Prescod, told the Express yesterday that such incidents are an unfortunate consequence of crime. However, vigilance and group safety can be effective in preventing similar cases.
“Normally, our safety is in numbers. We don’t advise people to go in small groups and certainly not by themselves. If you have criminals on a trail who intend to do something, they are less likely to do it to a large group. However, there are exceptions because there was a case where a large group was robbed a while back.
“With everything, it is taking a risk. Anywhere you are in Trinidad you can be robbed, it’s like being on the streets but it is better to go in numbers. Also pay attention to the times that you visit these places. The authorities stationed at these places will typically leave at 2 p.m. So my advice to everyone is to hike in a group, a registered group if you can and be vigilant,” he said.