“Some people come to fall in love…” – Emile Serrette
Whether it’s love or nature you seek, it’s certain you will find something heartwarming in the first few minutes of your interaction with Emile Serrette, whether on or off the trail. The visionary and founder of Nature Trekkers is truly passionate about the service he provides — it’s no surprise that he is the top-rated tour guide in Trinidad on the world-renowned TripAdvisors website.
Various paths have led his faithful to him — whether one is seeking a good lime, a fitness challenge, a stress-less wind-down, or merely the opportunity to step out of the ordinary and meet new people. Locals and foreigners alike have sought out his expertise to lead them on a journey that is not only a physical trek but an educational tour of the history of Trinidad and Tobago.
While accompanying a friend on a his first hike in 1995, a 22-mile walk from Matelot to Blanchisseuse, Emile became curious about all the places he passed that he had never known existed.
He began hiking more often, but was disappointed that many hikes were only geared at enjoyment or fitness.
“There was no education, just ‘Hello, good morning, we are here to hike’,” Emile explains.
Intrigued, he soon began to do his own research to find out the meanings of place names, and the history of the trails that were once used for mainstream thoroughfare before our country became as industrialised as we know it today.
Like many other Trinidadians, Emile had often dreamt of leaving and had even tried several times — until this point.
“Through hiking, I got to know the history of Trinidad. I’ve fallen back in love with my country,” he admits. “It has changed my life.”
Nature Trekkers: The Difference
Realising the unexplored niche that existed in Trinidad, Emile left his job in the oil industry after 22 years of service to follow his passion – offering hikes which incorporate both fitness and educational tours. In 2007, Nature Trekkers became a reality, and he has never looked back.
Emile is a Certified and Licensed Tour Operator, having undergone a rigorous seven-month course — and he is happy to provide those credentials to any who ask. He also has credentials in Water Safety, First Aid, and above all Wilderness First Aid.
“You’re in the forest, so the whole aspect is to work without amenities — operating on a person at night, how to improvise in case of snake bite — using common sense to treat with a situation,” he explains. On every hike, he carries empty chicken-mash feed bags – which, attached to two sturdy sticks, can easily become a neck brace or a stretcher if someone is unable to walk on their own strength. Luckily, he has never had to use them yet (knock on wood!).
He attributes his successful safety record to his own precautions, which are always foremost in his mind.
Firstly, unlike some other hiking groups, he never takes large groups at a time – a maximum of 20 persons is the norm. This is manageable, and by keeping the groups small, he is also able to provide life jackets for river hikes.
Nature Trekkers hikes are also insured. Emile has invested in medical insurance to protect all of his clients against any unfortunate circumstance on the trail; and in the event that medical care is needed, he will be able to alert a private care facility so that they will be prepared to receive the injured person upon arrival.
Safety is of paramount importance to Emile. He always positions himself at good vantage points to ensure that he can respond immediately. Also, when everyone else is enjoying the cool waters, he never bathes –vigilance is key.
Emile makes it a point to make Nature Trekkers as accessible as possible.
You can book hikes on his website, www.naturetrektnt.com, on which he has posted a significant amount of information to ensure that the user is well informed before making a decision.
He has an account on Facebook , but has found that his most effective means of communication is email. He sends out weekly updates of upcoming events to those on his mailing list. He will also meet with group before the hike, in order to answer any questions and give tips in preparation.
A typical month at Nature Trekkers contains two easy hikes, one tough, and one moderate — so there’s a wide array of choices and availability for any interested persons, and Emile welcomes both young and old on the trail.
“A few of my most dedicated clientele are over 70 — over 80, even!” he says, laughing. “And would you know… these are the ones to choose the most challenging hikes!”
Going Beyond Expectations
Emile: “Once I have that breath and strength in me, I will keep at it.”
Hikes should not be considered to be only about fitness, but can also be a form of stress relief.
“Often, you see people looking stressed out at the beginning of the hike, but by the end of the hike their face has totally changed,” he says.
“The mere act of being away from the everyday, taking a deep breath and filling your lungs with fresh oxygen, or drinking the pure streamwater flowing through the mountains — all of this contributes significantly to one’s emotional wellness.”
There is also an aspect of mental wellness.
”In a gym, when fatigue sets in, you come off of a machine, but in the wilderness you always have to be thinking,” he explains.
“Your mind is always working and you never know how the next step is going to be.”
Enamoured with his passion for hiking and his love for Trinidad, Emile does not see an end in the near future. He is currently training for the Reggae Marathon in Jamaica later this year, and has no intention of slowing down soon.
“Once I have that breath and strength in me, I will keep at it,” he declares.
Recently, he was a guest on a talk show on 91.1FM, which turned into his inaugural radio debut — by the end of the session on hiking and historical Trinbago, the half-hour had rolled into an hour, and the producers were offering him a regular Friday afternoon spot.
“Going beyond expectations” is the mantra of his business, and Emile never disappoints.