Cornwall Man, 71, Gets Lost in Cuban Mangroves

Story submitted by Andre Therriault
Cornwall Man, 71, Gets Lost in Cuban Mangroves
Andre Therriault, holding a dry bag just like the one that kept him afloat during his night in the Cuban mangroves. (Photo : Krystine Therriault/Seaway News)

One of our readers recently had a harrowing experience during a trip to Cuba. This is what happened, in his own words.

My name is Andre Therriault. This is my story and it really happened.

About a month ago, my friend Denis invited me to go to Cuba with him from September 22 to September 29. The cost was only $750 Canadian for 7 days at the all-inclusive resort of Memories Caribe in Cayo Coco. This included plane, hotel, food, and drinks. What a deal so I booked it right away.

So, on September 22 at 4pm I boarded the plane for the 4-hour flight to Cuba.

I arrived in Cuba at 8pm and after going through customs, I took a taxi which cost $30 Canadian to get to the resort. This was worth it because had I taken the free shuttle to the resort it would have taken longer because the shuttle stops at the other resorts to let off tourists.

When I arrived at the resort, I was able to check in before everyone else got there. I brought my luggage to my room, then went to say hello to my friend Denis who was already there since 10 o’clock that morning because he had booked an earlier flight. I said my hellos to him and other people who were there with him and went to bed.

The following morning, which was on Friday, I got up early, took my shower etc. and went to eat breakfast. I had bacon, eggs, sausages, ham slices, cheese, and buns. To drink I had guava juice which was very delicious. I had this for breakfast almost every morning, but they had a lot of other breakfast foods like cereal, pancakes, etc. All the food all week, I enjoyed.

The rest of the day was spent mostly at the beach. Nicest beach I had ever been on. Water was crystal clear with white sand. Water temperature was around 90 degrees all the time.

Next morning, which was Saturday, I decided to go for a 4 hour long walk along the beach. With me I brough my dry inflatable bag in which I put my phone, large bottle of water, chips, snacks, umbrella, hat, sunscreen lotion and towel. I was well prepared for the long walk back to the resort. All I was wearing was my bathing suit.

Now this is where my adventure begins.

I have no idea how I missed walking right by my resort, but I did. I ended up on the end of a small island and noticed I would need to swim across a 50 or so foot stream to get to the shore or what I thought was the shore but actually was the beginning of a mangrove swamp. As soon as I entered the water, the undercurrent grabbed me and brought me into the mangroves.

Lucky for me that I was able to use my dry bag as a floating device otherwise I would have been in peril. I couldn’t fight the current to get back out, so I let it bring me further into the mangroves. Going through the mangroves was like going in a maze with all sorts of ways to go and many leading to nowhere.

So, I swam, walked, crawled my way through the different avenues trying to find a way out but could not. I would say that I entered the mangroves around 4pm and around 8:30pm it was getting pretty dark. I realized I was probably going to have to spend all night in the mangroves. There were thousands of mosquitoes all around me and there was nothing I could do but let them feast on me.

You are probably going to say, “Well didn’t he try using his phone?”

I did, but unfortunately by using my dry bag to float around, water got in it and killed my phone.

It was a beautiful night. Water was about 90 degrees all night. There were no clouds and millions of stars shone brightly.

A lot of the places in the mangroves I could walk on bioluminescent plankton which was like walking on Christmas lights with every step. Quite amazing to see. Apparently, crabs are very abundant in mangroves. I know this for a fact because I had a few of them crawling on my back. I would just reach on my back, grab them, and throw them as far away as I could. That was pretty creepy.

For hours and hours, I swam all night trying to find a way out but could not. When I was swimming the whole night, it was pitch black. I couldn’t even see my hands in front of me. At one point my dry bag had a small pinhole which was letting the air out. I was lucky enough to be able to find places in the mangroves that I could touch ground and keep my dry bag inflated for a while and then had to repeat it all again many times just to be able to keep afloat.

At around 4 o’clock in the morning, I happened to catch a strong current going in one direction. I decided just to go for it and let it float me to hopefully the way out. I floated for about 1 hour in the same direction and then happened to see a small section of white sand in the distance, so I decided to swim to it and sure enough it was the shore of land.

I started to walk toward where I could see the sky was brighter and I knew to go in that direction. I must have walked for 2 or 3 hours until I finally reached my resort. First thing I did was call the reception desk and told them that if anyone was looking for me that I was back in my room.

I found out later that my friend Denis who was quite worried had many times gone to my room to check if I was there. When I got back around 7 that morning, I found that the resort asked Denis for a picture of me so they could start a search.

In the end everything turned out ok, but it could have been a lot worse. I was very fortunate to have come out alive. Good thing my wife Gabrielle said a prayer for me when I left for my trip. Thanks, dear. You never know when you go to a different country what can happen. I know that I will return to this resort many more times. I want to walk back to where I came out of the mangroves to see it during daylight.

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