The Charm of St. Vincent and Grenadines
Nature seems to have surpassed itself when she created the chain of islands known as St. Vincent and Grenadines. Spattered with tropical flowers, the jungled hills give way to sandy white crescents lined with bushy palms. Streaks of the most vibrant shades of sapphire, jade, turquoise and midnight blue turn the warm waters into abstract art. Fields of bright-green banana trees sprout from exceptionally fertile soil, while colorful birds flutter overhead. St. Vincent is the largest of the 30-odd islands in this independent nation, once ruled by the British. Most of the Grenadines are so petite that their size is described in acres instead of miles.
For a small island, St. Vincent is big on contrasts. The interior of this 18- mile long, 11-mile wide island is laced with rushing rivers and waterfalls, and even sports its own active volcano. Don’t worry about eruptions, though; La Soufriere is so carefully monitored that it’s even safe for close encounters. Make arrangements through your hotel for a guide to take you on the 90-minute hike along the three-and-a-half mile trail to the volcano’s summit. (For the clearest views, start early in the day.) Amid the lush greenery along the way, you’re likely to spot heliconias—those waxy red and yellow flowers that resemble lobster claws—delicate orchids, and pink and white begonias.
Other well-maintained mountain hikes are the Vermont Nature Trails, which cut through a tropical rain forest with giant ferns and stands of 60-foot-tall bamboo. If you’re here between 4 p.m. and dusk, you might even catch a glimpse of the rare St. Vincent parrot.
Sporty tourists can also play tennis or squash on resort courts. But most of the action takes place in or on the water.
At St. Vincent’s Kingstown Harbour, three shipwrecks can be seen during a single dive. Bottle Reef, a wall dive, has a striking coral garden at the bottom and all kinds of antique bottles. A highlight for many tourists is the day sail to the 60-foot Falls of Baleine where they can swim in a rocky pool, stop along the coast for lunch and snorkel at an excellent reef.
Kingstown, the capital city backed by verdant hills, is the shopping destination. Its shops sells handicrafts, such as attractive batiks to hang on walls at home, as well as duty-free goods. Early Friday or Saturday morning is the liveliest time to wander through Market Square. Here, talkative vendors lure local shoppers with heaps of fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish.
It is relaxing to be in the oldest botanical gardens in the Western Hemisphere. Dating back to 1763, in these grounds, the National Museum could be found. Its exhibits depict St. Vincent’s history, beginning with the earliest settlers, the Siboney Indians, who are believed to have arrived around 4000 B.C.
A visit to Fort Charlotte would be a historical trip about St. Vincent. It was built by the British in 1806 on a hill above the bay just west of town, to fend off the French. (It can be seen from many place names in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, both the French and the British took turns running the islands.) At the museum in the old fort’s barracks one can learn about the “Black Caribs,” whose descendants resisted European dominion until 1797—longer than any other Carribean island. The past is also alive near the fishing village of Layou. Here, ancient petroglyphs can be seen. These were carved into the stones some 13 centuries ago.