> 3 weeks of island hopping across St. Kitts & Nevis and Saba (Dutch territory) <
The islands of the Lesser Antilles stretch ~700 km from Puerto Rico in the north down to South America. Along the way the island chain forms two parallel arcs of islands: a western/inner arc consisting of younger, volcanic rocks, called the Volcanic Arc, and an eastern/outer arc consisting of primarily limestone, called the Limestone Arc. We’ve been exploring this complex geological makeup on several tours across both arcs.
One tour took us across Nevis, St. Kitts and Saba in the northern part of the Volcanic Arc. These three islands are some of the most remote and less visited islands in the Antilles. The starting point of the trip was Nevis, which is very “Caribbean”: extremely sleepy, rural and low-key with a mountainous and tropical rain-forested interior too steep for habitation. The entire island is one big piece of countryside, where brown volcanic curves slope down to luminous green flatlands, with a few villages dotted along the coast where goats, hen and vervet monkeys stroll the streets, while locals mingle and make roadside BBQ. The best thing to do is rent a pickup and drive around the island exploring its opulent sugar plantation houses, many beaches, stone churches, and forested interior which rises to the scenic Nevis Peak. We quickly realized that Nevis simply has no mass-tourism. Even at the one real hotel, there are no buzzing jet skis, but small bungalows where visitors listen to the island breathing. We rented a house on the black-sand north coast through AirBnB and stayed here for a full week. It was a highlight of our trip. We´ll never forget that shrimp BBQ and rum punch in a ramshackle hut with just a couple of worn-down picnic tables on the beach. Once we’ve tasted the sweet, syrupy “killer bee” rum punch, a signature rum drink of the local owner, and burned our lips on the insanely hot and spicy charred shrimp, served straight from the fire pit, we did not care about anything in the whole world. We just wanted to stay there forever, sitting under the shade of a palm-formed umbrella in the heavy, humid air of the West Indies on tiny Nevis Island. Now, we said to ourselves, we are living like an islander.
St. Kitts was a big surprise. Perhaps because we did not expect a lot? Yet, St. Kitt’s mountainous interior and several splendid beaches was easy to fall in love with. In north, Brimestone Fortress is easily one of the best forts in the entire Caribbean, and in south, a very scenic, curving, and remote peninsula drops dramatically into the sea. We did several hikes on the island. Especially the southeast peninsula is no less than stunning. Its hilly and dry characteristics with the azure sea reminded us of the Komodo and Rinca Islands in Indonesia! The local population is very charming and easygoing. Wherever we were, there was always high-volume music in the streets – calypso, salsa, soca, steelpan and jazz beats. Air of life on the island is breezy, down-to-earth and relaxed. In the evenings we would drive to any beach, find a beach hut and sip cold Carib beers while listing to the crashing waves.
Saba is one of the smallest but also loftiest islands in the Volcanic Arc. Saba is the tip of an immense, extinct underwater volcano, rising out of the blue sea to 850m, with no pause for lowlands or beaches, but instead volcanic massifs and green slopes dotted with quaint white houses with green shutters, red roofs and gingerbread trim. The reed roofs of the villages offer a stunning contrast to brilliant blue sea surrounding the island. Saba only has four charming villages all of which we visited on foot - Hell’s Gate, St. John’s, Windwardside, and The Bottom. Walking around the island was a nice way to explore the unhurried atmosphere and serenely beautiful views towards other Caribbean Islands, including St.-Martin, Sint Eustatius and St. Kitts. We did lots of trekking and climbed Mt. Scenery (the summit of the island), and also spent some time diving in the excellent offshore Saba marine park. Saba’s shallow reefs are still pristine, and the offshore walls, pinnacles and rocky summits are home to incredible numbers of large fish and pelagics.
Selected pics :