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The Caribbean

St Vincent: St Vincent and the Grenadines


stvincent(250x187q60a2).jpgSt Vincent has had an explosive past thanks to its Carib history and the 3000ft (950m) Soufri volcano that dominates the island but today it sits basking quietly in the sun.
This fertile and mountainous island was one of the last in the Caribbean to be colonised by Europeans. When they did move in, the Carib Indian inhabitants put up a fierce struggle to maintain their independence. In those times it was known as "Land of the Blessed" and it is as good a description now as it was then.

You can see the evidence of the island's earliest inhabitants in carvings on rocks at Layou and you can walk on a nature trail through the Buccament Valley to enjoy the sights and sounds of the rainforest. The Trinity falls, three falls dropping 100ft (30m) to a natural whirlpool, and the 60ft (18m) sheer Falls of Baleine are a must. And you can also take a restorative dip in the Owia Salt Pond.
Volcanic eruptions have deposited ash that acts as a superb fertiliser, making the island a riot of tropical vegetation. There are marvellous botanical gardens near the capital of Kingstown and high on a promontory above the town is Fort Charlotte, the island's main defence from which there are wonderful views. It is often compared to Dominica in terms of eco tourism. You will find plenty to do here in this unspoilt kingdom and the people will welcome you and take a pride in showing your their island.

stvincentbay(250x188q60a2).jpgSt. Vincent has been blessed with lush mountains, volcanic-rich soil and unspoiled landscapes of brilliant flora and beautiful crystal clear waters. Add to this the idyllic islands and deserted cays of the Grenadines, and the entire country emerges as a prime eco-playground.There?s something here for everyone from sailing and dolphin-watching, to hiking the nature trails and swimming in waterfalls. You can climb to the top of a volcano, or explore the fascinating underwater gardens surrounding this pristine archipelago. Six types of dolphin are found in Vincentian waters, including spinner, spotted, Fraser and bottlenose. Whales, such as Orcas and pilot, can also be observed.

stvincentfood(153x211q60a2)(1).jpgSt Vincent is one of the few islands where good West Indian cuisine can almost always be enjoyed in hotels. Specialties include red snapper, kingfish, lambi (a sea shellfish), calaloo soup, souse (a sauce made from pigs' trotters) and sea-moss drink. In addition there are plenty of locally-grown fresh fruit, vegetables and sea foods on offer. Lobster is available in season.

Vincentian beer is made in a local factory built, managed and half-owned by one of Germany's most famous breweries, so the quality will amaze you. Rum, a major ingredient in punch and cocktails, is also produced locally in a variety of proofs, all at very reasonable prices and sold in the local grocery stores, as are a wide variety of local exotic fruit juices.

There are many bakeries. Every inhabited island has at least one reasonably well-stocked store selling groceries, supplies and clothing. The local water, gathered from rain catchments in the hills of each occupied island, is usually potable but if you are being cautious, bottled water is inexpensive and widely available.

This part of the Caribbean is quite hard to get to and has retastvincentpirates(250x167q60a2)(1).jpgined much of its beauty and traditional appeal. Some call it "The Old Caribbean" with great affection because it has remained quiet and peaceful and "local" while many islands in the Big Caribbean have spoiled their environment and culture with mega-resorts, jumbo jets and the dubious joys of fast-food franchises and loudspeakers. The film "Pirates of the Caribbean" was filmed here because the island epitomises that era. It has long been a favourite cruising ground for yachtsmen and a holiday location for royalty and the rich and famous who love its seclusion and rustic glamour. There are many islands and cayes in the Grenadines chain and many of them are not inhabited. Some are resort islands, containing just one hotel and some of these are very exclusive.
Diving sites abound in the turquoise waters surrounding these volcanic islands. Abundant reef-life, normally found at 80-ft in most dive destinations around the world, flourishes here at depths of only 25-ft, with an extraordinary variety of tropical reef fish such as angelfish, sargeant majors and peacock flounder. The shallow-water reefs surrounding almost every island make snorkelling an exciting adventure. If you like your adventures dry, you can take a 4x4 safari through the interior.

svcannon(140x210q60a2)(1).jpgSt. Vincent & the Grenadines is one of those all too rare, virtually undiscovered dive destinations. The diving ranges from the gentle, even lazy, to the exhilarating, and efforts are always made to ensure that you never dive the same dive site twice... unless, of course, you want to! Most of the dive sites are close to the dive shop bases, a mere ten or fifteen-minute boat ride away. Others, however, may require a slightly longer journey, but one that's filled with the most beautiful Caribbean scenery in the region. And all are well worth the trip. Due to the sharply rising shorelines, there is no shore diving here and this helps to keep the sites in pristine condition.

St Vincent Dive Sites:

New Guinea Reef: A black coral paradise. A profusion of soft corals decorate the entire area and sea horses drift lazily through the scene.

Bottle Reef Shoals of fish swim through a coral garden littered with antiquegrenadinescoral(250x167q60a2).jpg gin and rum bottles tossed down from the English fort which overlooks the site.
The Forest: Swim amid giant gorgonians 6 to 10 feet tall
The Garden: A beautiful array of small corals and black coral and abundant fish makes this a perfect site for photography.
The Wall:: A steep drop from 20 feet to 100 feet, encrusted with black coral and heavily populated with fish

There are also interesting wreck dives - 13 in Kingstown Harbour alone - that provide a fascinating reminder of the past.

It is also the hopping off point for The Grenadines, a string of 30 tiny islands spreading south along a 45-mile (72 km) arc. Some are well-developed - but never crowded - others are little more than a lonely, unsoiled beach and a collection of houses. All offer some of the best sailing in the world.

Nearest is Bequia , 9 miles from St. Vincent. A sleepy little island of less than 5,000. Waterside restaurants, bars, quaint shops, and an occasional small hotel are strung together by a tiny path that threads its way along the water's edge.

mustique(250x167q60a2).jpgNext comes Mustique, 17 miles from St. Vincent and known for its famous guests that hang out at Basil's Bar, including Mick Jagger, David Bowie, and British royalty (a sort of Caribbean Beverly Hills) where rock stars and royalty can relax together far from the media and crowds. This small, impressive island with 1400 acres of rolling hills surrounded by sparkling clear water has more than its share of long white sand beaches. Mustique is privately owned and has only a tiny village with a few quaint shops, the Firefly Inn and restaurant, the luxurious Cotton House resort, and 85 secluded villas. These private, palatial homes can be rented for a week or more by those desiring a perfect Caribbean luxury escape.

Mustique is owned by the Mustique Company which manages the entire islandmustiquebch(250x167q60a2).jpg and carefully controls growth to protect the natural beauty and ambiance. You won't find cruise ships in the harbour, only occasional yachtsmen drifting through on their way to somewhere else in the Grenadines. You won't find shops galore either, just a couple of small boutiques. Seven large gorgeous beaches embellish the island with lots of spots to snorkel, fish, or swim. If you're looking for an exclusive "chill out" - this is it. That's not to say there isn't plenty of activities - horseriding, sailing, hiking, biking, diving, fishing can all be arranged.

On down the kite tail you find Canouan, Mayreau, Union Island, Palm Island, and Petit St. Vincent. These islands are populated with just a few folks to a few hundred, some have airports, most have small hotels, and all have facilities for cruising sailors. One of the nice things about the Grenadines is that you need very little to stay entertained. Snorkel, swim, or dive off shore, walk the miles of deserted beaches, sail, watch the passing boats, read a book in the shade of a palm tree. Nightlife usually takes the form of a jump-up with a local band and scrumptious island cuisine.

You can glide from island to island in an hour or so in trade winds of 10-25 knots, swimming ashore to a beach bar, watching giant sea turtles and bumping into visitors from all over the world for a drink at sunset. Or you can take ferries or fly in charter aircraft to see Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, the Tobago Cays, Union Island, Petit St Vincent and Palm Island.

canouan(250x188q60a2).jpgIn the shape of a half circle, Canouan rises from its sandy beaches to the 240m (787-ft.) high peak of Mount Royal in the north, where you'll find unspoiled forests of white cedar. Twenty-three kilometers (14 miles) south of St. Vincent and 32km (20 miles) north of Grenada, Canouan has a population of fewer than 2,000 people, many of whom fish for a living and live in Retreat Village, the island's only village. Only 6km by 2km (3 3/4 by 1 1/4 miles), Canouan is surrounded by long ribbons of absolutely gorgeous powdery white-sand beaches and blue lagoons. The surrounding coral reefs teem with life, making for great snorkelling and diving. Canouan is becoming popular with yachtsmen who base themselves here to sail the Tobago Cayes. There are several dive centres and enough dives to keep you happy here. It's paradise.

mayreau(250x188q60a2).jpgMayreau lies west of the Tobago Cays. It is the smallest (1 1/2 square miles) of the inhabited Grenadine islands, with a population of about 300 people. Mayreau is accessible only by boat. The island is rimmed by magnificent sweeping white sandy beaches perfect for sailing and snorkelling and diving. Mayreau is a privately owned island shared by a hotel and a little hilltop village. It's on the route of the mail boat that plies the seas to and from St. Vincent. It's completely sleepy unless a cruise ship anchors offshore and hustles its passengers over for a lobster barbecue on the beach. There are beautiful reefs around the island and also the wreck of the 1918 British gunboat, Puruni. Mayreau is generally dived with operators from other islands.

Union Island:
Union Island is the southernmost of the Grenadines. Due to its dramatic silhouette, Union is also called by some the Tahiti of the West Indies. Its location just a few miles from the Tobago Cays, Mayreau and Petit St. Vincent has made it the ideal starting point for day charters to these islands. Union offers great hiking, beautiful deserted beaches and a bustling town, Clifton Harbour, from where the day charter yachts depart. The island has a small airport. There are several resorts and houses for rent. There is at least one large dive operator who offers diving at sites around Union and the other neighbouring islands. Laid back Caribbean at its best.

Palm Island:
The ultimate - your own private island! One of the best places in the world to palmis(250x188q60a2).jpgstay according to Travel + Leisure. This exclusive resort is set in pure tropical paradise where tranquility reigns. This natural oasis has changed little since it was first discovered.

The resort is extremely luxurious. All 40 intimate guest rooms are air-conditioned and feature island motifs, custom rattan furnishings and luxurious amenities. The vantage point from your private balcony or patio provides a sweeping panoramic view at every turn as far as the eye can see. At night dine in the gourmet restaurant. Palm Island is accessible via a ten-minute ride aboard the resort?s launch from Union Island. Diving is available and there are about 30 dive sites within easy reach.

Petit St Vincent:
psv(250x165q60a2)(1).jpgPetit St.Vincent (better known locally as PSV) which lies 40 miles south of St.Vincent, is a paradise of softly rolling hills spread over 113 acres surrounded by two miles of white sand beaches. PSV has been tamed just enough to allow for the presence of 22 discreet and simple, yet luxurious cottages. Lying well off the tourist mainstream, PSV could be best described by what is not there. There is no airport, no formal check in, no keys. There are no televisions nor are there telephones in the cottages. Above all however, there is privacy. You will feel as if the island is all yours - and in a way it is! You need never meet another visitor. Room service is available for all meals, either in your own cottage or at any other location on the island. Most guests however, choose to make use of the resort's beautiful bar and dining room for at least some of their meals. There are plenty of activities: sailing - the resort has boats at your disposal, you can be taken to deserted beaches and cayes for picnicing. There's tennis and hiking, deep sea fishing, massage and spa services, swimming and snorkelling. Diving is available and there are many dive sites within easy reach of the island.
How do you get to this paradise? PSV's Captain Maurice greets you at Union Island's airport and within minutes you are aboard the motor launch "Hera" headed for Petit St. Vincent. Waiting on the dock is Deslyn with your welcome pinolada, and your driver who whisks you directly to your cottage. Sigh...


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Diver in Scillies - UK - Mike Shean

Reality Check

This area of the Caribbean is probably what most people fantasize all of the islands to be. Blue seas dotted with small green mountainous islands, edged in white sand beaches. For some people it epitomises paradise. The diving in general is very good rather than superb but there are a lot of sites to visit and the range of watersports is unsurpassed. All of the islands are small, pick carefully as they differ in flavour. Don't try and multicentre too much! The whole ethos of a holiday here is relaxation.

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St. Vincent has been blessed with lush mountains, volcanic-rich soil and unspoiled landscapes of brilliant flora and beautiful crystal clear waters.