The Secret of Saba
- July 1st, 2019
- in Lifestyle
Not many things in this world can be considered “unspoiled” anymore.
But the tiny island of Saba may just be the last place on earth that can claim that title. Known as the “unspoiled queen” of the Caribbean, this beautiful and secluded spot may be the best kept secret of the region.
Saba’s rocky shores were occupied by the native Arawak and Carib peoples before being shuffled between the French, Dutch and British in the 17th century. After being settled more permanently by Dutchmen from St. Eustatius, rum, indigo and sugar became much of the island’s industry during this time. Saba’s southwest coast is home to the Atlantic ocean’s largest submarine atoll, making it prime lobster fishing ground. Saba became known as “the island of women” as many men went to sea as fishermen.
These women took up the creation of “Saba lace”, a type of needlework which the island was known for for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, and much of the island’s revenue came from their creations at the time. Saba has been part of the Netherlands since 1816, and is that country’s smallest special municipality.
The island’s population, though small, is quite diverse, and represents people of African, Dutch, English, Scottish and Irish descent. Saba’s residents live in four main settlements: The Bottom, Windwardside, St. Johns and Zion’s Hill. The island can be travelled by one main road, known as “The Road”. This road was built by a crew of locals and Josephus Lambert Hassell, who defied the odds (and opinions of engineers) by even attempting to build one. Hassell took a civil engineering correspondence course and construction on the road began in 1938, and wasn’t completely finished until 1958. The first cars came to Saba in 1947. The airport was constructed in 1963, and is home to the world’s shortest commercial runway. At just 1300 ft, landing at the Saba airport is quite the rush for visitors.
With no major commercial hotels or resorts, staying in Saba is a quaint and quiet experience. Red-roofed cottages are the main architectural style, and a number of small inns, boutique hotels and rental villas offer guests a beautiful example of Saban hospitality.
Visitors come to Saba not for the beaches (the rocky shoreline means there aren’t any), but to be truly immersed in nature. Exceptional hiking, diving and sailing are top eco-tourism attractions for anyone wanting some unspoiled adventure. Sabans are proud conservationists, and SCUBA divers can enjoy the Saba Marine Park and observe an abundance of sea life, including fish, coral, sponges, and even whale sharks and spotted eagle manta rays. The underwater hot springs and lava flows reveal Saba’s volcanic origins, and the reefs offer plenty of places to explore for divers of all experience levels.
Hiking the mountainous landscape to Mt. Scenery takes adventurers through varying climate zones, each with their own vegetation and ecosystems. In addition to an “elfin forest” (cloud forest), a rain forest and other deciduous woodland zones, hikers will encounter any number of flor and fauna, some not found anywhere else on earth. The views aren’t bad either! A less strenuous hike involves walking to the tide pools at Flatpoint. There, in the warm, clear water, marine life is on a spectacular display.
From providing the island silhouette for the original 1933 King Kong film to offering modern-day adventurous travellers a unique and beautiful place to explore, Saba is the last place on earth one can truly “get away from it all.”