It’s summer, and it’s time to sing to the tunes of the Caribbean waters. This month, Amal Sarhan explores the Leewards islands of Anguilla, St. Martin, and St. Kitts and Nevis for some sunshine and a taste of heritage.
“Visual surprise is natural in the Caribbean; it comes with the landscape, and faced with its beauty, the sigh of history dissolves.”― Derek Walcott
East of Puerto Rico and the British and American Virgin Islands lies Anguilla, a British overseas territory known for its rich history, artistic fervour and natural wonders.
Located at the western tip of the main island, the Anguilla Arch is the nation’s own Azure Window, with the glittering water passing beneath it. Another wonder is the Big Spring Cave, one of the island’s most iconic historical landmarks, previously used by indigenous communities between 600 to 1500 AD as a place of ceremonial worship, with petroglyphs covering its walls, and later used as a source of fresh water for inhabitants and animals. The Pineapple Art Gallery is the oldest gallery in town, showcasing a large selection of Haitian art. The gallery’s owner, Philippe Manasse, is a Parisian who has spent a large portion of his life in Anguilla. His collection boasts wonderful bright colours and traditional patterns. The Devonish Art Gallery, Q Art Gallery and Lynne Bernbaum Art Gallery are also great to visit.
The Wallblake House, now a museum annexe, is the only surviving heritage sugar plantation house and the oldest building on the island. You’ll be able to see the stables, slave quarters and kitchen complex, as well as a church used by the inhabitants. Going to Anguilla would be a shame without a beach visit. Rendezvous Bay and Shoal Bay East are well-known on the island and offer beautiful strips of soft sand and cool waves. Just be careful not to get sunburnt!
St. Martin and St. Maarten
Famously the world’s smallest land area divided between two nations, France and the Netherlands, this island is one of the most vibrant Caribbean islands.
Perhaps the most prized natural treasure of the island is David’s Hole, a two and a half meters-wide sinkhole and an absolute sight to behold; just be careful not to stand too close to the edge!
For the adventurists out there, check out Rainforest Adventures Rockland Estate. Zipline, glide or slide down from Sentry Hill as you feel the breeze whip through your hair. Another great activity is horse-riding at the Seaside Nature Park, where you can enjoy the company of other animals too, such as ducks, goats, peacocks and iguanas. For those who want to go paddling, jet skiing, scuba diving or snorkelling, latch on to Creole Rock Watersports for some water fun. For animal lovers, the Parrot Ville Bird Park is sure to put a smile on your face. This parrot sanctuary features an unbelievable breadth of the birds flaunting their fervidly colourful feathers.
Loterie Farm is one of the biggest enterprises on the island. The former plantation turned nature reserve offers everything from hiking trails to treetop canopy tours to ziplines to a pool surrounded by cabanas and a restaurant.
Art enthusiasts must head over to the Silk Cotton Grove Art Gallery. The quaint house, which has a massive silk cotton tree towering at the front, is run by a lovely lady named Ruby Bute and houses a very interesting collection of vibrant local art. The Minguet Art Gallery is equally pleasurable. Named after the French artist Alexandre Minguet (who spent some parts of his life on the island), the gallery, run by his daughter, showcases a collection of his colourful and creative prints.
Don’t forget to visit Happy Bay Beach to relax!
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Kitts and Nevis, a dual-island nation, is known for its lofty mountains, luscious greenery, heavenly beaches and historic sugar plantations.
The St. Kitts Scenic Railway is the best way to get a good glimpse at the island’s history and geographic beauty. The railway takes passengers on a three-hour tour circling around the island, with part of the journey on a bus. The railway was previously used to transport sugar cane from plantations to the main city. You can also see St. Kitts’ famous rainforest, crawling with vigorous verdant life and flourishing with a breadth of species. For a bird’s eye view, head to Sky Safaris and zipline on one of the Caribbean’s longest ziplines as you fly through the thicket of trees and over the Wingfield River.
A 17th-century sugar plantation estate by the same name, Wingfield Estate, is known as a historical gem on the island, with petroglyphs indicating the presence of Amerindians. Romney Manor, the house on the estate, was once owned by Sam Jefferson II, the great, great, great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson. In the 1970s, the house became a Batik enterprise, creating beautiful and vivid fabrics, which you can still see and buy today. It is also home to the island’s oldest tree, a Saman tree.
Nevis is lined with colourful houses and filled with friendly faces, especially at the Artisan Village. Head down there for a stroll and some local knickknacks. The Museum of Nevis History is a must-visit, giving you an overview of the island’s heritage. Head to the Botanical Gardens to explore some fascinating plant life.