Saba may be small in size, but this unspoiled Caribbean paradise is overflowing with beauty and wonder.
It is unique among the islands of the Caribbean. With rugged coastlines and volcanic hills, Saba stands out for its distinct features. Lush jungles and black sand beaches are part of its incredible, uncommon ecosystem.
All about Saba
Saba belongs to the Dutch West Indies. Measuring just 5 square miles, it is the smallest special municipality of the Netherlands. Only around 2,000 people live there. With just four towns, it is the smallest country in the Americas, as far as permanent population.
The island’s four historic villages have not changed much over time, adding to their charm. Dutch colonial architecture stands intact, as a testament to the Europeans who laid claim to the tiny island centuries ago.
However, the first Europeans to explore the island were Englishmen. Although Christopher Columbus reportedly saw the island, he did not land due to its dangerous-looking rocky shores. Nevertheless, a group of English sailors shipwrecked there in 1632. Although evidence has been discovered of Arawak and Carib people inhabiting Saba, these sailors claimed that they did not see them.
A few years later, a Frenchman claimed the island for France. Later, several Dutch families came over from nearby Sint Eustatius. They were later evicted by the British. The island changed hands many times throughout the seventeenth century, as well as the eighteenth. Finally, it became a Dutch municipality once again in 1816, and has stayed as such ever since.
A volcanic island
Saba is a volcanic island, almost completely covered by a single rhomb-shaped volcano called Mount Scenery. Measuring 4.6 kilometres (2.9 mi) east to west and 4.0 kilometres (2.5 mi) north to south, Mount Scenery is a potentially active volcano. The last time it erupted was in the early 1600s.
Thanks to Mount Scenery, Saba has several black sand beaches. However, they are not necessarily permanent, thanks to the island’s constantly changing rocky coastline. Currently, there is a black sand beach at Well’s Bay. An eruption from Mount Scenery volcano in 1642 left this small beach with a high percentage of volcanic material. It is small and a bit rocky, but it’s worth visiting if you’re looking for somewhere unique and secluded to hang out.
Flora and fauna in Saba
There is a 21 acre forest at the top of Mount Scenery, known as the Elfin Forest Reserve. An elfin forest is a rare type of forest that features miniature trees. The most common tree in the the Elfin Forest Reserve is the mountain mahogany. The island also has many other types of trees, as well as species of cactus.
The fauna of Saba is highly varied, and a number of endemic species call the island home. The Saba racer (Alsophis rufiventris), the Saban anole (Anolis sabanus), and the Lesser Antillean funnel-eared bat (Natalus stramineus stramineus) are found almost exclusively on Saba, although they have also appeared on a few other islands in the Lesser Antilles.
However, Saba is most famous for its birds. The rocky cliffs and sheer bluffs provide the perfect nesting grounds for sea birds. Because of this, BirdLife International has designated Saba an “Important Bird Area”. In addition, the largest breeding colony of the Red-billed tropicbird in the Caribbean is located in Saba. The national bird of Saba is the Audubon’s shearwater, which are very common on the island. This bird is featured in the nation’s coat of arms.
Despite being a special municipality of the Netherlands, both English and Dutch are the official languages of Saba. In fact, English is the language of choice in schools. However, like many Caribbean islands, Saba has its own version of English, called Saba English. This local vernacular is similar to Virgin Islands Creole English.
Because so much of the island is unspoiled and untouched, ecotourism is very popular. Activities such as scuba diving, hiking, and climbing let visitors explore nature at its finest.
Tourism now accounts for more of the island’s income than any other sector. In recent years, more hotels, villas, and restaurants have sprung up to accommodate the growing number of tourists that visit each year.
The waters around Saba are perfect for diving. Over 150 unique species of fish have been found around the island, living among spectacular underwater towers of volcanic rock. In 1987, the government designated the water around Saba as the Saba National Marine Park, in order to conserve the coral reef and marine life.
Fun Facts about Saba
- Saba has only one main road, called “The Road”. Begun in 1938, it took five years to complete. Although still in use today, the mountainous curves make it very difficult to navigate.
- There is just one small airport, called the Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport. It has the world’s smallest runway, which is only 1,300 feet long. Only small aircraft and helicopters can land there.
- There are 800 stone steps connecting Ladder Bay to Saba’s capital and largest town, known as The Bottom. In colonial days, and up until the 20th century, people had to carry supplies that arrived by boat up the steps by hand.
- Locals refer to the island as “The Unspoiled Queen”.
- Most of the houses in Saba have a cottage look and red roofs like those seen in other Dutch municipalities, such as St. Barthelemy.
- Culture is generally traditional and old-fashioned. Nightlife is slow.
- Like many other Caribbean islands, Saba holds an annual Carnival in July. If you go, you can enjoy great food, live music, and colorful parades.
- Locals make and export two famous traditional products: Saba Lace and Saba spice, which is a rum drink.
- Saba is one of the smallest and most underrated islands in the Caribbean.
- There is just one radio station on the island.
- Soccer is the most popular sport on the island. Futsal, a variation of soccer played on a hard court with 5 players on each side, is also widely played.
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