Reflections of travel to the Caribbean
As a certified travel agent for four decades, an international airline employee, researcher, writer, teacher and photographer, travel, whether for business or pleasure, has always been an important and integral part of my life. Some 400 trips to all parts of the world, by road, rail, sea and air, involved both worldly and exotic destinations. This article focuses on those in the Caribbean.
Significant voyages in multiple modes, often on more than one occasion, covered 18 islands.
Antigua, via St. John’s, involved a road tour of Shirley Heights, Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, and the Blockhouse ruins.
Aruba, with its colorful capital and the cruise port of Oranjestad, included landmarks like Oranjestad. Parliament, Queen Wilhelmina Park, Queen Beatrix International Airport, Santa Cruz, Agnochi Catashi Rock Formations, Ayo Rock Formations, Natural Bridge, Aruba Aloe Factory and Museum, and Palm Beach high-rise hotels and the lows go up a few in Eagle Beach.
Barbados, with its capital at Bridgetown, involved sightseeing to many of its parishes and included attractions such as Santa Cruz, the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, and the Barbados Concorde Experience, near Grantley Adams International Airport.
Bonaire, served by Kralendijk, included attractions like Gotomeer, Seru Largu, and Washington Slagbaai National Park. Located in northwestern Bonaire, it is a 14,830-acre natural sanctuary that was originally inhabited by native South Americans and was the location of the two largest plantations on the island during the Colonial Period, growing divi-divi and aloe trees and producing charcoal. . Accessed by a 15- and 22-mile route, the park featured considerable topographic diversity, including desert areas, black and white sand beaches, caverns, flamingo-frequented salt flats, reefs, coral-filled bays, and pink ponds. A visitor center and a museum were located at its entrance.
Curaçao, with colorful Dutch architecture painting its Willemstad streets, included landmarks such as the Waterfront, dating from 1634, the Pier Square, Fort Amsterdam, the Queen Emma: Pontoon Bridge, Wilhelmina Draw Bridge, Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, and the Jewish Museum.
Journeys beyond Willemstad involved the Curaçao Liquor Factory; Fort Nassau; the Grotto of Boca Tabla; the Knip Plantation House; Knip Bay, which was one of the most beautiful beaches on the island where the pure and sugary sand met the turquoise sea of the Caribbean; and general scenes enjoyed from his “cunucu”, which was the Papiamento word for “country.”
Lush, velvety green Dominica was marked by its famous Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a 17,000-acre ecological area located on the southern side of the island. A UNESCO World Heritage site and the only one in the Eastern Caribbean, it featured one of the last oceanic rainforests in the world. It was accessed by narrow, uphill, and bumpy roads and featured crater lakes, cave-fed waterfalls, freshwater lakes, and the three peaks of Morne Trois Pitons. Mist rose frequently over the dark green growth of this primeval rainforest. A cable car offered spectacular views of this place reminiscent of Switzerland.
Other areas visited included Trafalgar Falls and Laudat Village.
Grand Cayman meant George Town, Hell, Seven Mile Beach, and West Bay.
Grenada, the island of spices, was indicative of St. George’s, Fort Frederick, Annandale Falls, Grand Etang National Park, and the Douglaston Spice Estate.
The famous Casa de Campos was a symbol of the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola.
Jamaica, with its lush and mountainous interior, suggested images of continental forests, and its sights included Dunn’s River Falls, Mountain Valley, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios beaches. A jitney tour of the plantation and a bamboo rafting on the Martha Brae River were the highlights.
Puerto Rico was characterized by San Juan, Playa de Luquillo, the El Yunque rainforest, and Isla Verde. Old San Juan was home to the San Juan National Historic Site, with buildings dating back to the 16th century, including the San Felipe del Morro and San Cristóbal fortresses and the old city walls.
Saint Bartholomew covered Gustava, the capital and seaport, the Den Rock Hotel, the first on the island, Morne Vitet, the highest peak on the island at 281 meters, Anse de Grand Cul de Sac, Anse de Marigot, Loreint Beach, St. Jean Beach and Tortuga Island, the meeting point of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
St. Croix, with its Danish heritage, included visits to its two main cities, Christiansted and Frederiksted. Fort Christiansvaern was among the Danish colonial buildings of the Christiansted National Historic Site. The West St. George Village Botanical Gardens occupied a former sugar plantation. And a boat cruise to the Buck Island Reef Monument, a 176-acre small uninhabited island 1.5 miles north of the northeast coast of St. Croix, offered scuba diving opportunities.
St. John, the smallest of the US Virgin Islands, was accessed by an inter-island ferry from St. Thomas and involved a tour of its Virgin Islands National Park, which took up most of the island. . Its beaches, including forest-backed Trunk Bay and Francis Bay, whose calm waters were home to sea turtles, were fringed by coral reefs. Annaberg Plantation was once the location of an 18th century sugar plantation and trails through the rainforest led to the ruins of the Reef Bay Sugar Mill.
Saint Lucia, in the Eastern Caribbean, was an island nation whose dramatically tapered pair of mountains, the Pitons, marked its west coast, which in turn was home to volcanic beaches, reef dive sites, luxury resorts and fishing villages. Inland rainforest trails often ended in waterfalls like the 50-foot-high Toraille, which spilled down a cliff into a garden.
From Castires, its cruise port, the exploration encompassed the 18th century merchant house of San Marcos built in 1942, which had used the 1920 foundations of the original structure; Caribelle Batik; Marigot Bay; the Roseau Valley banana plantation; Anse La Raye; and La Sikwi Sugarmill, which included a guided tour and tasting of indigenous foods from Saint Lucia: fried green bananas, breadfruit, sugar cane, grapefruit, yellow bananas, and banana ketchup.
St. Maarten / St. Martin was marked by its major cities, Marigot on French St. Martin and Philipsburg on Dutch St. Maarten.
St. Thomas’s tourist attractions included Skyline Drive, a view from the top of the mountain, Charlette Amalie, Fort Christian, and a ride up the Paradise Point streetcar. But the highlight was a parasailing flight over its bay.
Attached to a parachute and launched from the stern of a speedboat, the parachute instantly surrendered to aerodynamic forces and soared through the air, the world recoiling and miniaturized in seconds until even the sound of the boat’s engine faded to be silent. Suspended 600 feet above St. Thomas Harbor and the now-small 91,000-ton Constellation cruiser with my feet dangling into oblivion, I was left with the surreal perspective of the island below; the fierce winds that filled my parachute and uniquely kept me aloft; and my thoughts.
Trinidad was marked by its capital, Port of Spain.