Wild Junket » Caribbean http://www.wildjunket.com An adventure travel blog that brings you on a rollercoaster ride around the world Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:30:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Waterfalls, Villages, and Volcanoes: The Real St Vincent http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/05/07/waterfalls-villages-and-volcanoes-the-real-st-vincent/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/05/07/waterfalls-villages-and-volcanoes-the-real-st-vincent/#comments Tue, 07 May 2013 14:27:54 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=14633 Kingstown from a distanceOn our recent trip to St Vincent, we spent quite some time liming on sandy beaches and lounging around beautiful resorts; but our curiosity (as always) got the most of us: Surely there must be something to the Caribbean beyond its sandy beaches and luxurious hotels? So we tore ourselves away from the piña coladas [...]

The post Waterfalls, Villages, and Volcanoes: The Real St Vincent appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
On our recent trip to St Vincent, we spent quite some time liming on sandy beaches and lounging around beautiful resorts; but our curiosity (as always) got the most of us: Surely there must be something to the Caribbean beyond its sandy beaches and luxurious hotels? So we tore ourselves away from the piña coladas and ventured inland to find out what the main island of St Vincent is all about.

As the biggest island in the state, St Vincent measures 18 miles long and 11miles wide, and is home to over 110,000 people. It’s one of the biggest islands in the Caribbean, packing in a diverse range of terrain, ranging from mountains to dry river beds. Amidst its lush vegetation and sweeping coastlines, the island is dominated by the 4,048-foot-high active volcano La Soufriere, which erupted violently in 1812 and 1902. (Read about our experience climbing it.) Due to its volcanic nature, its coastline is peppered with steep cliffs and black sand beaches.

Led by our local guide Ozzie, we traversed its shores, from the eastern coast to the western edge, past its beaches, into its lofty mountains and tiny fishing villages.

Kingstown from a distance

Chaos Amidst the Peace

Our journey started in the capital of Kingstown, a bustling town with a population of around 10,000. Oozing a tinge of Afro culture and colonial flair, Kingstown is a mishmash of open-air markets, reggae bars, colonial houses and government buildings. Compared to the rest of the island, it’s busy, crowded, and slightly chaotic.

On closer look, it is a colonial hangover from the old days. Known as the “City of Arches”, Kingstown is home to over 400 arches –– all of which were put in place by the British during the colonization period. Most of these buildings are now used as government buildings for various authorities in the capital. In contrast with the Victorian style architecture, the walls of Kingstown are splashed with graffiti and bright colors.

One of the most attractive landmarks in Kingstown is the St George Anglican Cathedral, an imposing building dating back to 1820 . Anglican is the predominant religion on St Vincent and this remains the biggest religious building on the island. Inside, there’s a beautiful stained glass window originally designed for St Paul’s in London, but was installed here instead. Next door stands the St Mary Catholic Church, slightly less eye catching but equally steep in history.

St George Anglican Cathedral
St Mary Catholic Church

We then left Kingstown and headed towards the west coast, St Vincent’s leeward side. The first thing we noticed was the lack of tall buildings. Apparently Vincentians aren’t allowed to build anything more than four-story high as the fire engines can’t reach anything higher. Vincentians hardly live in apartment buildings as they are a proud group of people, and prefer to build their own houses than share with others.

When we asked our local guide about the cost of living in St Vincent, he said, “You’ll never grow hungry here on St Vincent. With the climate and good soil, we can always grow breadfruit or sweet potato.” Indeed, we drove past fields upon fields of plantations where locals are farming tropical fruit and crops.

Colorful Vincentian houses

Whales, Pirates, and Falls

The road started winding around steep cliff sides, slipping down the valleys and sharply up to rocky bluffs. We feasted on the spectacular views on both sides — to our right: forest covered mountain ridges and deep river gorges; to our left: the blue waters of the Caribbean lapping gently into numerous sheltered coves and secluded anchorages.

The first fishing community we came upon was Layou, a pretty village with multi-hued houses, stone churches, and crescent-shaped bay. Surrounding the village is a backdrop of dry, rocky cliffs and vertiginous ridges. Layou is also home to the Layou Petroglyph Park, where several Amerindian sites have been uncovered. To the north of Layou is Mt Wynne where Queen Elizabeth II bathed in the late 1960s and the southern stretch of sand is named after her.

Steep hills

Layou

The next fishing town along the coast was Barrouallie, perched above a small bay. Famous for its tradition of whaling, the fishermen of Barrouallie still catch ‘black fish’ (pilot whales) using open wooden sailboats and hand-thrown harpoons. The whale meat is usually dried or steamed before being eaten and the whale oil is used in facial cream.

Continuing further along the road, we found Wallilabou Bay, where the opening scenes of the movie Pirates of the Caribbean The Curse of the Black Pearl were filmed. Apparently, this was the spot where Captain Jack Sparrow famously set foot on just as his boat sank beneath the waves. The 2002 blockbuster was actually shot on several parts of St Vincent and the Grenadines; the crew (including Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom) even stayed at our hotel, Young Island Resort.

Barrouallie

Wallilabou Bay

We eventually changed course, leaving the coastline behind, and veered into the mountains. St Patrick Range stood in its full glory – its rugged peaks covered in a green carpet of vegetation soared into the sky, forming steep canyons and ridges that plunge towards streaming rivers.

Our final destination was Dark View Falls, tucked deep within the forest, at the end of the highway. Quiet and atmospheric, the falls cascaded down a vertical wall of black rocks, into a small pool of cool, mountain water. As it was the dry season when we visited, the waterfall wasn’t flowing at its maximum volume but it was enough to provide a fresh respite from the sizzling tropical heat. We frolicked in the water, playing with the blue snail and crabs that were also out enjoying the fresh water.

river
Dark View Falls
cute blue snail

By the end of the day, we’d seen a different side to St Vincent – one that we wouldn’t have if we’d stayed in our resort the whole time. Though I wished we had more time to wander around and dig up some Vincy secrets, it’s safe to say we have become acquainted with St Vincent.

The next time if you’re ever on an island in the Caribbean, I suggest taking some time to explore – you won’t be disappointed.


Disclaimer: This trip was made possible by Discover SVG but all opinions expressed above are our own.

 

 

The post Waterfalls, Villages, and Volcanoes: The Real St Vincent appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/05/07/waterfalls-villages-and-volcanoes-the-real-st-vincent/feed/ 3
Lava and Ash: Climbing La Soufriere Volcano on St Vincent http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/04/30/lava-and-ash-climbing-la-soufriere-volcano-on-st-vincent/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/04/30/lava-and-ash-climbing-la-soufriere-volcano-on-st-vincent/#comments Tue, 30 Apr 2013 14:26:04 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=14578 A view of the volcano craterThe air is hot and steamy, and I’m completely drenched in sweat. Emerald palm trees and beautiful yellow-and-red heliconia surround us but I’m too tired to care. I’m out of breathe and low in energy level, gasping for breathe and working hard to keep up with the rest. By this time, we’ve been walking for [...]

The post Lava and Ash: Climbing La Soufriere Volcano on St Vincent appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
We’re reporting live from Liming Live Week in St Vincent and the Grenadines! We’re having a fantastic week chilling, island-hopping, exploring and hanging out with friends. Read more about it here

The air is hot and steamy, and I’m completely drenched in sweat. Emerald palm trees and beautiful yellow-and-red heliconia surround us but I’m too tired to care. I’m out of breathe and low in energy level, gasping for breathe and working hard to keep up with the rest. By this time, we’ve been walking for just two hours, but it feels like eternity on this seemingly never-ending trek.

We are here on a mission to hike all the way to the top of La Soufriere volcano – the highest point on the island of St Vincent standing at 4,048 feet above sea level. Located in the northern part of the island, La Soufriere occupies almost a one third of the island, and features many geographical formations such as hot springs, several craters and dry rivers.

A view of the volcano crater

As an active volcano, La Soufriere sure has made some history. The biggest eruption took place in 1902, killing almost 1,680 people during this destructive explosion. The death zone was inhabited by mostly Caribs, destroying this last large remnant of Carib culture. The last recorded eruption was in April 1979; there were no casualties due to advance warning.

Our guide Ozzie tells us it usually erupts every 50 to 60 years, and it’s definitely safe to climb now. Having been a local guide for nine years with Sailor’s Wilderness Tours, he’s accumulated quite an impressive collection of knowledge on La Soufriere and St Vincent and the Grenadines, and has climbed this monster of a volcano more than a hundred times. When I ask what is it that keeps him motivated, he answers, “The look on your face when you reach the top of the volcano.”

“It’s priceless.”

Hiking in the rainforest

Walking through Eden

Earlier that morning, we started our walk at the base of the volcano in the midst of a thick, luscious rainforest. Tall coconut trees, banana shoots and stick-thin bamboo stood elbow to elbow in the thick luscious forest, vying for sunlight, while curly vines dangled carelessly from the canopy. Cute little green lizards scuttled past us along with a few other millipedes and spiders. Mosquitoes buzzed above our heads and dragonflies whizzed from one flower to another.

Along the way, Ozzie pointed out plants commonly used by locals, such as the trumpet leaves, often boiled with water as a remedy for cold. We also came across a fern plant with an interesting name, jumanju; each of its leaves curled up like a chameleon’s tail, lime green on the outside and brown underneath. Another plant I found interesting was the strangular fig, also known as the monkey goblin, that had long winding roots resembling those in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

We constantly heard distinctive high-pitched ringing sounds echoing from the distance. Ozzie pointed out the sounds came from the whistling waddle, one of the two endemic birds from St Vincent and the Grenadines. In fact, La Soufriere is home to five endemic plants of St Vincent and the Grenadines, two endemic birds and four endemic reptiles. The volcano has been a proposed National Park and once its status gets approved, it will be the first declared National Park for SVG. It is now under the National Protected Areas System Plan managed under the National Parks Rivers and Beaches Authority.

Vincentian lizard

jumanju

The Trail to Heaven

As we ventured higher and higher into the rainforest, the gently sloping trail eventually turned into a series of steep bamboo steps. We had to take big strides and haul our bodies up the steps with the help of our bamboo walking stick. Two of the girls in our trip, Sarah and Ruth, had already thrown in the white towel and headed back down the trail, but the few of us were determined to forge ahead.

The ascent became tougher and tougher with each step we took. We didn’t dare ask Ozzie how long more we had left to reach the top, worried that it would only lower our morale. But Ozzie pushed us further, enticing us with the view that would await. We scrambled over muddy rocks, crossed river streams, and hiked up ridges — all with the aim of getting to our destination.

After a seemingly endless steep ascent, we finally emerged from the rain forest to a rugged and rocky terrain. “We are now walking on lava,” announced Ozzie. The volcano had spewed out these lava almost four decades ago, but they have since solidified and formed a new environment. The tree line had faded by now and we were surrounded by low bushes and pretty flowers.

“This is the Soufriere flower,” said Ozzie, pointing to a simple, purple flower sprouting out from the small bushes that grew around the lava rocks. The volcano was named after this plant, La Soufriere, meaning Sulfurer, which only grows near the top of the volcano.

Our spirits grew. We knew what this meant — we were almost at the top.

La Soufriere flower

Almost at the top

Top of the World

Now back on the trail, we’re ready for the last stretch of the ascent. But the view behind us is so distracting, we constantly stop in our tracks to snap photos of the stunning landscape. The greenery of the lush rainforest splashes beneath our feet, covering every inch of the volcano base, stretching all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Ozzie points out to a hut with a tin roof in the far distance – that was where we started our trek. We find it hard to believe how far we’ve come.

The large lava boulders are now gone; in their place are steep mounts of small, black sandy rocks. Trudging up on this volcanic ash is akin to walking on a Stairmaster — no matter how hard I try, I seem to stay at the same spot. Ozzie encourages me further, “Just twenty more minutes and we’ll be there.”

“Trust me, it’s worth the hard work.”

With much determination (and constantly stopping to catch my breathe), I press on and finally catch up with Alberto and the rest of the group to be greeted by a mind-blowing view.

Before us, the circular rim of the volcanic crater plunges down 700 feet or so to the bottom. On the crater floor is a dome-shaped mount that rises approximately up to 500 feet, covered completely in green vegetation. The crater bottom too is blanketed in green grass and splashed with milky water that has been accumulated from the rain. And somewhere in the distance, covered by the clouds, lies the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea. The scenery is so dramatic and the landscape so rugged and alien that it almost feels like another galaxy here.

Two and a half hours of steep walking later, we’re finally here, at the peak of La Soufriere.

“I’ve done this for nine years, but I never get tired of this,” Ozzie exclaims as we sit and drink in the fantastic view. Indeed, it’s easy to see why.

Reaching the top!
Alberto and I


Disclaimer: This trip was made possible by Discover SVG, but all opinions expressed above are our own.

 

The post Lava and Ash: Climbing La Soufriere Volcano on St Vincent appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/04/30/lava-and-ash-climbing-la-soufriere-volcano-on-st-vincent/feed/ 8
An Instagram Photo Tour of St Vincent and the Grenadines http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/04/27/an-instagram-photo-tour-of-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/04/27/an-instagram-photo-tour-of-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines/#comments Sat, 27 Apr 2013 17:04:52 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=14468 20130429-103449.jpgThe sun is setting and showering the whole area in sparkling gold as I dive into the warm Atlantic Ocean. The coconut trees on the white pearly beach are swaying, while soft reggae music play gently in the background. As the locals like to say, “We’re on Caribbean time, man.” We’re on Young Island, a [...]

The post An Instagram Photo Tour of St Vincent and the Grenadines appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
We’re reporting live from Liming Live Week in St Vincent and the Grenadines! We’re having a fantastic week chilling, island-hopping, exploring and hanging out with friends. Read more about it here

The sun is setting and showering the whole area in sparkling gold as I dive into the warm Atlantic Ocean. The coconut trees on the white pearly beach are swaying, while soft reggae music play gently in the background. As the locals like to say, “We’re on Caribbean time, man.”

We’re on Young Island, a private island resort just off the southern tip of St Vincent, and we’re here to learn more about the Caribbean’s favorite past time of liming. As active full-time travelers, we’re constantly out and about and we hardly have time to relax on the beach and unwind. So this trip is a refreshing change for us and we’re thoroughly enjoying the slow pace. It’s been easy getting into the Caribbean rhythm – waking up to the sound of lapping waves, hopping on the bus to explore the island come afternoon, and settling in for cocktails and Caribbean food at sunset.

We’ve spent the past few days wandering around the nation’s big island, St Vincent – driving along its west coast visiting secret coves and fishing villages, dining on local breadfruit and fish on the beach, swimming in waterfalls, dancing on the busy streets of Heritage Square with thousands of Vincentians, and even climbing the 4,028-feet high La Soufriere Volcano. It’s perfect for us – plenty of time to kick back on the beach with bits of outdoor adventure and island exploration mixed in between.

Here’s a peek at some of our Instagram photos from St Vincent and the Grenadines - pardon us for the low quality images, they’re taken with our iPhone. To see more of them, head over to our #SVGLiming Instagram wall.

20130429-103449.jpg

Beautiful Admiralty Harbor off the island of Bequia

20130427-130203.jpg

The clear waters off Young Island

20130429-103439.jpg

A hawksbill turtle at the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary on Bequia

20130427-132333.jpg

Dramatic landscapes at La Soufriere Volcano

20130427-132613.jpg

Our group tired but thrilled to have reached the top of La Soufriere

20130429-103525.jpg

A cooling respite at the Dark View Falls

20130429-103557.jpg

Rapids at the Dark View Falls

20130429-103926.jpg

The rugged terrain nearing the top of La Soufriere

20130427-132132.jpg

St Mary Catholic Church in Kingstown, St Vincent

20130427-131619.jpg

Delicious curry beef with rice and breadfruit, a typical local dish in St Vincent


Disclaimer: This trip was made possible by Discover SVG but all opinions expressed above are our own.

 

The post An Instagram Photo Tour of St Vincent and the Grenadines appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/04/27/an-instagram-photo-tour-of-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines/feed/ 2
From One Island to the Next: Liming in St Vincent and the Grenadines http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/04/16/from-one-island-to-the-next-liming-in-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/04/16/from-one-island-to-the-next-liming-in-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines/#comments Tue, 16 Apr 2013 18:33:41 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=14363 One of the islands of St Vincent and the GrenadinesAfter spending a long winter last year in extraordinarily cold places (think Antarctica and Lapland), we have packed this year with plenty of trips to hot, tropical islands – from the Caribbean island of St Kitts to the Pacific treasure trove of Fiji and the volcano isles of Hawaii. Alberto and I love discovering pristine [...]

The post From One Island to the Next: Liming in St Vincent and the Grenadines appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
After spending a long winter last year in extraordinarily cold places (think Antarctica and Lapland), we have packed this year with plenty of trips to hot, tropical islands – from the Caribbean island of St Kitts to the Pacific treasure trove of Fiji and the volcano isles of Hawaii.

Alberto and I love discovering pristine beaches and exploring lush rainforests – but what we love most is going beyond the holidaymakers’ trail and seeking out our own adventures on these islands. We’ve been scuba diving, trekking in jungles, white water rafting and doing a lot more than just beach bumming; it seems about time for us to kick back, relax, and do some serious ‘liming’ (as the people of Caribbean love to say).

Our next stop after Fiji and Honduras will be the Caribbean isles of St Vincent and the Grenadines – the perfect spot for some liming. Sprawled across the West Indies, this chain of 32 islands stands buried deep within the Caribbean Sea, undisturbed by tourism. These islands were once the realm of real pirates, but now they’re home to tranquil villages and peace-loving Caribs. Picture deserted islands, looming volcanoes, and colonial towns – and that’s St Vincent and the Grenadines.

One of the islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines

What’s Awaiting

Over the week of 24 to 30 April, we’ll be hopping from one island to the next in SVG, finding out different ways of liming – from hiking volcanoes to chilling on private islands. We’ll start off the trip on Young Island, where we’re climbing La Soufriere Volcano. Then we’ll head on to the main island St Vincent, to explore the town and visit waterfalls and a botanical garden. Continuing our journey around the islands, we’ll be hopping over to Bequia, Palm Island, and Tobago Cay – to swim with turtles, go sea kayaking, and explore the lush jungles on nature walks.

But our main mission in SVG is to find out what exactly liming is, how to lime, and the best places to lime! And we want you to join in. We’ll be reporting back from Liming Live Week: sharing with you our experiences along the way – from the people we meet, the beaches we find, to the outdoor adventures we delve in and the cocktails we’re tasting. We want to hear from you, so please share your tips and photos here with us.

La Soufriere Volcano

Join Us

To follow us on our journey and keep up to date with everything that’s going on, as it happens, here are the following ways:

  • Take part in Pin Up Live, live from SVG on 24 April at 7pm EST. If you’re on Pinterest, come and join us!

Bequia

Win Your Own Liming Week

Dying to have a break on these Caribbean islands? Head on down to Discover SVG’s Facebook page, ‘like’ it and stand to win your very own Liming Week on a private island in SVG!

Enter the contest here >>

LIMING SOCIETY

Disclaimer: This campaign was made possible by DiscoverSVG, but all opinions expressed above are our own. 

The post From One Island to the Next: Liming in St Vincent and the Grenadines appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/04/16/from-one-island-to-the-next-liming-in-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines/feed/ 6
Active Caribbean: 4×4 Off-Road Adventures on Nevis http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/13/active-caribbean-4x4-off-road-adventures-on-nevis/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/13/active-caribbean-4x4-off-road-adventures-on-nevis/#comments Wed, 13 Mar 2013 14:35:09 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=14085 Alberto at the wheel With acres of unexplored rainforests, pasture land and a monster of a mountain rising from its center, Nevis is indeed an island made for adventure. Having hiked through its jungle and biked down its slopes, we found yet another alternative way of exploring the rugged terrain of the island: on board a 4×4 Polaris Ranger [...]

The post Active Caribbean: 4×4 Off-Road Adventures on Nevis appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
 With acres of unexplored rainforests, pasture land and a monster of a mountain rising from its center, Nevis is indeed an island made for adventure. Having hiked through its jungle and biked down its slopes, we found yet another alternative way of exploring the rugged terrain of the island: on board a 4×4 Polaris Ranger with Funky Monkey Tours.

Our feisty ride for the day took us through bamboo forests, muddy jungles and old sugar plantations. Along the way, we passed quiet villages – one of which was aptly named ‘hard times’ – and we met curious islanders who waved at us enthusiastically, welcoming us to their island. At the Hermitage and Golden Rock, we wandered through the grounds of boutique hotels converted from sugar estates. From vantage points, we took in views of the Atlantic Ocean coastline and Mount Nevis. And along the way, we even stumbled upon the island’s famous velvet monkeys and sipped the island’s legendary ting with a sting (a local lime beverage with rum).

This is the real Caribbean: where lush rainforests sprawl across the island, soothing Caribbean music echo through the streets of its capital, and beaches run for miles with no one in sight. Unlike other tourist-oriented Caribbean islands, Nevis has kept its natural environment in pristine condition and retained a sense of authenticity. We’re glad to have found our way into the island’s backcountry and uncovered the real Nevis.

Here are some of Alberto’s photos from our 4×4 adventures, hope they give you a look at Nevis’ backcountry.

Alberto at the wheel

Alberto ready to rumble

Mount Nevis in the distance

Mount Nevis looming in the distance

riding through the rainforest

Venturing into the jungle

Monkey business

Stumbling upon a velvet monkey by the roadside

Monkeys crossing

Monkey business

Our funky ride

 Loving our 4×4 ride

A view of the island from St Thomas Church

 A view of the island from St Thomas Anglican Church 

Meeting local children along the way

A group of young children running out of their house to say hi

An old house

A traditional house for the slaves back in the 15th century

A village house

Friendly locals wave at us

Alberto and I on our 4x4 vehicle

Stopping for a drink

Abandoned sugar mill

sugar mill rises through the thick jungle foliage

Parts of an old sugar estate

Finding an abandoned sugar estate in the rain forest 

Ending our 4x4 tour on the beach

Our tour ends on Pinneys Beach, considered the best beach on Nevis


Disclaimer: This experience was made possible by St Kitts Tourism and Funky Monkey Tours, but all opinions expressed above are our own.

The post Active Caribbean: 4×4 Off-Road Adventures on Nevis appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/13/active-caribbean-4x4-off-road-adventures-on-nevis/feed/ 4
SNUBA Diving St Kitts http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/12/snuba-diving-st-kitts/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/12/snuba-diving-st-kitts/#comments Tue, 12 Mar 2013 14:30:12 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=14058 When we first heard we were going to try SNUBA-diving off the Caribbean coast of St Kitts we didn’t know what to expect. As certified scuba divers, we were quite skeptical about this new sport. We had the preconceived idea that it would be limiting and we wouldn’t be able to see as much as we [...]

The post SNUBA Diving St Kitts appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
When we first heard we were going to try SNUBA-diving off the Caribbean coast of St Kitts we didn’t know what to expect. As certified scuba divers, we were quite skeptical about this new sport. We had the preconceived idea that it would be limiting and we wouldn’t be able to see as much as we would while scuba diving. But it turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise.

On our SNUBA experience with Kantours, our tanks were attached to a raft which could be pulled along as we explored the reef underwater. Each tank was shared by two divers, limiting the time that the group can spend underwater (usually a maximum of 25-30 minutes). The best thing about SNUBA is that only minimal gear is required – it felt exactly like scuba diving without the heavy gas tank.

Mask, fins, weight belt, harness and regulator were the only equipment that we needed. The lack of BCD and tank on your back was a big relief, making the experience feel more like snorkeling or free-diving. The fact that we were physically attached to a floating device made it easier for the dive master to control the group.

I found it easy to navigate without the weight of a gas tank and soon we were swimming alongside big coral fans and colorful parrot fish. Our diving guide even pointed out a hawksbill turtle to us and we stared in awe as it swam slowly alongside us. We also spotted a beautiful aero crab, a spider-like marine creature that tiptoed its way in our palm like an underwater insect.

On the other hand, there were some disadvantages to SNUBA from our perspective. The hose limited the maximum distance that we could swim away from the raft (usually around 6 meters/20 feet). This means that we wouldn’t be able to dive at our own pace nor go deeper than 20 feet. The constant pulling also felt somewhat uncomfortable. There was also the possibility of entanglement with other divers’ hoses so we had to be constantly aware of other divers’ positions.

Uncertified divers would be happy to know that SNUBA does not require a diving license and is a great alternative to snorkeling. If you are curious about scuba diving but don’t want to enroll into a one week course just to realize it’s not your thing, we highly recommend giving SNUBA a go.

Would we try it again? Hell yeah! 

 Wikimedia photo by Jim Mayfield


Disclaimer: This experience was made possible by St Kitts Tourism and Kantours, but all opinions expressed above are our own.

The post SNUBA Diving St Kitts appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/12/snuba-diving-st-kitts/feed/ 10
Out And About: Hiking and Biking on the Caribbean Island of Nevis http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/11/the-other-caribbean-hiking-and-biking-on-nevis/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/11/the-other-caribbean-hiking-and-biking-on-nevis/#comments Mon, 11 Mar 2013 23:30:55 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=14038 Nevis from the seaDry pastureland sprawl across the slopes of the hill while prickly plants and cotton trees fill both sides of the trail. On our left lies the dramatic coastline of the Atlantic Ocean, as its dark blue waters lap onto the empty shores of the island. To the right, Mount Nevis looms overhead, reaching over a [...]

The post Out And About: Hiking and Biking on the Caribbean Island of Nevis appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
Dry pastureland sprawl across the slopes of the hill while prickly plants and cotton trees fill both sides of the trail. On our left lies the dramatic coastline of the Atlantic Ocean, as its dark blue waters lap onto the empty shores of the island. To the right, Mount Nevis looms overhead, reaching over a height of 3,500 feet above sea level, casting a shadow over us. Clustered around the foothills of the mountain are acres of lush rainforests and pasture lands where livestock roam and curious travelers like us wander.

We are on the Caribbean island of Nevis, just two miles from St Kitts yet a world away. In contrast to the lush tropical vegetation of St Kitts, Nevis is sprinkled with brown arid terrain and dry farm lands. Instead of bright red heliconias, here in  the northern part of the island around the area of Mount Lily, we find our way around wild sage and coconut palms.

As outdoor lovers, we are drawn to nature; and there is no shortage of it on the island of Nevis. Under the wings of local guide Greg from Nevis Sun Tours, we head into the jungles of Nevis on a hike-and-bike trip to find out more.

Nevis from the sea

Tracing Roots

Wearing a professional biking gear and a warm smile, Greg is a friendly and outdoor-loving Nevisian who’s more than happy to show visitors a different side to Nevis. Spotting an American accent, he tells me that he’d spent over a decade in Texas and had come home to Nevis in 2007. When I asked why he’d decided to return, he pointed out to the view before us and said, “This is why! Look how beautiful this is.”  

Indeed, the view of the crashing waves and rolling hills was what drew us to St Kitts and Nevis in the first place. Both islands are packed with unspoiled nature and plenty of opportunities to engage in outdoor activities like biking and hiking. Beyond the beaches, there is a whole world of jungle, villages and historical plantations to quench our curiosity.

Greg believes that Nevis has plenty to offer especially for active travelers. From kayaking to hiking and windsurfing, the flurry of activities that Nevis Sun Tours organizes on the island is endless. With his love for his homeland and outdoor sports, he also sets up several sporting events to put Nevis on the world map. One event that has caught the interest of many is the two-mile Nevis to St Kitts Cross Channel Swim that takes place every March. Others include the Nevis International Triathlon and Nevis Fishing Tournament.

Indeed, the view of the crashing waves and rolling hills was what drew us to St Kitts and Nevis in the first place. Both islands are packed with unspoiled nature and plenty of opportunities to engage in outdoor activities like biking and hiking.

Hiking Mount Lily

Exploring the Unexplored

Back on the trail, we find ourselves hiking through more pasture land before entering the lush rainforest. At the edge of the rainforest, we already note a big difference in temperature and environment. The humidity increases and the tree canopy provides a welcoming shade from the sizzling heat.

Along the way Greg points out all sorts of vegetation that Nevisians use for cooking and treatment. Hibiscus is used to treat blood pressure while wild sage is boiled to cure fever and flu. We also stumble upon flamboyant trees, with brown pea pods hanging from their dried branches. Its flower is the national flower of St Kitts and Nevis – during blooming season, they light up the two islands with beautiful bright red and cream colors.  In the midst of the greenery, Greg also points out a lemon tree. He says, “You wont ever get hungry on Nevis, there’s food and natural medicine everywhere.”

After going slightly further into the jungle, we arrive at Mount Pleasant, an abandoned sugar estate. Greg points out the low wall of rocks that indicate the boundaries of this 16th century estate. Lyiing parallel to the walls are cobblestoned driveways that were probably used for donkey-driven carts before cars were invented.

Since the 1600s, sugar production was the main industry on the Caribbean islands. Brought in  by Christopher Columbus in 15th century, the industry thrived and up to 70 sugarcane plantations were built on Nevis. Sugar production continued to provide a source of income for the islanders until 2005. Even though the sugar mills are no longer used for their original purpose these days, many of them have been restored and converted into luxury hotels such as The Hermitage, Golden Rock and Montpelier Plantation where we stayed at.

Mount Pleasant sugar estate

This estate at Mount Pleasant, however, has been abandoned for decades. Banyan trees hang over the decrepit church while insects and vines fill up the storage tanks.

This estate at Mount Pleasant, however, has been abandoned for decades. Banyan trees hang over the decrepit church while insects and vines fill up the storage tanks. Even the sugar mill has partially collapsed, now hidden under layers of creeping vines and hanging roots. A bat cave stands behind the mill, showing remnants of it past. We hop over the buttress roots and weave through the curtains of tree branches to find a place that looks largely unexplored.

Greg explains, “This area is particularly interesting as few people know about it – not even locals are familiar with it. It makes us feel like explorers, discovering a secret spot for the first time.”

There are few historical records that show the past so even Greg doesn’t have answers to many of the mysteries surrounding this estate. Who lived here? How big was the actual estate? Nobody knows.

Sugar mill

Free Wheeling

We soon emerge out of the jungle to conquer the slopes on bikes. I’m not the strongest cyclist around and the steep road that winds its way down to the coastline appears daunting. But with a state-of-the-art mountain bike and patient guides like Greg and his business partner Winston, I’m not the least bit worried.

Greg and Winston find us a smooth patch of road for us to paddle and it’s all downhill from here. The sea breeze whips my hair and I slowly relax and loosen my grip on the handle bar. We roll downhill for just half a kilometer before we arrive at Greg’s donkey stable. He introduces us to Emma and a few other donkeys his grandfather had passed on to him. They all come forward and sniff us out curiously. As I offer some food to them, they get even more excited to see us.

After our short time with the donkeys, I can’t wait to get back on the bike despite my initial anxiety. Greg is glad that he’s converted even the most nervous biker (that’s me) to a relaxed enthusiast. We hop back on and this time we snake through the quiet roads of Nevis down to beach for another kilometer.

By the way our tour ends, I’m flushed with excitement for having conquered my anxiety on bikes and discovering a lesser-known part of Nevis. The next time we’re back, I promise to spend more time paddling the roads of Nevis.

Nellie biking on Nevis
biking with Winston and Greg
Donkey Experience
Donkeys


Disclaimer: Our trip was made possible by St Kitts Tourism, but all opinions expressed above are our own.

The post Out And About: Hiking and Biking on the Caribbean Island of Nevis appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/11/the-other-caribbean-hiking-and-biking-on-nevis/feed/ 5
The Other Caribbean: Rainforest Trekking on St. Kitts http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/05/exploring-the-lush-rainforest-of-st-kitts/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/05/exploring-the-lush-rainforest-of-st-kitts/#comments Tue, 05 Mar 2013 14:10:08 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=14015 Aside from the tranquil beaches and flavorful Caribbean food, one of the biggest draw of St. Kitts is its rainforest. Protected since 1902, the Central Reserve Rain Forest covers almost 25% of the island extending from the foothills of the mountains that rise up from the interior of the island, all the way to the coastline. They’re lush, [...]

The post The Other Caribbean: Rainforest Trekking on St. Kitts appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
Aside from the tranquil beaches and flavorful Caribbean food, one of the biggest draw of St. Kitts is its rainforest. Protected since 1902, the Central Reserve Rain Forest covers almost 25% of the island extending from the foothills of the mountains that rise up from the interior of the island, all the way to the coastline. They’re lush, pristine, and very well protected – with little or no intervention from external parties.

Into the Jungle

On an opened land rover, we headed out into Wingfield-Phillips Rainforest with our trusty guide Dion from Greg’s Safaris. After a 15-minute drive to the start of the trek, we got off our open-roofed truck and a friendly dog joined our group as Dion gave us some tips before starting the hike.

“This jungle is as safe as you can imagine. The spiders are friendly and there are no poisonous trees. Just make sure not to step on one of these fire ant colonies.” Dion said, as he pointed out to a mound of sand. Just when he removed his hiking stick, a troop of army marched to the surface, quickly dispersing in a spree.

“What about the velvet monkeys?” I asked. We’d heard so much about the monkeys that roam St Kitts but we’d yet to see them in the wild. These velvet monkeys had been brought in by the French from Africa during the colonial days and were never brought out. There are now more monkeys than humans on the island, with a population of around 98,000 versus 50,000 humans.

Dion explained that it would be difficult to see them in the forest as they’re often camouflaged and with their sharp hearing, they can often hear humans coming from a far distance and run off before we can see them.

Hiking into the rainforest
Following the trail

A Different World

We continued up the walking trail past farm lands and into the start of the rainforest, evident from the lush foliage and wet, humid climate. The temperature dropped to a comfortable level and the tree canopy provided natural shade.We found ourselves pushing past tall palm trees, thick bamboo thickets, emerald green elephant ear fronds and banyan roots hanging from the treetops. Beautiful bright red heliconia, yellow bell and purple hibicus (St Kitts’ national flower) all dangled from the branches, adding a touch of color to the forest. Hummingbirds flew overhead, curiously sussing us out from a distance.

Along the way, Dion pointed out the different varieties of plants: from soursop and lemongrass to bananas, sweet potato, silver trumpets. The variety of plants found throughout our short hike was astonishing, and every single one of them was used for a specific medicinal purpose. Be it a remedy for the stomach ache or a healthy diet for the island’s pigs, there is no plant on the island without a cure.

As an expert in herbs and plant life, Dion has been sent by the Kittitian government to other parts of the world such as Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the United States to do research and learn about plants. When I asked how he found his love for plants, he said, “My grandmother was a mid-wife and she always used plants as medication. She was the one who taught me all these.”

Dion explaining plant life to us
nutmegs
bright red heliconia

A Glimmer of Hope

Contrary to what is happening to most rainforests around the world, the tropical rainforest on St Kitts have been expanding at a steady pace due to the halt in sugar cane production and the excellent conservation work from associations and operators like Greg’s Safaris. This expansion has caught the attention of other countries in the Caribbean and South America, which are now adopting similar conservation techniques.

We eventually emerge from the rainforest to a welcoming view of the Atlantic Ocean, a sparkling blanket of blue and grey. Back on the truck, Dion serves up some homemade sugar cake and coconut scones, which we washed down with some fresh rum punch that we will surely miss after we leave the island. After a day out in the jungle, this was the perfect way to end.

Emerging from the forest
Our truck


Disclaimer: Our trip was made possible by St Kitts Tourism, but all opinions expressed above are our own.

The post The Other Caribbean: Rainforest Trekking on St. Kitts appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/05/exploring-the-lush-rainforest-of-st-kitts/feed/ 4
Photoblog: Secrets of St Kitts http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/04/photoblog-secrets-of-st-kitts/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/04/photoblog-secrets-of-st-kitts/#comments Mon, 04 Mar 2013 14:30:38 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=14016 Nellie posing with St. Kitts at her feetSwaying coconut trees, sparkling blue water, powdery sand and the sounds of reggae music in the distance: St Kitts is everything we’d imagined – and more. Having spent almost a week exploring, we’re thrilled to find that St Kitts isn’t just any Caribbean island. It’s the Caribbean without sun-burnt tourists, all-inclusive resorts, and Señor Frogs. [...]

The post Photoblog: Secrets of St Kitts appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
We’re currently on the Caribbean island of St Kitts for some hiking, biking, ATV action, and liming. Follow us on our journey here or on Twitter with the hashtag #St Kitts.

Swaying coconut trees, sparkling blue water, powdery sand and the sounds of reggae music in the distance: St Kitts is everything we’d imagined – and more. Having spent almost a week exploring, we’re thrilled to find that St Kitts isn’t just any Caribbean island. It’s the Caribbean without sun-burnt tourists, all-inclusive resorts, and Señor Frogs. Imagine Barbados 20 years ago and that’s St Kitts – no high-rise hotels, touts nor throngs of crowds. In their place are empty, pristine beaches, tranquil villages, lush green rainforests, and a huge monkey population (bigger than the human population of 35,000!).

Despite its small size (68 square miles), St Kitts packs a punch especially for active travelers like ourselves who like to get out and about. Over the past few days, we’ve hiked in the Phillips Rainforest, ziplined through the Wingfield forest, and tried SNUBA diving for the first time. While navigating our way around the island, we also learned about St Kitts’ colonial and slavery history in the capital of Basseterre, where prisons and British architecture can still be seen today. At the UNESCO World Heritage Site of  Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, we were transported back in time when British troops protected the land against the French. Wingfield Estate also gave us a glimpse into the island’s sugar production history.

To give you an idea of St Kitts’ secrets, here are some of Alberto’s shots from various corners of the island. We’ll be back with more stories but in the meantime, enjoy the photos!

Nellie posing with St. Kitts at her feet

The numerous hills on the island offer amazing view points

View of the South Peninsula with Nevis island in the background

On a clear day, a view of the whole South Peninsula can be enjoyed with the island of Nevis in the background

Nellie at one of the beautiful beaches of St. Kitts

Nellie enjoying some sunshine at one of the beautiful beaches of St. Kitts

Cattle egret

St. Kitts is also a great place for bird watching. Here’s a Cattle Egret resting on a tree

Stone of fertility

The island of St. Kitts was once called Liamigua or “fertile island” by its early inhabitants. Locals believe that touching this rock and the fertility drawings carved on it will boost your chances of getting a baby

The Rum Tree

The Rum Tree. Locals express their love to the Caribbean’s signature beverage by hanging empty rum bottles to decorate this very special bush

Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

The Brimstone Hill Fortress is a living testament of the power of the british empire during their rule on the island

Cannon at Brimstone Hill Fortress

The fortress is located on a vantage spot for defense and control of the island

The Brimstone Hill Fortress is one of the best preserved historical fortifications in the Americas, something we can attest while visiting its interior

Barbecue stands are scattered all across the island to the enjoyment of tourists and locals

Beach at Reggae Beach Bar in St. Kitts

After a day of exploring, what better way to kick back and relax than at one of St. Kitts tranquil beaches


Disclaimer: Our trip was made possible by St Kitts Tourism, but all opinions expressed above are our own.

The post Photoblog: Secrets of St Kitts appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/03/04/photoblog-secrets-of-st-kitts/feed/ 10
Liming On the Caribbean Island of St Kitts http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/02/27/liming-on-the-caribbean-island-of-st-kitts/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/02/27/liming-on-the-caribbean-island-of-st-kitts/#comments Wed, 27 Feb 2013 17:00:13 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=14003 From the religious enclaves of Israel, we’ve flown over oceans and continents to the Caribbean island of St Kitts – where time seems to have slowed down to a leisurely pace. Every where on the island, the warm breeze blows and the sound of lapping waves echo from the distance, people saunter on the beach [...]

The post Liming On the Caribbean Island of St Kitts appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
From the religious enclaves of Israel, we’ve flown over oceans and continents to the Caribbean island of St Kitts – where time seems to have slowed down to a leisurely pace. Every where on the island, the warm breeze blows and the sound of lapping waves echo from the distance, people saunter on the beach where palm trees dance and sway. Life here is slow, relaxing, and most of all, stress free.

It’s been almost ten years since we’ve been back in the Caribbean and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The past few trips have found us cruising to Antarctica, zipping through the coldest reaches of Europe, and trekking through the backcountry of Israel — we’re now ready to kick back, swap our hiking boots for flipflops, and spend time on the beach – just liming (the Caribbean’s version of relaxing and hanging out). Indeed, liming is a work of art that we’ve come to master and nowhere else does it quite as well as the Caribbean.

But we’re here to explore and liming will just have to wait. Over the past few days, we’ve driven all over the island, drinking in stunning views from the Brimstone Fortress National Park, stumbling upon centuries-old petroglyphs, wandering around the capital of Basseterre and admiring its colonial buildings, and trekking in the rainforest.

For the rest of the week, there’s plenty of stuff awaiting. We’ll be hopping over to the neighboring island of Nevis, for a day of mountain biking and hiking as well as a road trip on 4×4 wheelers. Back on St Kitts, we’ll be doing a rum tour to learn about the island’s flavors, and boarding the scenic railway to see the isle from another point of view, before goofing around on ATVs around Port Zanté.

For an island of just 68 square miles, it packs quite a punch – and while our time here is packed to the brim with adventurous activities, we’ll be sure to do some liming here too, because that’s what life is about right?

We will be writing about St Kitts over the next few weeks. Meanwhile, be sure to leave us some travel tips!


Disclaimer: Our trip was made possible by St Kitts Tourism, but all opinions expressed above are our own.

The post Liming On the Caribbean Island of St Kitts appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2013/02/27/liming-on-the-caribbean-island-of-st-kitts/feed/ 8