The spectacularly beautiful islands of St. Lucia, Martinique and Montserrat encompass a fusion of English, African, French, and Indian culture. Dotted with volcanoes, lush with tropical rainforest, surrounded by turquoise oceans teeming with marine life – the Caribbean Islands are a destination not to be missed!
Guadeloupe has a distinctly French flavour and few people speak English. Here you can witness the native Gwoka drums now played for pleasure, but once the only form of communication between slaves. On the tiny island of Guadeloupe sugar cane is still cut by hand and hauled by ox carts to the local distilleries where it is transformed into rum.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS
- Mardi Gras Carnival, Guadeloupe (February)
- Martinique Carnival (February)
- St. Lucia Jazz Festival (May)
- Lizin Tanbou Drum Festival, Guadeloupe (June)
- World Ocean Day, Guadeloupe (June)
- Montserrat Calabash Festival (July)
- St. Lucia Carnival (July)
- Cudjoe Head Day, Montserrat (August)
- Tour des Yoles Rondes, Martinique (August)
- Visit the local fishing village of Soufrière, St. Lucia and enjoy an authentic Rastafarian lunch at Jah Lamb’s restaurant.
- See how cocoa beans are processed and have lunch at the beautiful Fond Doux Estatein St. Lucia.
- Make an adventurous climb up Grand Piton in southern St. Lucia.
- Scuba dive the shipwrecks sunk during the 1906 volcanic eruption off St. Pierre,Martinique.
- Take a ferry between the Caribbean Islands.
- Visit an old time distillery on the island of Marie Galante, Guadeloupe.
- Witness the amazing dances of the Tche Kreyol Ballet.
- Scuba dive on the pristine sites of Montserrat.
- Take a boat trip to see the Montserrat city of Plymouth now buried under volcanic ash.
- Hike into the Centre Hills Conservation Area of Montserrat.
- Explore Montserrat’s picturesque tropical surroundings by horseback.
- When to go: The Caribbean high season covers December to April. If it’s crowded beaches and dry, sunny weather you’re after then this is the time to visit. But… be prepared to pay. Visiting during the off-season has the advantages of good bargains and avoiding the crowds, but beware of the hurricane season.
- What to wear: Casual dress is most appropriate in the Caribbean. While swimsuits are welcomed on the beach, proper clothing such as trousers, tops and shoes are expected in shops, restaurants and other public areas. The French Islands are especially keen on proper decorum.
- Getting there: There are a multitude of international flights into the Caribbean so an island break is full of options. Travelling between the islands, however, can be more of a challenge as many of these routes require inconvenient diversions through other islands, or even countries. Small planes mean tight weight restrictions so remember to travel light. Travelling by ferry can be a unique and easier way of travelling between some of the islands – just bear in mind that ferries are often dry docked in June so be sure to check schedules when planning your adventure.
- Getting around: Public transport on the Caribbean islands can be tricky and timetables few and far between. There are public buses – usually minivans – which leave when full and make ad hoc pick-ups and drop-offs along the way. Travellers should be prepared to wait and enjoy the the local culture – after all, this is the Caribbean and it’s all about being laid back and relaxed.
– St. Lucia & Montserrat: East Caribbean Dollar (XCD or EC$; $), US$ also accepted
– Martinique & Guadeloupe: Euro (EUR €)
– St. Lucia & Montserrat: English
– Martinique & Guadeloupe: French & Creole
– St. Lucia: 150,000
– Martinique: 436,000
– Guadeloupe: 411,000
– Montserrat: 4,700
- Don’t forget to pack:
– French/English dictionary
– Mosquito repellent
– Travel sheet (in case of bed bugs)
– Travel guide
– Blister gel band-aids
– Refillable water bottle
– Sunblock with high SPF
– Undercover money belt
– Patience and a laid back attitude
– A sense of adventure!
EAT & DRINK
Local Caribbean cuisine mostly consists of fish, chicken or goat served with a side of baked local vegetables, such as coconut or one of several different types of yams, andrice and peas – quite a treat but leaves little option for true vegetarians. Also keep an eye out for the amazingly abundant local fruits – eat them straight off the trees or order them as a tasty juice. For a true local drink you can never go wrong with one of the local rums.
If you’re looking for local crafts and souvenirs, head to the local markets – but… don’t get caught out by mass produced products, watch out for genuine local goods. You can find anything from bark soaked in rum (reputed to be a great aphrodisiac), to African influenced paintings and masks, to beautiful wraps – perfect for the beach. Be sure to talk to the stall keepers about their products, you may learn a thing or 2!
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