April 30, 2018
Shangri La!! That is the word the kept popping into my head during our stay at the lovely island of Saba. We had never heard of Saba and frankly, it doesn’t even appear on some maps of the Caribbean. A couple of people had described their experiences on Saba and we were sold. By the time we left the island, we were thoroughly in love. To give you some idea of how far one can see on the ocean, Saba was visible to us in our anchorage in Simpson Bay, St. Maarten. It was a 45-mile sail for us to reach Fort Bay, Saba’s only port /harbor. The magic of the island enchanted us as we approached the tall cliffs. It was stunning. A few facts about Saba. It is an extinct volcano with a total area of 5 square miles. It is part of the Netherlands and we were told, has about 1500 residents. They are some of the friendliest people we have met and very hard working. There is no unemployment and we found that having multiple ‘jobs’ was not unusual. Carmen, for example, who owns the Lollipop Inn and restaurant, also drives taxi and makes fabulous pies and pastries that she sells to the local grocery and several restaurants. Despite its small size and population, the island has a nice K-12 school for is 170 students; a hospital and clinic; a senior housing residence, a pre-school day care and a medical school. Joanna, who drives taxi and school bus, gave us a tour of the island. It was hit by Hurricane Maria, but you would hardly know it. Everything looks clean and beautiful with charming red-roofed buildings. Joanna proudly told us the Sabians know how to build sturdy houses and they were. Evidence of the industrious nature of these people is demonstrated by the ‘road that couldn’t be built’ and the ‘airport that couldn’t be built’. Engineers from Holland had told the islanders that neither of these could be completed (and lets face it, the Dutch are pretty good engineers). Without a road, the residents had to walk steep mountain trails between the villages of The Bottom and Windwardside (while not poetic, the village names certainly describe the locations of the villages on the island). Prior to the 1940’s, cargo had to be carried up 800 steps, that are cut into the side of the mountain, to the Customs house and then carried on the trails to the villages. One individual, Joseph Hassel, played a key role on the island. He ordered a correspondence course for road building and led the effort to build the road which first opened in 1958. The airport, and the road to the airport, were completed in 1963. The airport’s runway is very short. Any pilot landing on Saba better be very experienced. Over the past few months, we have rented cars and driven on several of the islands we visited. Despite the altitude and mountainous terrain that Saba’s road transverses, this was probably the best road we’ve been on anywhere, including in St. Maarten, St. Thomas and St. Bart. We had a marvelous time during our 4-day visit. We completed several hikes and had the best snorkeling of our trip so far. Doug was disappointed he couldn’t schedule a diving trip as Saba has a reputation as a primo place to skin dive. We saw many dive boats during the days we were there. If you are looking for a destination with beaches and resort hotels, Saba is not for you. If you are looking for beautiful scenery, hikes, snorkeling and especially skin diving in a charming, friendly authentic Caribbean location, keep Saba in mind. We definitely would return.
The ‘airport that couldn’t be built’ with its rather short runway
Seeing a plane take off is special and a little scary
One of several churches in this small community