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Caribbean Islands: Island hopping on Saba, St. Martin and St. Barthélemy in the tropical idyll of the Caribbean

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Go island hopping between three small Caribbean islands.
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Caribbean Islands: Island hopping on Saba, St. Martin and St. Barthélemy in the tropical idyll of the Caribbean is written by Lene Kohlhoff Rasmussen.

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Island hopping in the Caribbean

In the cold winter, I traveled to the Caribbean Islands, and the first thing I did was lay down comfortably in a hammock strung up between two palm trees. My T-shirt read: "Time flies when you ain't doin 'shit".

The Caribbean Islands are ideal for lazing away the time, but after a while I still start to get tingly after some activity, so I decided to go island hopping and quickly discovered that the Caribbean Islands are a melting pot of different cultures and colonial history.

The islands in Caribbean certainly not similar to each other. They bear the unmistakable mark of their former colonial powers, but common to them all is a fertile mix of races, skin tones, and a little local color.

The romantic image of the Caribbean trope idyll can easily be found over there, and there are plenty of islands to choose from.

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The encounter with a jumbo jet on the beach in the Caribbean islands

I was on Sint Maarten/St. Martin, which is a good starting point for island hopping to a couple of the French and Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean. In fact, the island is both. That is why it has the two sounding names; Sint Maarten/St. Martin, as it is spelled in Dutch and French respectively.

The island is only 96 km2 and is thus the world's smallest island with two national flags. When the Dutch and the French had to divide the island, they each went their separate ways around the island, and where they met, the border had to be drawn.

The Dutch side is the least, and it is said that it is because the Dutchman went with a bottle of gin. He had had a tear over his thirst and swayed as he walked, and he apparently also took a nap halfway. Therefore, the Dutch had to settle for about a third of the island.

Sint Maarten / St. Martin is a busy island as it is one of the Caribbean islands where most cruise ships call. There are lots of great hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos and everything else needed to attract tourists in droves.

With mass tourism, much of the idyll unfortunately disappears. When I lay down on the stand at Maho Beach, I was also quite nervous about whether a jumbo jet landed in the middle of the bath towel. On the approach to the runway at Princess Juliana International Airport, the planes came only 10 to 20 meters over the heads of me and the other beach guests. That is why the stand at the airport is world famous among aircraft spotters.

There were also other good stands on the island, but there was not so much peace and quiet on Sint Maarten/St. Martin. However, I found that on the next small island hop in the Caribbean.

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Charming Saba - Caribbean's unspoiled queen

Before I could figure out how to pronounce Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, the plane was ready to land. The flight between Sint Maarten and Saba takes just under 15 minutes. It gave a little suck in the stomach when the small plane landed on the world's smallest runway, which is only 400 meters long.

In everyday speech, the airfield is called "The Flat Point", as it is the only flat point on the island. It was therefore a great challenge for the engineers to build the airport. In the arrival hall, I got a 'souvenir stamp' in the passport that said: "Welcome to The Unspoiled Queen, Saba". I immediately set about exploring the reasonably manageable island.

Saba is a small, charming island that quickly became one of my absolute favorites among the Caribbean Islands. It belongs to the Netherlands Antilles and is just a small volcanic mountain that sticks out havet of approximately 5 x 3 kilometers.

There are two tiny and very ornate villages in 'gingerbread style' with red rooftops that stand in beautiful contrast to the green nature. Windwardside is the largest of the villages and the other of the villages is called The Bottom. Well, guess where it is!

That with the names on the island is, on the whole, quite whimsical. The steepest hill is called 'The Ladder' and the only main road is called 'The Road', while the flattest place at the airport is called 'The Flat Point'. Then there is probably not much to be wrong with.  

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The Caribbean Islands: On top of Saba

The cloud-rimmed peak, Mt. Scenery, is an extinct volcano that lies 870 meters above havet and is the highest point in the Netherlands. The hike to the top went through a lush forest with tall ferns, tropical flowers and mahogany trees.

I saw several hummingbirds that, with their 5000 wing beats per minute, stand still in the air for a few seconds - sometimes right in front of one's nose and, woop, they are gone again. From the top there was a fantastic view of the island and havet, where the neighboring islands of St. Kitts and Sint Eustatius can be seen in the distance.

The next day I walked around the island on the footpaths that were once used by the locals before they started building the road. Saba has no beaches, and therefore not very many tourists come, but the island's biggest attraction lies below havets surface.

There are lava tunnels and hot springs reminiscent of the island's dramatic origins. There are fine coral reefs, colorful tropical fish in small and large shoals, seahorses, sea turtles and rays. Saba is one of the few unknown beauties in the Caribbean and I loved the island's idyll, the cool air and indescribable tranquility.

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From Saba to jet set mica and Swedish colonial history

Well into my island hopping in the Caribbean, I decided to take a detour over to the small French island of St. Barthélemy, and there I came across the rather unusual colonial history of our Nordic brothers.

After many years of trading with smugglers and pirates, the island's approximately 1000 inhabitants learned in 1785 that their island had been leased to the Swedes for almost a hundred years. In return, the French gained trading rights to the Baltic Sea based in Gothenburg.

The island's capital is named Gustavia after the Swedish King Gustav III, who made the barter. The town has several pretty streets, some of which have Swedish street names, and a few old houses are in the Swedish building style.

St. Barthélemy is the paradise of the rich in the Caribbean, and one can see expensive Dior bikinis on fat, rich Americans and beautiful supermodels. However, the island is no bigger than it can be comfortably seen in a few days.

The jetset glitter also did not fit my style or wallet, so I took the ferry back to Sint Maarten / St. Martin, where I lay back in the hammock before continuing my journey to a new island in the warm tropical idyll.

When flying to the Caribbean islands, it is not unusual for the plane to have a pit stop in the United States. It is therefore sometimes possible to extend your stopover and take a few days in one of them US big cities.

Have a great trip to the Caribbean!

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You must experience that on the Caribbean islands

  • Snorkel and dive – you might meet a sea turtle
  • Hike in the jungle on Saba
  • Relax in a hammock with a good book
  • Experience authentic jetsetter glitter at St. Bartholomew
  • Go island hopping around the more unknown islands of the Caribbean


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About the author

Lene Kohlhoff Rasmussen

Lene Kohlhoff Rasmussen travels to meet new people and learn about other countries' culture, history and religion, but also to get some great personal challenges. Therefore, she travels on her own to places that are far away from the usual destinations. She will experience some of the few places in the world where mystery and adventure still exist. Read more about her adventures at www.kohlhoff.dk.

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