Jen Whittingham's Guide to Carriacou
The True Caribbean
Writing this, I am snuggled in my pj's, surrounded by seas of fleecy blankets and a warm cup of tea, with my body pressed up against the fading heater. I look outside, and my eyes are met with the same, dreary canvas of grey. But while we're suffering from our annual coughs and snivels in the midst of the winter chill, the little Caribbean island of Carriacou is chillin' in the summer sun.
The dream of the Caribbean provides us sun seekers with complete desire and yearning for a small piece of its paradise, offering us the dream of idyllic island life. The ribbon of sunny islands exudes culture, charm and depending on your budget, absolute luxury.
Located just 20 miles north of Grenada (the isle of spice),Carriacou has the food, the music and the spectacular scenery. At 13 square miles and with a population of roughly 5,000 people, it's the largest of the Grenadines, a necklace of island pearls situated between St.Vincent and Grenada, where some of the most exclusive and star studded island destinations in the world can be found. Carriacou's beauty, diversity, privacy and unrivalled authenticity have attracted the rich and famous for decades, including Princess Margaret and Mick Jagger, as well as yachting and diving enthusiasts in the know.
Due to its historic volcanicity, the landscape boasts many wooded hills, piercing impeccably blue skies. It exhibits a jagged coastline, surrounded by coral reefs and white, sandy beaches. However, Carriacou is not just a pretty face; it offers intrepid explorers a rough and rugged Caribbean experience. Forget Barbados and the Bahamas with their glamorised versions of the Caribbean; Carriacou is raw and ready to explore and offers every visitor the chance to experience the true Caribbean for themselves; from buying food at the bustling Monday market near the pier in Hillsborough, to drinking rum with the locals. Chilling out with the colourful characters of the island will slow the pace of life to a crawl; just settle down on a bar stool at any one of the innumerable rum shops or bars, gabber to a Rasta and sample the best flying fish in the West Indies, but beware of the legendary Carriacou jack iron; one sip and you'll be sloshed.
Diving in Paradise
Carriacou is the ultimate island get away with next to no tourists that visit. It remains to be one of the only Caribbean islands to be undisturbed by the burnt British holiday-makers. The Grenadines provide an oasis of diving paradises for diving fanatics in search of that magical spot. The waters surrounding the island are abundant in life and colour and Carriacou Silver Diving offer trips to 16 different dive sites, rates starting from US$50. The island dives sites range from uncomplicated dives on sheltered reefs through to advanced wall dives. 'Deep Blue' is widely recognised as a leading Caribbean dive site with Eagle rays, Stingray and Nurse Sharks often encountered. Other sites include 'Two Sisters', a haven for schooling fish and turtles.
After a diving session in the gentle, glassy waters, there is nothing you need be doing but 'limin'. This activity embodies the Caribbean spirit at its finest. When one gets wholly absorbed in this activity you needn't ask if we 'be limin' all you need is a spectacular sunset, a hammock and an ice cold bottle of beer.
La Playa Beach Bar on the northern end of the town is a real hot spot and very popular with the locals. It offers real Caribbean beach bar vibes with live music on Saturday afternoons. Does anything sound more perfect? They serve light lunches, from paninis to burgers, and of course no Saturday afternoon in the Caribbean is complete without an authentic piña colada!
However, THE place to eat is the Slipway in Tyrrel Bay; it offers creative cuisine, featuring fresh local ingredients in a unique nautical setting at the water's edge; the perfect location to watch the world go by. But if that doesn't take your fancy then head to the Turtledove Pizzeria or the Lambi Queen, this restaurant and bar not only offer fresh fish, lambi (a curried stewed sea snail) and lobster but also a taxi service and bike rentals, allowing you to discover the island at your own pace.
In town, Laurena is another must for good, cheap, local food, and if you want to splash out then The Round House in Bogles is AMAZING!
Slumber in Serenity
Being virtually unscathed by the evils of mass tourism, accommodation in Carriacou is limited. There are just two hotels and a few guesthouses. The most recommended however is Bayaleau Cottages, situated on Bayaleau point on the far west of the island. GG and Dave (the owners) offer five enchantingly charismatic cottages of different sizes, depending on the size of the group. The views from the eating deck are wondrous and they only entice your senses further at sunset. As the sun goes down on the turquoise patch work ocean, the soul of the true Caribbean can really be experienced; stick on some reggae, hang loose, tranquilize and unbend or amble down to a calypso bar and dance yourself away into the wee hours.
Things to Do
Music in the Caribbean is at the core of their culture. Free from the adverse effects of tourism, Carriacou Carnival's traditional Caribbean party embraces a wealth of musical styles and buzzing street parades throughout February. Try to catch the children's carnival, the King and Queen of Bands, and the Calypso King contest.
From one of the island's sources of soul to one of their major means of income; yachting. Today, Carriacou receive yachters from every corner of the globe at their annual Carriacou Regatta (July - August). During this month, Tyrrel Bay becomes the home away from home for yachters from around the world. Numerous activities take place to entertain yachting visitors and, more importantly, to raise money for CCEF (The Carriacou Children's Educational Fund).
However, you don't have to be a yachting fanatic to experience Carriacou from the water. The island is abundant with sailing trips and boat companies for you to get your toes wet with. Take a serene trip to The Tobago Cays, and snorkel in the Little Tobago Island reserve and see if you can catch a glimpse of the many sea turtles whirling through the true Pirates of the Caribbean waters. No word of a lie! (This is where Johnny Depp himself sailed the infamous Black Pearl). GG and Dave from Bayaleau Point Cottages offer a trip on their boat Mostly Harmless.
Whether you have your own boat or are happy to hitch a ride, the island-hopping opportunities are irresistible. With a chain of 36 islands, the discovery never has to end. But of course, no Caribbean experience would be complete without a few days set aside for some lazy beach action. Take a stroll to paradise beach; otherwise known as heaven on earth. This is the Caribbean paradise that many winter-weary sunshine seekers search for; a blissful utopia where the sky-blue water gently laps the crystalline shore with barely a soul around.
About the Author: Jen Whittingham
I definitely caught the travelling bug at a young age, with various family members living in diverse corners of the globe. Therefore, in this sense, I have been blessed with yearly summer holidays. However, as I got older, the more opulent, touristy countries started to disinterest me and I wanted something more rough and rugged. Some of my more recent trips to Morocco and the island of Carriacou were where my love for travel and culture truly started to ignite.
The next thing on my agenda was travelling without the burden of a family and this started with a seven week InterRailing trip across Europe; from sweaty trains and sleeping in airports to hammocks in Hvar and pizza diets in Italy. This trip completely intoxicated my yearning to be a globe-trotting nomad. Next, I’m hoping to venture to South and Central America where life is sweet, simple and sunny!
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