The smallest and greenest island of the Dutch Caribbean is also a divers' paradise. Saba has an undisturbed and protected underwater world.
That´s why sailing boats and small cruises specialising in diving always find Saba a highlight of their logbook.
The mountainous inland has lush vegetation and tropical rainforests which are just perfect for hikers to go wandering and exploring. If the title "Green Island" were applicable anywhere it is to Saba.
This smallest island of the Dutch Caribbean, is a round unpolished emerald lying in the deep blue sea. Grass-covered hills and tropical rainforests are beautifully layered on a long extinct Volcano.
And its coast ......a fascinating underwater world rich in flora and fauna. Being the top of an extinct volcano rising out of the sea is what gives Saba its unusual and majestic beauty, like a landscape plucked out of a book of fairy tales.
Columbus spotted Saba during his second voyage in 1493, but the first settlers, shipwrecked English sailors, came only in 1632. Today the 13 sqm isle, after a long history of changing hands, has been Dutch-ruled since 1912, and is shared by 1,200 inhabitants.
It is as if a little of Switzerland were planted in the Caribbean. Saba's mountanous topography has shaped its architecture and way of life. One finds green hills and pretty little houses and cottages, some of which are nestled against rocky mountain slopes. However, this minature Switzerland, in comparison to the original, has the added advantage of an almost constant year round temperature of 27°C.
Upon arrival by air the visitor experiences one of the most exciting sides of Saba. The runway of the tiny airport found on the "Flat Point" on the east side of the island is only 400m long and surrounded on 3 sides by spectacular cliffs.
Reaching the island used to be slower and more arduous. Ships anchored in the rough "Ladder Bay" on the west coast. To reach the middle of the island travellers had to climb 600 steps carved out of the cliff rocks and known as "the Ladder".
All goods brought to the island, right down to building materials, had to be carried up the steep stairs. Today there is a real port at Fort Bay and from there the only real road on Saba, "the Street" takes you to all 4 main parts of the island.
Saba´s capital is "the Bottom" home to half the island's population. Between white houses with fine red roofs, the pastel coloured governor´s house and the 200 year old Anglican church, life on Saba moves at a very pleasant and amiable pace. This tranquil atmosphere can best be enjoyed with a typical island meal in one of the cosy restaurants.
Only in July does the pace really step up. It´s carnival time and Sabans celebrate it as brightly and lively as any of their Caribbean neighbours.
The best thing about the picturesque little Saban villages Hell´s Gate and St.Johns´ is most certainly the trip there. The road has some of the most breathtaking views of the neighbouring islands, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, Nevis and St. Barths.
The largest place on Saba is Windside, a beautiful village with small and winding lanes. Here you´ll find the only museum of the island, in a house with green window shutters, a four-poster bed and lots of memorabilia and antique pieces that give the visitor a real look into what life was like for a Dutch ship´s captain in the 1800´s.
And if it's souveniers you're after, you´ll probably strike gold at the Breadfruit Gallery, where you can find an array of wonderful handicrafts and paintings by local artists.
Two Saban specialities that just shouldn't be missed are Saba Spice, a rum liqueur with fennel aroma and the so-called Spanish Work, needlework in linen and fine emboidery.
The highest point on the island is the former volcano summit, whose point is often nestled in the clouds. As a natural landmark, this mountain has a very special significance for the Dutch. At 887 m, the "Mountain" or "Mount Scenery" as Sabans call it, is the highest mountain of the Netherlands.
Saba does not have large deposits of inland waters, but the tropical climate and humidity act like a sponge that releases moisture, keeping the oleander trees and hibiscus in full bloom and the dense rainforests in the island's interior green.
Last, but not least, Saba has become nicknamed "unspoiled queen" due to her unique, untouched underwater enviroment.
Diving into her crystal clear waters is an unforgettable experience. And so that generations to come may also enjoy her natural wonders, the number of dive sites have been restricted. In 1987 the Saba Marine Park was founded to protect the fragile reefs, flora and fauna.
The park´s roughly 30 permanent mooring buoys have limited diver impact and have ensured that future divers will be able to enjoy the brilliantly coloured coral reefs, boulders and caves, all a product of the island´s volcanic origins.
Hot springs and underwater lava tunnels are other examples of volcanic geology. Due to her fiery volcanic origin, Saba lacks the classic beaches of other islands, which means most dives are boat rather than shore dives.
The spectacular and extensive diving region is found in the quieter Caribbean Sea between Diamond Rock, where you can swim with stingrays, sea turtles and small sharks, and Trent Bay, where you´ll find various tropical fish, bright sponges and coral. Mackarel and grouper are also often found swimming past.
Other dive sites, like Twilight Zone, and Third Encounter, offer exactly what their names suggest. Both rock faces lie next to each other and hang about 30 meters above the bottom of the seabed, covered through and through with enormous yellow, violet and orange coloured sponges and giant coral tubes of spectacular beauty.
All the dive shops on Saba offer diving courses at all levels, as well as accompanied dives and equipment rent.
And for those who prefer to go snorkelling the Torrens Point is a wonderful spot. Saba is to one of the most treasured destinations for small cruises that specialise in diving. One can therefore enjoy not only the island´s majestic terrain but also her beautiful underwater world.
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