Friday, April 16, 2010

Unexpected Caribbean

By Lucy Smith

15 Apr 2010

A string of tiny pearls in a warm azure sea, St Vincent and the Grenadines will bring out the nature lover in you.

You never forget your first sight of a turtle — a real-life turtle — lazily breaststroking along in the water below you. I almost swallowed my snorkel.

“TURTLE!” I screamed to my travelling companions aboard our rented yacht, spitting out seawater and flailing desperately to get them to look. By the time they did, the turtle had sensibly sped away from this ungainly land creature disturbing both the turquoise-blue waters of the Grenadines and the late-afternoon peace.

If you’ve ever imagined a dreamy desert island, the 30-odd pinpricks of land that sweep like the tail of a comma from St Vincent’s round bulk would certainly fit the bill. Lush and tropical, dripping with leafy green vegetation that gives welcome shade from the midday sun and softens the brilliance of the whitesand beaches, the Grenadines have something for everyone.
Travelling with the family? Vincentians are very child-friendly and so too are the small-island beaches which slope gently into warm, shallow waters, perfect for learner swimmers. Older children will adore snorkelling, especially at the Tobago Cays, a national marine park. At Horseshoe Reef, turtles nest on the beaches and swim freely in the lagoons.

The Grenadines are a meeting point for the Atlantic and the Caribbean, which means a rich diversity of marine life, from rays and turtles in deeper water to the brilliantly coloured fish and delicate sea horses of the lagoons.

Sailing is the perfect way to island-hop. A day’s yacht hire can find you swimming in a secluded cove on one island, lunching in a bustling harbourside restaurant on a second and sipping a cooling Hairoun beer as the boat breezes towards yet another.
There’s plenty to do ashore on the larger island of St Vincent, too. Marked trails wind through the dense forests, from short local routes to villages or markets for casual strolls, right up to organised hikes such as the Vermont Nature Trail on the island’s leeward coast, where you may spot the local parrot.
The more adventurous can hike the three-mile trail to the summit of La Soufrière volcano, then descend into the crater for a mineral mud bath.

Summer brings Vincy Mas Carnival, which takes place at the end of June/beginning of July, with steel bands, calypso, costumed dancers and plenty of Sunset rum. It coincides with the opening of the new five-star Buccament Bay Beach Resort, which promises a vast array of facilities including the Pat Cash Tennis Academy, Liverpool FC Soccer School and a diving and watersports centre. Guests can unwind at The Alaia Spa and dine at Trader Vic’s.
The resort will be15 minutes from the new Argyle International Airport, due to open in 2012. Until then it’s only a short hop from the Caribbean gateways of Barbados, Antigua and Saint Lucia.

• More information: St Vincent and The Grenadines Tourist Office: 020 7937 6570;;