Let’s start with a few indisputable facts:
- Saba is STUNNING.
- Saba is NOT for everyone.
- I LOVE Saba.
- It is pronounced “SAY-BA” not “Sah-ba”.
Every island in the Caribbean has its signature stamp. It’s unique selling point. A value proposition that endears it to one type of traveler over another. Call me self-centered, call my deluded, but Saba – in all its untouched and untainted glory – felt as though it had been carved out especially for me. And maybe a handful of other people.
In fact, I’m pretty certain this dot of a volcanic island with its lone road, minuscule population and beach deficient coastline wouldn’t appeal to the travel masses. Thankfully.
If however, you’re the type of wanderer who loves silence and solitude; embraces nature; and relishes in being one of the few as opposed to getting lost among the many, Saba is absolutely, positively, undoubtedly the destination for you. Here are 7 very real reasons for you to visit Saba.
The Best Diving in the Caribbean
Dramatic overstatement? Maybe. Obviously, I haven’t gone diving in every single Caribbean island. But I have done my fair share on several islands and Saba was by far (and I mean by faaaarrrrrrr) the best I’ve experienced. Even beyond the incredible visibility, the vibrancy of the marine habitat at Tent Reef was unlike anything I’d ever encountered outside of an animated Disney movie (we’re talking Little Mermaid meets Finding Nemo). Towering rock formations serve as safe havens for a wide variety of marine life. Massive corals in brilliant, unfiltered shades of green, orange and purple seem to light up against the backdrop of the blue water. Dancing schools of fish, free swimming sharks, leisurely turtles and elusive garden eels all coexist in abundance and in such variety as I have never seen before. I was so in awe throughout this dive I couldn’t even be disappointed that I didn’t have my GoPro. No pics but it DID happen!
The Highest Point in the Netherlands
I don’t like walking. I don’t like hiking. I don’t like sweating. But I do like the fact that I can now say I have stood at the highest point in all of the Netherlands. Keeping it very real: hiking Mt. Scenery was not easy. But, now that it’s over and done with, I can take pride in conquering this challenge. We’re talking 1,064 steps that take you 2,855 ft above sea level. It was the most strenuous activity I’ve ever undertaken – in my life. If I had done this with any other person, I’m pretty sure we’d have called it quits 20 minutes in. Lucky for me (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it), I took on this adventure with someone who loves exercising and doesn’t grasp the concept of “quitting”. So up we went. Taking in the views. Dodging the snakes (yes, actual snakes! – well one snake). Appreciating the flora. Sneaking in breaks. And finally, after a very gruelling hour and a half, we made it to the top! Yes, the very top, where we were greeted by cackling chickens, lush greenery and…clouds. That’s right, we had climbed so high up that all we could see from the top of Mt. Scenery were white clouds. Not exactly the view we were hoping for after all of that hard work but now I get to say “I’ve walked in the clouds”!
The Shortest Commercial Runway in the World
Saba is an island of extremes. From its tiny landmass (13 km²) to its minute population (under 2,000), the island has so many unique features, any talking point becomes a cool factoid. That includes its 400m runway which is the shortest commercial runway in the world. Landing at Saba’s airport is a feat reserved only for specially trained pilots operating short-take-off-and-landing aircraft. Imagine, if you dare, approaching the island in a twin otter plane that glides so close to the mountain you feel as though if you opened the window you could reach out and touch the red rocks. Then, as you watch in awe and wonder, both pilots simultaneously manoeuvre landing the plane, AND stopping the plane, all at once, in order for it to come to a complete halt almost immediately after touching down. It’s the most abrupt non-emergency landing you’re likely to experience in your life.
The Lush Nature
I might not like strenuous activities but I do love being outdoors. And Saba is overflowing with nature in its most undiluted form – both on land and in the water. Even as I gasped for breath and questioned my own sanity while climbing Mt. Scenery, there was a welcoming solace that enveloped me every time I took a break and soaked in my surroundings. The towering green trees, brightly colored flowers, precocious lizards, seemingly invisible birds, and breathtaking views all made this daring feat worth it. Similarly, while submerged beneath the waves, swimming alongside walls, beneath ledges and amidst corals, a feeling of nirvana washed over me in a way it never had before. Being exposed to an environment that is so well-respected and so well-preserved is rare and it made my stay in Saba feel all the more special.
The Charming Architecture
My affinity for uniformity makes me predisposed to loving Saba’s architecture. Adorable gingerbread cottages with bright red roofs, white washed walls and neatly painted green or red trimmings? And everyone’s onboard with this? Heaven! It creates the most charming effect when you see these buildings all clustered together to form the quaint hamlets of Zion’s Hill, Windwardside, St. John’s, as well as the island’s capital, The Bottom. From private residences to government buildings; restaurants and hotels…almost every edifice adheres to unofficial decree and I love it!
The Peace & Quiet
As someone who genuinely likes to fully retreat from the world, traveling with the intention of experiencing absolute serenity usually leads to disappointment. Most islands are always hopping with some type of activity or the other, aiming to satisfy and stimulate the senses of those who can’t keep still. One of the most appealing things about Saba is that nothing was ever “going on”. That is to say, apart from Sabans going about their everyday lives and tourists taking in the island in whichever way they saw fit, there was nothing jarring you into consciousness. Unless you actively go in search of entertainment, you’re likely to enjoy a rare and pleasing silence punctuated by the occasional chirping of a bird or the whistle of the wind. No people shouting. No horns honking. No music blaring. No vendors trying to sell you a product or service. Nothing but nature’s most soothing ambient sounds. Say it with me…”Paradise”.
Yes, the signage. I’m not someone who usually pays attention to random signs but the signage in Saba made me take notice. The Saban sense of humour shines through in their notices. From quirky requests to not dump cigarette butts in vegetable gardens, to cynical warnings for parents who dare to let their children run wild in nice restaurants, Saba’s signs had me in stitches. Even the drop-off zone at the Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport goes beyond the traditional ‘No parking’ to an adorable ‘Kiss & Ride’ which basically delivers the same message – say goodbye then be on your way.
Of the three islands I had the privilege of visiting during my last trip, Saba was by far my favorite. As I said before, it isn’t for everyone (or most people). But for those who have a strong appreciation for nature; a fondness of silence and an affinity for solitude, it’s exactly where you need to be. Look out for a few guides related to various activities on the island, I’ll be sharing them in the very near future. Surprisingly for a tiny island, there sure is a lot to write about!
Have you ever been to Saba? What was your favorite thing about the island? Do share in the comments! I plan to return and would love recommendations on what else I should see and do!