St. Vincent and the Grenadines are a group of beautiful islands that lies West of Barbados, south of St. Lucia and north of Grenada, in the Windward Island of the Caribbean sea. The islands are made up of the mainland St. Vincent which is 344 km2 (133 sq mi) and a chain of 32 unspoilt islands and cays called the Grenadines, 9 of which are inhabited. Namely, Young Island, Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Union Island, Mayreau, Petit St Vincent and Palm Island. The islands are as diverse as its people and each have their own charm and uncovered secrets to be discovered. The mainland St. Vincent is volcanic, which allows the leeward side of the island to have beautifully unspoilt and calm black sand beaches while the windward side is very rocky and steep and made up of mainly white sandy beaches. St. Vincent's highest peak is La Soufrière volcano at 1,234 m (4,049 ft), which can be climbed and trekked for a day adventure. The Grenadine islands have white pristine beaches with very few people to interrupt your long warm leisurely days. The islands combined has a total of 110,000 inhabitants and although the islands were first colonised by the French it was then given to the British, making English its official language.
These tiny islands in the Caribbean were first called 'Hairouna' meaning land of the blessed by the native amerindians called 'Caribs' who were the very first occupants of the islands. The local people had made small settlements and a livelihood for themselves from about 150AD onwards. The islands were then sighted by explorer Christopher Columbus in the 15th century, by accident on his way to the East Indies giving the region the name 'West Indies'. In 1635 a dutch ship transporting slaves to neighbouring Caribbean islands capsized off the coast of the tiny islands, its cargo full of African slaves were liberated and ran ashore. These escaped slaves mixed with the caribs on St. Vincent and formed a new ethnic group called the 'black caribs' or 'Garifuna'.
Europeans did not colonise the islands until early 1700s, when the French came. This was followed by a series of wars and peace treaties, which led to the islands being given to the British. During the period of 1975 and 1976 the black caribs decided they did not want to be colonised and launched a rebellion led by their chief and now National Hero Chief Joseph Chatoyer. They however lost this battle which resulted in thousands of the islanders banished to a tiny island called 'Baliceaux' off the coast of Bequia. Similar to the French before, the British used the slaves to work their plantations of sugar, coffee, tobacco, cotton and more crops until the slaves were fully emancipated in 1838. This led to the influx of indentured labourers from Portuguese and India who mingled with the Africans and the Black caribs. Then there was a period of economic decline that was caused first by the eruption of the resident volcano 'La Soufriere' and then a Hurricane that destroyed a lot of the crops on the tiny islands. This decline continued until the country gained full Independence in 1979 under the Prime Minister Sir Robert Milton Cato.
Due to the tiny islands long history with colonisation of the native island caribs, slavery and indentureship, there is a wide history to be learned that was left behind. Artefacts from the Amerindians or 'Caribs' can be found around the island and is also displayed at the national Trust Museum in the capital town Kingstown. The influence of Amerindians, European, Portuguese, East Indians and West African heritage that inhabited the islands, left a rich mixture of cultures, traditions, festivals and activities that are now enjoyed and treasured by locals and visitors alike. The warm and friendly locals of these islands are known simply as Vincentians and called locally amongst ourselves 'Vincies'.
The small island’s population as of 2013 is approximately 120,000 distributed between the mainland and the Grenadines islands. Most people in Saint Vincent, whether of African, European, Native American, or Asian descent, derive a strong sense of identity from the history of the resistance of the Caribs in the eighteenth century, but in recent times there is a huge influence from English or North American models of behavior. But, the environmental features of Saint Vincent unify the country. The national anthem emphasizes the natural beauty of the islands as it sings of the local nature and fauna. The national flag also identifies with the island’s image. The colors all have their specific meaning. The yellow represents the bright sunshine and beautiful beaches. The green is for the vibrant trees and fauna while blue ofcourse represents the clear blue sky that reflects in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.
The islands are very rural and not as developed as many other Caribbean islands which allows it to ooze charm and authenticity. Most of the population lives in small villages of 200-500 people, the main town and capital city is Kingstown. We have a reliable source of electricity throughout the island and a very clean and safe water supply. Most people have these amenities in their home and those who do not use, community water supplies “stand pipes” provided by the government.
Eating in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is truly unique and there are many dishes that are indigenous to us on the island. One of my favorite is Callaloo soup which is a soup made from dasheen leaves with pig tails, meat and local provision added to it, it is truly amazing and nothing can compare to a great bowl made by your mother!!!! We also eat a dish called peleau, this is a cook up of rice and different meats eaten regularly throughout the week. The country is a predominantly Christian society and Sundays are considered holy. Only of recent times have businesses started opening on this day, before it was for church, worship and spending time with your family. Although things are changing rapidly Sunday is still considered a day for leisure and spending time with loved us. Sunday lunch is usually an elaborate event of families getting together and great amounts of dishes prepared. Such as macaroni pie which is a Sunday staple to many tables, baked chicken or pork, salad, provision, cooked rice, stewed peas and many more which would vary slightly. Fish and seafood such as lobsters, conch and black fish are also very popular and are preferred by the men as they believe it makes them stronger. You must enjoy a traditional Sunday lunch!!
There are many provisions that grow locally, the very first breadfruit tree which was brought by Captain Bligh can be found at the Botanical Gardens in St. Vincent, the oldest in the western hemisphere. The fruit is grown on huge trees and have to be roasted or cooked to eat and is extremely delicious. It also makes up part of our national dish which is roast breadfruits and fried jack fish. Fried plantain is also very popular and delicious. Local fruits such as mango, plumrose, red and yellow plums, golden apple and much more are grown in our yards and eating everyday once in season. If you have a sweet tooth, try our local sugar cake made from peanuts and sugar syrup hardened. Coconut sugar cake and Tolums also made from
coconut are made by the older people. Tamarind balls and sweetbread are also great snacks to munch on while at home.
The island is known for its very strong rum called “Strong rum” and is drank by mostly men around the island, a popular past time for them is to sit at the local rum shops drinking and laughing the days away. On special occasions birthdays and weddings Vincentians pull out all the stops, elaborate cakes and food are prepared by family members and friends. Christmas time is a merry time with lots of food, drinks, family and friends having a great time.
Vincentians are known throughout the world as extremely generous and friendly people, who would go out of their way to make visitors feel at home and comfortable. Visitors to a local home are given the best of everything and are encouraged to eat and drink until they are full. Locals give of themselves generously but there are rules of conduct that one must abide by. It is considered rude to shout someone name loud in public and taking pictures of people without asking can be unacceptable.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a tiny island in the Caribbean and therefore getting there can seem a bit daunting. Our very first international airport is due to open soon but in the meantime the best way to travel to the island is via the nearby islands. St. Vincent and the Grenadines has several small airports that can accommodate small carriers. Mainland St. Vincent has E.T Joshua Airport while Bequia, Canouan and Union island has airports as well where there are regular flights in and out of Barbados. Flights from the UK is from London Gatwick with numerous carriers especially Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, taking you to any of the International airports in the Caribbean and you then fly with LIAT our local carrier into St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
For more information on booking your flights to the island do not hesitate to ask, we would be happy to provide guidance.