Eco Adventures of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Since primeval times, St. Vincent has been blessed with lush mountains, volcanic-rich soil and unspoiled landscapes of brilliant flora and beautiful crystal clear waters. Add to this the idyllic islands and deserted cays of the Grenadines, and the entire country emerges as a prime eco-playground.There’s something here for one and all from sailing and dolphin-watching, to hiking the nature trails and swimming in waterfalls. You can climb to the top of a volcano, or explore the fascinating underwater gardens surrounding this pristine archipelago. From Bequia you can catch a quick flight to mainland St. Vincent (nine miles away) or take a regularly scheduled hour-long ferry trip .Occasionally during sea crossings a school of dolphin will leap and twirl to the delight of passengers. Six types of dolphin are found in Vincentian waters, including spinner, spotted, Fraser and bottlenose. Whales, such as Orcas and pilot, can also be observed.Diving sites abound in the turquoise waters surrounding these volcanic islands. Abundant reef-life, normally found at 80-ft in most dive destinations around the world, flourishes here at depths of only 25-ft, with an extraordinary variety of tropical reef fish such as angelfish, sargeant majors and peacock flounder. The shallow-water reefs surrounding almost every island make snorkelling an exciting adventure. Local dive shops and tour operators are both knowledgeable and experienced at making arrangements, according to each individual’s requirements. If land activities are more to your liking, venture first to Bequia, the largest of The Grenadines. HazECO Tours now offer an Adventure Jeep Safari Tour in 4-wheel drive, custom-designed jeeps.

The perfect way to get “off-thebeaten-track” and see the serene countryside, including a visit to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary where former seaman, Orton King, saves endangered Hawksbill turtles from extinction.HazECO Tours also provide guides for various hiking excursions: along Bequia’s dazzling beaches, a scenic rural hike and a ‘Hardy Hikers Tour’ in the northeast of the island. For those interested in a day of dolphin and whale watching, outings can be arranged through several operators, including Kim Halbich of Fantasea Tours and Hal Daize of Sea Breeze Nature Tours.

The second must-see along this coast is the Owia Salt Pond. This unusual gift of nature consists of a huge bathing pool enclosed by lava peaks and ridges. The pounding waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash into this barrier and then gently cascade into the pool. Surrounded by mountains and the thundering surf, this area is an ideal stop for a picnic
lunch, swimming and snorkelling.

The Leeward (west) coast of St. Vincent leads to many interesting sights. A visit to the Botanical Gardens, the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, is a favourite stop for both visitors and locals. Here, rare and exotic flowers, plants and trees abound.
The garden was founded in 1762 as a commercial breeding ground for plants brought from other parts of the world. St. Vincent was Captain Bligh’s original destination when the mutiny on HMS Bounty delayed his first scheduled arrival. He eventually completed a second voyage, and a descendant of one of his original breadfruit trees thrives in today’s garden. There is also an aviary for a close-up view of the majestically coloured national bird, the St. Vincent parrot (Amazona Guildingii). Guides are available and will happily escort you on a short, half-hour tour of the grounds for US$2 a person, longer tours are available for US$3 a person.

To see St. Vincent’s parrot and other birds in their natural habitat, ornithologists should strike out for the Buccament Valley’s Vermont Nature Trails. This reserve is a superb area for hiking and bird watching, with more than 35 species having been spotted throughout the valley. A comfortable two-hour walk along the trails, pass cultivated fields and through evergreen and tropical rain forests, provides an opportunity to observe many species of wildlife, like the iguana and armadillo and more than 250 plant species.

Anotner natural wonder awaits further up the Leeward highway, with its secluded coves and fishing villages and spectacular backdrops of high mountains and gentle streams. An hour’s hike through lush rain forest leads to Trinity Falls, a 40-ft waterfall that descends in three cascades into a circular pool, then drops another ten feet into a second )pool perfect for swimming.

Another of St. Vincent’s spectacular waterfalls, the Falls of Baleine, can only be reached (easily) by boat. Located seven and a half miles north of Richmond beach, on the northern tip of the island, this trip is highlighted by a swim in the huge, rock-lined pool formed by the falls. Day trips by boat, out of Villa beach or Kingstown, usually include a stopover along the coastline for lunch, swimming and snorkelling.
On the eastern, or Windward side of the island, two tours are highly recommended. The first is a bit rigourous: an uphill hike to the 4,048-ft rim of the La Soufrière volcano.

Below the river tumbles and splashes away to meet the sea, and all this is set in a framework of rock and fern and tree. This setting well describes that of Dark View Falls, set in the forest-clad Richmond Valley on the North West of the island.

A natural bamboo bridge spans this tumbling river luring you to a unique setting of two majestic falls, in step formation an uncommon feature for one site, with elevations of up to 229 feet, all being fed by a tributary of the Richmond River.

Your experience would be one of discovery as you explore this virtually hidden location, authentic and unspoilt. Until now, a secret, guarded, in this tropical paradise. Come, let Dark View Falls inspire you.

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