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Red roofs in the mist. Photo by the Editor
Red roofs in the mist. Photo by the Editor

Saba: The Island In The Clouds

Sailors in the northern Leewards are drawn to an island that climbs out of the sea 26-miles south of St. Maarten, however, few of them visit to explore. The island is Saba, the Unspoiled Queen, land of towering crags, rainforests and the famous ‘road that could not be built’.

Why few yachts stop at Saba is obvious; it’s an open roadstead that is only comfortable in settled weather. However, there are sturdy moorings available and procedures in place for yachts wishing to use them. The waters around Saba form a marine park and the moorings are monitored and maintained by the marine park authority.

The usual procedures apply for yachts visiting Saba. Skippers checking in are recommended to pick up the visitor’s mooring buoy outside the harbor and then go ashore to clear customs and immigration and visit the marine park office. Once you are granted clearance, you can proceed to the moorings in Ladder Bay. The yellow buoys are for yachts and the red and white buoys are for the dive boats.

The Edge at the ferry dock in Fort Bay. Photo by the Editor
The Edge at the ferry dock in Fort Bay. Photo by the Editor

Perhaps the easiest way to visit Saba is to take a day trip from St. Maarten, and I recommend cruisers add this to their itinerary. For those determined to get to Saba by sea, the high-speed ferry, The Edge, leaves from the Pelican Resort in Simpson Bay for the 90 minute crossing. This offers lovely views as the island rises out of the sea ahead.

The shortest commercial runway in the world! Photo by the Editor
The shortest commercial runway in the world! Photo by the Editor

Flying from St. Maarten to Saba’s famous Juancho E. Yrausquin airport is another option. This is the quickest way and you will be able to tell your friends that you touched down on the shortest commercial landing strip in the world!

Saba offers a host of accommodations for those wishing to spend more than one day on the island. These include hotels, guest houses and self-catering cottages.

On a day trip, I recommend touring the island by taxi. We hired the services of Rodney Swanepoel, a driver for whom nothing was too much trouble. His encyclopedic knowledge enhanced our whole Saba experience.

Saba is a world-class diving location and all three dive operators, Saba Deep, Saba Divers, and Sea Saba Dive Center, are located along the waterfront in Fort Bay next to the ferry dock. A two-tank dive is possible on a day trip.

Saba is equally famous for its hiking and a walk through the rainforest, with its many species of tropical flowers and trees, is a must. Climbing Mount Scenery is listed as one of the island’s major attractions. The 877m (2,887ft) ascent is made by following a steep path and negotiating 1,064 rough-hewn stone steps. This is a strenuous climb and only those in good physical condition should attempt the hike. Those that make it to the top are rewarded with spectacular views of the distant islands of Saint Kitts and Saint Eustatius. Tour guides are available and add value to the many hikes.

The tourist bureau is housed in a typical Saba cottage. Photo by the Editor
The tourist bureau is housed in a typical Saba cottage. Photo by the Editor

The villages of Windwardside, Hell’s Gate and The Bottom, with their cottages painted white with red roofs and ‘Saba green’ shutters, are all of historical interest. Saba is famous for lace making (Spanish work), an industry that in the past helped sustain the island while the men folk, many of them famous captains, went to sea. Lace items can be purchased at various gift shops around the island and at the Saba Lace Boutique in Hell’s Gate, Saba Artisan Boutique in the Bottom and at Helen’s Fabric & Notions in Windwardside.

Sabans are amongst the friendliest people in the Caribbean. An island unlike any other, Saba, above water or below, is not to me missed.

For more info, visit: http://www.sabatourism.com

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