Known as the “Unspoiled Queen”, Saba was named the Top Island in the Caribbean in 2010 by Travel + Leisure. A long-dormant volcano dominated by rich rainforest, Saba rises in silent majesty 887 metres above the blue-green sea just south of St. Maarten, boasting lofty mountain peaks, ragged cliffs and a wildly dramatic landscape. With a population of only 1,700 on 13 square kilometres, one main road connecting four small villages, and well-protected natural assets, this gentle island is a secret treasure.
Mass-tourism has not yet developed here; the first airplanes flew into Saba in 1959, and full-time electricity wasn’t established until 1970. Absent from the island are unwieldy amusement parks, mammoth resorts and loud discos. Saba’s safe, crime-free villages take visitors back in time with tiny white wooden cottages, adorned with green, red or brown shutters, red roofs and gingerbread carvings, nestled neatly into the mountainside. And Saban ladies still make the delicate, handmade lace that originated with the wives and daughters of Saba’s fisherman a century ago. Today Saba lace is made into blouses, dresses, and tablecloths in a variety of colours.
On Saba, one of the more adventurous destinations in the Caribbean, visitors can dive the surrounding depths, summit steep Mt. Scenery, troll the tidepools along the beach, or take part in island celebrations. Recognized for its well-preserved and diverse underwater world and stunning mountain vistas, Saba delights visitors above and below the surface.
Saba National Marine Park, a top worldwide diving destination, boasts 30 controlled diving sites, most of which can be reached by boat within 20 minutes. Covering Saba’s coastline at a depth of 60 meters, the park is carefully monitored by the Saba Conservation Foundation. Concern for the environment runs deep on Saba and divers must sign-up with one of three local dive shops. Saba is also recognized for creating sustainable dive tourism and for instituting practices to protect reef health such as restricting the number of divers at dive sites.
Along the cliffs just under sea level, the crystal-clear waters allow unobstructed views of a variety of colourful corals and sponges. Stingrays, stout turtles and nurse sharks search for prey lurking in tiny cracks and crevices. Lava tunnels and hot springs are reminiscent of the volcanic origins of the island. Other volcanic rock formations that attract divers are pinnacles (tall pointed formations) that rise up to 30 metres from the ocean floor and are covered with corals and sponges and other sea animals. Well-known sites for divers are the Ladder Labyrinth with its lava rocks, the Third Encounter, a top-rated pinnacle dive and the Man of War Shoals.
Take A Hike
Saba’s 18 botanical hikes range from easy to strenuous and offer amazing views of the surrounding islands and native plant and bird-life. Mt. Scenery, the island’s highest point and the highest point in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, rises to 877 metres. A 90-minute uphill climb (approximately one thousand and sixty-four steps) from the Windward side of the island, the hike up Mt. Scenery takes visitors through tropical rainforest past orchids, banana plants and mahogany trees. A nearby bird sanctuary, Green Island, serves as a nesting ground for tropic birds and other Caribbean water birds.
Taking place in early August, Saba’s Carnival hosts parades, steel bands, competitions and local food booths. ‘Sea and Learn’ in October is a month-long celebration of nature designed to enhance environmental awareness. Saba Day & Weekend in early December includes sporting events, dance contests and competitions.
Getting To Saba
Getting to Saba is easy with many flights from Canada direct to St. Maarten. A connecting flight from St. Maarten takes 12-minutes and lands on the world’s shortest runway (400 metres). Ferry service is also available.
Saba accommodation ranges from eco-lodges to 4-star resorts and everything in-between.
For more information on this eco-friendly island, go to www.sabatourism.com.