he small nation of Grenada, located off the coast of Venezuela north of Trinidad and Tobago, consists of three islands: Grenada, Carriacou (pronounced Carry-a KOO), and Petite Martinique (pronounced Pitty Mar-ti-NEEK). Grenada is the largest (120 square miles) with a population of around 90,000. Carriacou, 23 miles north of Grenada, is about 13 square miles in area, and has a population of around 6,000 to 8,000 (depending on whose statistics you believe). Petite Martinique, 2 miles northeast of Carriacou, is only 490 acres in size and a population of only 700.
With a name that means “Land of the Reefs” in Carib, charming Carriacou is a treasure waiting to be explored! The island’s coastline is mostly wave-cut coral or shoal formations. Manchineel Bay and Carenage Bay near Harvey Vale have some small beach areas, spectacular because they are volcanic black sand beaches. By contrast Anse La Roche and Hillsborough Bay are white coral sand beaches.
Coconuts and almonds line Carriacou’s pristine beaches and the island moves at a delightfully slow pace. A mix of colorful wooden shops, cement buildings, and ramshackle tin structures decorate Hillsborough, the island’s capital “city.” Many of the restaurants, guesthouses and inns for visitors are located here. The majority of these enticing inns have gorgeous views of the neighboring islands, yet are still very affordable.
Water Activities Abound
In keeping true to its name, “The Land of Reefs” has a number of excellent beaches and diving and snorkeling opportunities available to visitors. Some of the most impressive dive spots include Sandy Island, Sister Rocks, Pagos Das Garden, and Two Sisters of Ronde Island, one of the most spectacular dives in the Grenadines. There are walls and drop-offs descending to 180 ft., along with mysterious caverns. Anse La Roche is one of the most scenic private beaches in Carriacou where coral reefs and outstanding volcanic and uplifting sedimentary formations are clearly visible. Additional watersports such as windsurfing and kayaking are also popular with tourists.
A visit to one of the many marine and national parks, along with the island’s historical sites, can give tourists a chance to experience the heart of Carriacou. Sandy Island is one of Carriacou’s most beautiful Marine Parks, surrounded by white sands with spectacular coral reef. This marine park is home to schools of tropical fish and is ideal for picnics. Another marine park is White Island, which has pristine virgin reef and beautiful white sands, ideal for picnics and a multitude of water sports. The Museum of Carriacou is located in Hillsborough and is an excellent place to stop and soak up some of the island’s ancestral lore. Amerindian, African, and European roots are explored through these displays and exhibits.
The Culture of Carriacou
Carriacou was home to its very own living legend, artist Canute Calliste, better known as “C.C.”, who passed away in 2005. Born in the village of L’Esterre, Calliste is well-known for painting uncomplicated visions of mermaids and sailing vessels and welcomed visitors to his studio in L’Esterre. He was known as something of an eccentric. He claimed to have been inspired by a vision of a mermaid at the age of nine, and to have begun painting soon after. Caliste’s work can now be found in numerous large collections worldwide.
While he was alive, Calliste was recognized by the Grenada Board of Tourism for his contribution to the development of tourism in the field of art and culture.
Delicious food with Caribbean flare can be found all over the island. With popular local dishes including fish stew, curried lambi (conch), and the ever-present roti. Pigeon peas with rice, plantains, yams, and callaloo soup are common side dishes. The lobster (langouste) is plentiful in Carriacou and can be found at any restaurant.
With a population of approximately 5,000, Carriacou’s residents are a proud and independent people. Fishing with some agricultural and livestock-rearing are the mainstream for the island’s economy. A shipbuilding industry is carried on at Windward, on the northeast coast, by the descendants of Glaswegian shipwrights. Local traditions include the Big Drum Dance, a traditional African dance that can be traced back to the descendents of Carriacou. The dance is often reenacted for tourists, however, it was originally performed only on special occasions such as at planting time, the launching of a boat, or at a tombstone feast, where a tombstone was erected on the grave of a relative.
Other events include the February, pre-Lenten celebration of Carnival. During Carnival, there is a parade of costumed bands with dancing to popular calypso tunes and steelbands that fill the streets. It is an unforgettable experience.
Carriacou also holds a major sailing event called the Carriacou Regatta, held in late July or early August. It is a cultural extravaganza which features workboat and yacht races, various water and land sports, and plenty of music, cultural shows, and street parties.
Quaint and charming villages, magnificent beaches and marine activities and a relaxed slow pace make Carriacou an ideal tropical getaway!
Find out more about Carriacou at http://www.grenadagrenadines.com/
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