Saba Stories and Tips

Saba

By the time we reached our hotel from the airport, Saba was our favorite island, even though it has no beaches. Only five square miles, Saba is the summit of volcano rising to 3,000 ft. Vegetation is lush, tropical rain forest.

Our taxi from the airport to our hotel was expensive, but the fare included round trip service and a complete tour of Saba’s one paved road, all nine miles of it. The ‘taxi’ was a four wheel drive jeep, the only vehicle that can negotiate the paved road, which took 25 years to build. Men, equipment, and pavement were carried to the construction site by pack mule since no road building machinery could make the trip.

The road trip took us to all four villages on Saba, Hell’s Gate, Windwardside, St John, and The Bottom, climbing to almost 2,000 ft above sea level and then dropping to end at the sea at Saba’s “Port” at the bottom of a small river valley. The port consisted of a rock beach about 30 yards wide. Cargo, including jeeps, arrived in Saba by being off loaded onto rafts which then float in on the waves, ending up, if all goes well, run aground on the beach. If all does not go well, the rafts are smashed by the waves or thrown into a cliff.

There may or may not be a pier connecting the port to deeper water. Depends on the hurricanes. When the pier is functioning, cruise ships stop for day trips and cargo is easier to ship. Saba is sometimes called the Island of women because most of the men have to leave the island to find work. The ladies while away the time making elaborate lace which is sold in the island’s few shops.

Lights out at 10pm, when the guy running the power plant went home. On the plus side, no one was kept awake at night by blaring TV or loud music. We set off on a footpath from our hotel and came on a small cottage where an elderly lady was gardening. We fell into conversation. She invited us in for “a spot of tea.” Inside, we noticed a
number of old yellowed newspapers hanging on the wall, all devoted to the story of tragic shipwreck. She explained. It was, at the time, a famous shipwreck, as well known as the Titanic. Her husband, Captain of the ship, went down with his vessel.

There is nothing like departing Saba by air. The runway is shorter than the deck of an aircraft carrier. The plane did not “take off” as in rising into the air. Instead, it fell off the cliff at the end of the runway. After a small dip, it gained enough airspeed to climb.

Saba is a special place well worth a visit, hard to get to, hard to find a room, yet not crowded with tourists as there are fewer than 50 hotel rooms on the island.

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