A mixture of Africa and Britain, Barbados is both beautiful and prosperous. White sand beaches and splendid resorts line the Gold Coast. Turquoise waters lure divers and sailors. Everything is covered in this guide, from history and climate to hiking trails, music, food and funky beach caf�s. Color throughout.
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Hunter Publishing, Inc.
January 30, 2008
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Excerpt from BARBADOS ADVENTURE GUIDE by Keith Whiting
Tek time en' laziness.
(By taking your time, you can achieve a lot.)
Barbados can honestly claim to be the island that has everything under the sun. The most easterly of the Caribbean islands, its 166 square miles of forests, cliffs, fishing villages, wildlife, nightlife, and beaches are pounded by the relentless power of the Atlantic on the east, brushed by the Caribbean on the west and caressed everywhere by the sun.
If your idea of a holiday is lying on the sand with a pia colada by your side, Barbados has numerous white sand beaches, and is home to some of the best rum anywhere. But, if you have a taste for adventure, you can strap on a scuba tank, head out into the ocean, and discover miles of coral reefs teeming with an incredible array of sea life and shipwrecks. If you prefer to be on the water as opposed to under it, Barbados has some of the best sailing in the Caribbean, with southeasterly trade winds to carry you across the water. And if sailing is a little too sedate, there's always jet skiing, parasailing, sport fishing and surfing.
Unlike many other islands, Barbados is more than just sea and sand. Rent a car or bike, hire a taxi, or take a local bus and discover a land rich in history, culture, an abundance of wildlife, and natural beauty - from the rugged beauty of the north to lush fields and forests in the center and sugar cane fields in the south. There are five-star resorts on the west coast and historic plantation and chattel houses spread throughout the island, not to mention world-class golf courses. You can hike through a silent forest or speed along trails on an ATV. This small island is constantly changing and constantly surprising. And, if you get lost Pull out your map and, before you know it, someone is sure to stop and give you directions!
One of the greatest pleasures of a visit to Barbados is meeting the people, whether staying at a luxury hotel or a local guest house. Almost everyone you pass will wish you a good morning, good afternoon, or good evening. The grinding poverty seen on so many other islands does not exist in Barbados. The population is well educated, and, if you engage them in conversation, they will happily tell you about their history, their future, and the best places to visit in the present.
I have been visiting Barbados for more than 20 years and still find something new every time I visit. There is an abundance of restaurants, an enormous range of accommodations, and I still haven't seen all the beaches. Of all the islands in the Caribbean, Barbados is the most developed and certainly one of the safest. The only downside is the amount of development that has taken place over the last few years. Fortunately, this has been mainly on the west coast, leaving the rest of the island, particularly the east and north, tranquil and mostly untouched.
Whether you visit Barbados for the enormous range of sporting activities, the numerous cultural events, to discover the nature and ecological life of the island, or just to relax on the beach, it really does have everything under the sun.
Located 270 miles (434 km) northeast of Venezuela, and part of the Lesser Antilles, Barbados' closest island neighbors are Trinidad and Tobago to the south, Grenada to the southwest, and St. Lucia to the west. It is the easternmost of the Caribbean islands, with a total land area of 166 sq miles (430 sq km) and 60 miles (97 km) of coastline. Some 21 miles (34 km) long and 14 miles (23 km) at its widest point, it is a mostly flat, tropical island, rising to a maximum height of 1,100 ft (336 m) at Mount Hillaby, in the Scotland District.
Surrounded by miles of magnificent white sand beaches, protected by coral reefs and brushed by the constant breeze of the trade winds, Barbados is a swimmer's paradise. The west coast beaches are calm and lapped by the Caribbean. The south coast has small to medium waves that are great for windsurfing and boogie boarding, while the southeast coast has big waves and is only suitable for strong swimmers. Pounded by the Atlantic Ocean the east coast has dangerous undercurrents, and most beaches are NOT safe for swimming. The north coast is rocky and inaccessible to swimmers.
Because of its location, tropical storms and hurricanes common to other Caribbean islands generally miss Barbados. With a rainy season running from June to October, the average time between direct hurricane hits is 26.6 years.
As a coral island, Barbados is home to a vast array of caves and underground lakes, which provide some of the purest drinking water in the world. The island is also home to rainforests, marshes and mangrove swamps, along with pastures and sugarcane fields. It has a diverse and interesting landscape, making it a fascinating place to explore.
Barbados is divided into 11 parishes - Christ Church, St. Andrew, St. George, St. James, St. John, St. Joseph, St. Lucy, St. Michael, St. Peter, St. Philip, and St. Thomas. Bridgetown, in St. Michael, is the capital city. Other major towns include Holetown in the parish of St. James, Oistins in Christ Church, and Speightstown in St. Peter.
The first inhabitants of Barbados arrived from South America around 350 AD, followed by the Arawaks about 450 years later. A third wave of migrants, the Caribs, arrived in the 13th century. The Spanish arrived in the early 16th century, captured the Caribs and used them as slave labor.
As early as 1511, the island was referred to as Isla de los Barbados (island of the bearded ones) in an official Spanish document. The word "bearded" refers to the long hanging roots of the bearded fig tree (ficus citrifolia) which is indigenous to the island.
When the English arrived in the 1620s landing on the west coast at an area now known as Holetown they found the island uninhabited. Assuming control of the island, they began importing slaves to work the plantations. Twenty years later, during the English Civil War, the Royalists, fearing they might rebel against their owners, executed hundreds of the slaves.
From the arrival of the first British settlers in 1627 until independence in 1966, Barbados was under uninterrupted British control. It always enjoyed a large measure of local autonomy, however, and its House of Assembly first began meeting in 1639.
In the 1650s, numerous Scots and Irish were shipped to the island, both as indentured servants and as slaves. The implementation of slave codes in 1661, 1676, 1682, and 1688, led to several unsuccessful slave rebellions. The increasingly repressive legal system increased the gap between the treatment of white indentured servants and black slaves. Black slaves became much more attractive to the plantation owners and many poor whites immigrated to neighboring islands.
The slave trade ended in 1804, but slavery continued, leading to the largest slave rebellion in the island's history in 1816. Over 1,000 people died in the fight, 144 slaves were executed, and 123 deported. Eighteen years later, in 1834, slavery was finally abolished in the British Empire.
The economy remained heavily dependent on sugar, rum, and molasses production through most of the 20th century. Plantation owners and British merchants continued to dominate the island both politically and economically. More than 70% of the population was excluded from the democratic process, and it wasn't until the 1930s that a movement for political rights, under the leadership of Sir Grantley Adams, got underway. Finally, in 1942, women received the right to vote and income qualifications were lowered, allowing the majority of Bajans to participate in elections. By 1949, the plantation owners and merchants finally lost control of the government, and in 1958, Sir Grantley Adams became Premier of Barbados.
In the following years, under the leadership of Errol Walton Barrow, reforms continued including free education for all Barbadians, and a school meals system.
On November 30, 1966, Barbados finally became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations, with Errol Barrow its first Prime Minister.
In the 1990s, tourism and manufacturing finally surpassed the sugar industry in economic importance. Additionally, the island is a major offshore financial center.
Barbados is a parliamentary democracy operating under English common law. The bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (a 21-member body appointed by the Governor General) and the House of Assembly (30 seats, elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms).
Represented by the Governor General, the chief of state is Queen Elizabeth II. Executive authority is vested in the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which is collectively responsible to the Parliament. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor General as the member of the House of Assembly best able to command the support of the majority of the members. The Prime Minister selects the cabinet from his party members in the legislature.
There are three national parties: The Barbados Labour Party or BLP; The Democratic Labour Party or DLP; and The People's Empowerment Party or PEP
Suffrage is universal for any citizen 18 years of age or older.
Flora & Fauna
Palms, casuarinas, mahogany, and almond trees are all found on the island, but no large forest areas exist, most of the level ground having been turned over to sugarcane. The wide variety of flowers and shrubs includes wild roses, carnations, lilies, and several cacti. Natural wildlife is restricted to hares, monkeys, mongooses, tree frogs, and various species of birds, including finches, blackbirds, and moustache birds.
Some of the best places to see plants, birds and other wildlife are:
The Animal Flower Cave
The Barbados Wildlife Reserve
The Flower Forest
Welchman's Hall Gully & Forest Reserve
Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary
Barbados has a large international airport with dozens of flights arriving from the UK, Europe, Canada and the United States.
Grantley Adams International Airport is on the island's southern coast, 16 km (10 mi) southeast of Bridgetown.