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Saba, The Caribbean Island Without Beaches

February 25, 2014 at 2:55 PM | by | ()

Yesterday, we mentioned that Saba has a unique feature that keeps many people from visiting the island. It is so startling to most, in fact, that it, along with its unique runway (which we’ll tell you about tomorrow), keeps mass tourism at bay. After all, if you were traveling down to the Caribbean, why would you want to visit an island without beaches?

Saba, volcanic in nature, is one of the most dramatically formed islands we’ve visited, sporting rocky cliffs that start at 3,000 feet and plunge down into the ocean. It’s a sight to see, but this, combined with a lack of sand, leaves the island with a shortage of sea-level terrain, the majority of it comparable to what you see in the photo above. The entire island is surrounded by choppy, rough surface waters, and on 99% of the island it surges right up to the base of the cliffs.

Wanting to provide a beach for its locals, Saba imported sand from St. Maarten recently to construct a small “beach” near the airport. In order to make the water swimmable, rocks were placed as a barrier against the current to form a small swimming hole, shown in the photo above. There is technically a natural beach on the island at Well's Bay, but it’s hard to count it as such considering that it comes and goes with the tide, sometimes for months or years at a time.

So why go to the Caribbean to visit Saba? Visitors typically come for one or all of three reasons: To check out an island that is so unlike any other in the area, to hike, and to dive. As far as the hiking goes, we’ll take care of that in a photo-oriented post tomorrow.

What makes the diving in Saba world class is the existence and preservation of the soft coral, according to Kayleigh at Saba Deep (think sea fan coral). Water-churning storms and large amounts of inexperienced tourists have had huge impacts on these ecosystems in other areas of the world – two things Saba has been lucky enough to avoid for the most part.

The lack of beaches are a large reason why. Tomorrow, we'll talk about the other: The island's airport.

[Photos: Will McGough]

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