Saba Travel Guide & Saba Photos |



Welcome to the Island of Saba, part of Netherlands Antilles, in the Caribbean -™

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Dubbed the 'Unspoiled Queen,' low-key Saba (pronounced SAY-ba) has strikingly little tourism. Both the smallest and loftiest of the Netherlands Antilles, the island isn't a typical Caribbean powdered-sugar beach destination - in fact, it has hardly any beaches at all.

Instead, ruggedly steep Saba has beautiful scenery, good hiking and pristine diving. Its handful of villages are spotlessly neat, close-knit and quiet - making Saba better for peaceful unwinding than for rollicking nightlife.

Saba is located about 1225 miles southeast of Miami, Florida, and 195 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico, near the northern end of the Lesser Antilles. The island forms the westernmost corner of a triangle of islands including Sint Maarten (28mi northeast) and Sint Eustatius (20mi southeast).

It's virtually impossible to get lost on Saba. There is only one main road, which runs from the airport at the northeastern side of the island through the villages of Hell's Gate, Windwardside, St John's and the Bottom, and continues down to Fort Bay, the island's main port. A second road connects the Bottom with Well's Bay on the island's northwestern side.

Shaped a bit like a heart (think anatomically, not Valentine's), Saba's land area is small, but because of its topography of folding mountains the island is far more substantial than any mere area measurement would indicate. As the tip of an immense underwater mountain, the island juts out of the sea with no pause for lowlands or beaches. Saba's central volcanic peak, Mt Scenery, is 2900ft, its summit cloaked in clouds.

There are no rivers or streams on the island. The leeward (western) side is dry with cacti and scrub, the windward (eastern) side has thicker vegetation and the mountainous interior is given over to lush jungle growth such as tall tree ferns, palms and mahogany trees.

SABA - Island of Saba - Dutch Caribbean - - Luke Handzlik
Saba | Typical cottage-style house in Saba
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Saba has a wide variety of flowering plants, ranging from the prolific oleander and hibiscus that decorate its yards to the wildflowers and orchids that thrive in the rainforest. Over sixty species of birds are sighted on Saba, including bridled and sooty terns, brown noddys, tropicbirds on the cliffs and frigatebirds near the coast. Red-tailed hawks can be spotted on the lower slopes, while thrashers and hummingbirds are found at higher elevations. Saba is crawling with harmless racer snakes that sun themselves along trails and roadsides. Expect to see the friendly little Anolis sabanus lizard that's endemic to the island and to hear the tiny tree frogs whose symphony can be almost deafening at night.

The average monthly temperature is 80°F, with few degrees difference between summer (June to August) and winter (December to February). Because of the difference in elevation, temperatures are a bit cooler in Windwardside than in the Bottom.

SABA - Island of Saba - Dutch Caribbean - - Luke Handzlik
Saba | View from our cottage
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Because of the island's rugged terrain, Saba was probably not heavily settled in pre-Columbian times. However, artifacts uncovered in the Spring Bay area indicate the existence of a small Arawak settlement at that site about 1300 years ago.

During his second trip to the New World, in November 1493, Christopher Columbus became the first European to sight Saba. The Dutch laid claim to the island in 1632 and sent a party of colonists from Sint Eustatius in 1640 to form a permanent settlement. These early colonists originally lived at Middle Island and Mary's Point, where a few cisterns and stone walls can still be found, but soon moved to the Bottom, which remains the administrative center of the island.

As the steep topography precluded large-scale plantations, colonial-era slavery was quite limited on Saba. Those colonists who did own slaves generally had only a few and often worked side by side with them in the fields, resulting in a more integrated society than on larger Dutch islands.

Until the 1940s, Saba's villages were connected solely by footpaths. When Dutch engineers told residents the island's steep terrain prohibited road building, they spent the next 20 years building one themselves. Although Hurricane Georges rolled directly over the island in 1998, no one was killed and damage was relatively light.

SABA - Island of Saba - Dutch Caribbean - - Luke Handzlik
Saba | Looking at Windwardside
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Saba's stunning scenery extends beneath the surface, with steep wall drops just offshore and some good near-shore reef dives. Most of the island's two dozen dive spots are along the calmer leeward (western) side, between Tent Bay on the south and Diamond Rock on the north. Some of the more exciting dives include Tent Reef Wall, which has colorful tube sponges and corals and lots of fish activity; Third Encounter, where the coral and sponge-encrusted, 250ft tall 'Eye of the Needle' towers above the floor; and Diamond Rock, which has a great variety of marine life, including stingrays, black-tip sharks and bull sharks.

For snorkelers, Well's Bay and the adjacent Torrens Point are popular spots, and there's even a marked underwater trail.

Saba | Rocky part of the island
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The waters surrounding Saba are protected under the auspices of the Saba Marine Park, which has undertaken a number of conservation efforts, including installing permanent mooring buoys at dive sites. To help cover the park's operating expenses, a small marine park fee is added onto each dive.

Saba is not the place to go if you want to lay out on sandy strands. The main swimming spot is Well's Bay at the northwestern side of the island, which has a small, rocky beach. All the island hotels have swimming pools.

Saba has excellent hiking. There are seven signposted hikes, ranging from a 15-minute walk to tide pools just beyond the airport to a steep climb up through a cloud forest to the top of Mt Scenery, Saba's highest point. Some of the trails, such as the Crispeen Track between the Bottom and Windwardside, follow the old footpaths that linked the villages before the first vehicle roads were built. A trail brochure and map is available free at the tourist office in Windwardside.

1. Source: Saba Tourism.

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