I love to travel and I have just returned from the stunning Caribbean island of Barbados. My husband and I visited the island 3 years ago and we decided to return bringing our 20-year-old daughter to experience the Caribbean hospitality.
This little island gem is a sovereign island country in the Lesser Antilles, in the Caribbean region of North America. Barbados is 21 miles in length and up to 14 miles in width, covering an area of 167 square miles. It is situated outside of the principal Atlantic hurricane belt. The country generally experiences two seasons, one of which includes noticeably higher rainfall and is known as the “wet season”, this period runs from June to November. You can expect temperatures to range from 23-31°C. By contrast, the “dry season” runs from December to May, with average temperatures ranging from 21-31°C, however, gentle breezes of throughout the year give Barbados a climate which is moderately tropical.
Mango Bay all-inclusive hotel in Holetown, St James on the west coast of the island was our destination. This really friendly hotel boasts 76 rooms on a gorgeous beach front location. You can even get married there! The hotel is really popular all year round and the staff are all so genuinely nice and a lot of them even remembered us from 3 years prior! We were greeted with cold towels (as you can imagine a slight difference in temperature) and a very strong rum punch. Once we booked in and dumped our bags in our beautiful room overlooking the swimming pool, the adventure began.
Barbados offers the picturesque beaches you see in the brochures, with soft white sand, crystal clear waters and sunshine galore. We found a very well situated almond tree on the veranda right on the beach to shelter, as the sun is so much stronger than the UK and we made the most of the beach attendants to bring us plenty of refreshing pineapple juice and the odd Banks beer to keep us well hydrated. The turquoise coloured ocean was so easy to just jump into, unlike the usual tiptoeing in like you would in the uk, you could easily dive in the water with no problems as it was such a welcome break from the boiling hot sun. The water is so clear and ideal for snorkelling to observe the vast array of stunningly beautiful and colourful fish. Before you know it, you have been in the sea for an hour.
Barbados has much more to offer than just beaches. The history of Barbados is vast and very visible, and has earned Bridgetown and it’s Garrison UNESCO status. The island was first Discovered by an English ship, the Olive Blossom, arriving in Barbados in 1625; its men took possession of it in the name of King James I. In 1627, the first permanent settlers arrived from England, and it became an English and later British colony. In 1966, Barbados became an independent state and Commonwealth realm with the Queen (Elizabeth II) as hereditary head of state. There are still so many British hints around the island, with people driving on the left as the first giveaway. If you have the chance, the Parliament building in the capital city of Bridgetown, stands not far from Lord Nelson’s statue (though not as tall as the London counterpart) and is a very interesting place to visit. There is a great little museum about the history of the island and the entry price includes a free tour of their parliament (when the members aren’t sitting) that is set up very similarly to our very own Westminster.
Getting out and about
Bridgetown was so easy to get to from the hotel being served by taxi or bus. Taxis are extremely easy to find, but can be pretty expensive. We found the Government run buses are a really cheap way of getting around the island, costing only 2 Barbados dollars (about 80p), these are the blue ones, or if you want to have a fun bus ride, then get onto one of the yellow reggae reggae buses for the same price. These aren’t regulated, but offer blaring Caribbean music and funky horns to get your attention, and are really regular and take you pretty much all over the island.
Barbados offers several sporting opportunities such as golf at the famous Sandy Lane course and car racing at Bushy Park. But in our family we like cricket and horse racing, so we walked from Bridgetown to the Kensington Oval, the home of Barbados cricket. We were lucky enough to have an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the ground on a quiet afternoon. We even got to walk on the pitch and then shelter from the sun, sit in the breezy stands to watch some old timers playing in a veterans tournament.
The other sporting venue we visited was the home of horse racing in Barbados. Garrison Savannah is located on the outskirts of Bridgetown, and usually offers around 25 meetings a year. Garrison Savannah (The Barbados Turf Club) has been a horse racing location since 1845. The officers of the British Regiment, who were stationed in Barbados, used what was then the parade ground to match their horses in races there. Entry was pretty cheap for the stand, and it was really relaxed with no smart dress code. The stands were packed with locals and visitors alike, and drinks and food were readily available. You can also watch for free if you just watch from the rails. Between the three of us, we all had winners too. The atmosphere was great and the locals made the experience very enjoyable too.
We were lucky enough to have some amazing weather on our trip, but we did have one rainy day, so the beach was out and we decided to visit Harrison’s Cave. This phenomenon of nature is one of the top attractions in Barbados boasting an amazing gallery of stalactites hanging from the roof and stalagmites that emerge from the ground. We arrived at the caves and were able to either walk or take a glass elevator down to the entrance of the cave. We chose to take the elevator as it was really raining by then to save arriving at the caves looking like drowned rats. We had a lovely knowledgeable guide called Hyacinth that took the group through to watch a film on how the caves were formed and then escorted us to a tram to go down into the caves. We were in the caves for about an hour and were treated to some fascinating information and history by the hilarious Hyacinth. We had plenty of photo opportunities and even got off the tram to walk alongside a spectacular waterfall. We learned that the caves have an ambient temperature of around 27 degrees Celsius, people can actually get married in the caves, The largest cavern called the ‘Great Hall’ measures over 50 feet tall and we also found out that even though you are underground, you can still get really rather wet, but the whole experience was fantastic.
Other adventures had by us included a free catamaran trip organised by the hotel. We were picked up by our vessel and crew literally from the beach by the hotel, once we were all on, the catamaran sailed a short distance up the coast to a diving area where we could get off, swim and snorkel with the beautiful fish and if we were lucky, turtles! Chloe and I jumped off the boat and waited patiently with the other swimmers. We saw some very large fish, then all of a sudden a beautiful Loggerhead turtle appeared. This turtle was beautifully marked and even had a limpet hitching a ride on its shell. It was simply magical how majestically it swooped so close to us swimming underneath us and all of a sudden a second turtle appeared out of nowhere. The turtles seemed to dance around us loving the attention. I wish I had invested in a Go Pro as then a huge stingray also appeared to join the party. It sounds so corny, but the whole experience was incredible. After about 10 minutes the turtles swam away leaving us with magical memories. Once back on the catamaran we sailed up the coast supping Rum and Coke in the warm sunshine whilst watching flying fish darting around the vessel as well taking in the architecture of the amazing beach side properties. We were on the catamaran for over two hours before we landed back on dry land.
On Friday night we joined the locals at Oustins Fish Fry. Oistins is an active fishing town on the south coast and is a hub of activity on Friday nights. The food is the main draw – excellent fish, (tuna, swordfish, marlin, mahi-mahi, flying fish), lobster, chicken etc served in an extremely informal setting. You can get your fish grilled or fried depending on which vendor you choose from. It’s all cooked on the spot in front of you. Seating is plentiful, but if a little rustic. Once you’ve had your food, You can dance if you want or watch others dance on the main stage. Some nights there is a live band. There are plenty of places to have a cheap beer and stalls selling art and crafts. I really recommend visiting Oustins, it has a great relaxed and fun atmosphere.
Finally I want to mention the stunning sunsets. All I can say is WOW!
When I watched my first sunset in Barbados, my breath was just taken away. The beauty of the island is apparent to the very end of everyday. We sat on the veranda every evening with a cocktail to watch the natural phenomenon around 6.15pm every evening with anticipation with the other holidaymakers. With my camera at the ready, I managed to capture some fantastic shots. The first sunset (above) was on the day before the rainstorm. Some of the most varied colours at sunset can be found after the sun has set during twilight. Depending on weather conditions and the types of clouds present, these colours have a wide spectrum, and can produce unusual and beautiful results. I prefer sunsets like this. The shot below was taken on my final evening in Barbados. As you can see there are very little clouds, and so there are no spectacular colours. But I think the boat packed with expectant passengers passing waiting to observe the beauty of the setting sun, and seemed a perfect way to set the sun on my perfect holiday to the Caribbean.