Steps Ahead

The lush land­scapes and ra­di­ant flora of the Caribbean can be en­joyed ev­ery­where, so get your walk­ing boots on – it’s beau­ti­ful out there!

Your Guide to the Caribbean - - Contents -

Whether it’s a ro­man­tic sun­set stroll along surf-licked sands in Turks and Caicos or a sweaty climb up a jun­gle-cloaked vol­cano in Mar­tinique, the Caribbean is a par­adise for lovers of the great out­doors.

The va­ri­ety of ex­pe­ri­ences is huge, from tram­pling through thick and drip­ping rain­for­est to breezy clifftop walks and gen­tle am­bles around botan­i­cal gar­dens that have been lov­ingly tended for over a cen­tury.

All des­ti­na­tions have well-es­tab­lished parks and walk­ing trails that al­low vis­i­tors of all ages and abil­i­ties to ap­pre­ci­ate their nat­u­ral beauty, from the many dif­fer­ent types of cacti in Cu­raçao to over 300 species of orchid in Haiti.

St. Vin­cent Botanic Gar­dens, St. Vin­cent and The Gre­nadines

Es­tab­lished in 1765, this 20-acre (eight-hectare) sanc­tu­ary just north of Kingstown is one of the old­est botan­i­cal gar­dens in the es­tern hemi­sphere. A star at­trac­tion is the off­spring of a bread­fruit tree brought to St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines from the South Pa­cific by Cap­tain Bligh in 1793. Now a com­mon sight on many is­lands, the tree’s fruit is a sta­ple Caribbean dish cooked in many ways, in­clud­ing roast­ing and fry­ing as chips.

A walk be­side the ma­ture trees and grassy lawns here of­fers an es­cape from the bus­tle of the cap­i­tal – look out for the aviary, with its rare St Vin­cent par­rots, the na­tional bird, and there’s a Doric Tem­ple in the grounds, too.

Mt Li­a­muiga, St. Kitts

The 3,972ft (1,120m) peak of Mt Li­a­muiga that crowns St. Kitts is a mag­nif­i­cent rain­for­est-clad vol­cano that presents hik­ers with a de­cent but achiev­able chal­lenge, best done with a lo­cal guide and on a cloud-free morn­ing. The two-hour climb be­gins near New­ton Ground and as­cends steeply, pass­ing mighty fi­cus and mango trees be­fore even­tu­ally reach­ing the rim of a vast vol­canic crater. Around 700ft (213m) be­low lies a silent green world, one of the Caribbean’s many se­cret places.

Iwokrama For­est, Guyana

Cov­er­ing 1,430 square miles (3,710 sq km) in cen­tral Guyana, Iwokrama is one of the last pris­tine trop­i­cal forests in the world. It’s renowned for the rich­ness of its bird life, fish and bat species, and as one of the best places to see jaguar in the wild. Res­i­dent mam­mals in­clude anteaters, ar­madil­los and sloths. You can base your­self at Iwokrama River Lodge, which has cab­ins set be­side the Esse­quibo River. Ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude a 505ft (154m) canopy walk­way to look for macaws, tou­cans and howler mon­keys, a boat trip and then hike up Tur­tle Moun­tain for a stun­ning view over the jun­gle.

Gros Pi­ton, Saint Lu­cia

The steep-sided twin peaks of the Pi­tons, shoot­ing up from the west coast of Saint Lu­cia, are a UNESCO World Her­itage Site. Ris­ing to 2,614ft (796m), Gros Pi­ton is a lit­tle higher than its sis­ter, Pe­tit Pi­ton, and the one to climb: reg­is­tered guides are pro­vided. The four-hour round trek isn’t easy, but there is im­mense sat­is­fac­tion and su­perb views to be had at the sum­mit. Af­ter­wards, take a re­fresh­ing dip and cel­e­brate – with a cool Pi­ton beer!

Cay­man Brac, Cay­man Is­lands

Clear your head with a brac­ing clifftop walk along the 153ft (46m) high Bluff at the east end of Cay­man Brac in the Cay­man Is­lands. It’s one of 35 well-marked trails on the is­land, which

you can fol­low your­self, or al­ter­na­tively join a free guided tour with Na­ture Cay­man. In­ter­pre­tive signs and ecol­ogy pan­els pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on lo­cal trees and plants. Try the mod­er­ate-level Light­house Foot­path from Spot Bay that is a three-hour round trip – rare brown boo­bies breed in the caves be­low.

Pri­vate gar­dens tour, Gre­nada

Gre­nada is at­trac­tive to hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ists – lin 2017 the is­land won its 13th Gold Medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in Lon­don. The prize flo­ral dis­plays are picked from plants raised in nurs­eries, es­tates and pri­vate gar­dens around the is­land, which can be vis­ited on tours with lo­cal op­er­a­tor Caribbean Hori­zons. Stops may in­clude Hyde Park Gar­den, with its fine views over the cap­i­tal, and the St Rose Nurs­ery, which of­ten pro­vides the fo­liage for Chelsea.

The Quill, St. Eus­tatius

A visit to St. Eus­tatius is not com­plete with­out at least one hike along the is­land’s many trails. The paths are sur­rounded by a wide di­ver­sity of veg­e­ta­tion. Cacti and shrubs dom­i­nate the lower parts, but the higher hik­ers go, the greener and more colour­ful the plants and flow­ers be­come.

A high­light is climb­ing ‘The Quill’ for phe­nom­e­nal views of the neigh­bour­ing is­lands. Then comes the mem­o­rable de­scent into the crater, where gi­ant trees and pretty flow­ers grow in a world all their own, and crit­ters scurry across the for­est floor. •

Mt Li­a­muiga on St. Kitts presents hik­ers with a de­cent but achiev­able chal­lenge

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