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Guides » Barbados » Experiencing Barbados

Experiencing Barbados

If you are looking for the perfect getaway, a place where you can leave the worries of life behind, Barbados is it. Often referred to as “Little England” of the Caribbean, the islanders, known as Bajans, are warm and welcoming. Without doubt, life in Barbados moves by a different beat. Although there are other sources of income, the tourist industry is quite large.

When visiting Barbados, you will immediately get a feel for the local flavor, which is a unique blend of exotic and laid back. The island itself offers many amenities, outstanding nightlife, great beaches, excellent water sports, and more. Whether you want to stay within areas often visited or get off the beaten track, you will find Barbados to be a vacationer’s paradise.

Barbados was first inhabited by Arawak Indians but when the island was invaded around 1200 AD by the Carib tribe, they all but vanished. Coming from Venezuela, the Caribs also vanished Europe sailed into the region, although why remains a mystery. Some historians believe the second departure was in direct link to the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century and in fact, many believe some of the Caribs were taken as slaves.

Then in 1536, an explorer from Portuguese named Campos landed on the island on his way to Brazil. Although he would not settle on the island, he did introduce pigs as a food source. Campos was the person responsible for naming the island Los Barbados, which translates into “”the bearded ones”, which experts believe was after the fig trees that grew on the island with long, hanging roots.

The island of Barbados was claimed and inhabited for England in 1625 when Captain John Powell landed there. Then just two years later, Captain Henry Powell, John’s brother, brought with him a party of 80 settlers and 10 slaves to establish the first European settlement known as Jamestown. Although the town would be renamed Holetown, more and more settlers came until the population was in the thousands by 1628.

A large portion of the native forest, which included cotton and tobacco had been cleared and new crops of sugarcane planted. Because the labor to plant and harvest was great, a large number of American slaves were imported to help the previous African slaves. The result of the sugarcane crops was quite impressive, proving to be a profitable decision for the plantation owners.

As the years passed, Barbados went through a number of changes to include battles and changes in leadership but the sugarcane crops continued to thrive. Finally in 1834, the black islanders were freed but because they had few options for income and outside living conditions were horrific, with many ending up in shantytowns, most decided their best option for a decent life was to stay put on the sugarcane plantations.

Like most other places, Barbados was hit hard by the dark depression of the 1930s, leading to riots and high unemployment rates, but the good news is that because of this, welfare offices were established and black reform occurred. Then in 1967, Barbados became an independent nation. Today, this island in the Caribbean is a quiet place that offers beautiful scenery.

You will find very little of the original Latin influence still on the island of Barbados. Instead, the island is primarily British culture, which has had a strong presence there for the past four centuries. An interesting fact that many people do not know is that the sport Cricket is a huge past time in the Caribbean and in fact, the Bajans boast the world's best cricket players of all time.

The island itself is shaped like a pear and situated 1,160 miles from Miami and 535 miles from Caracas. All around the island you will find some incredibly beautiful coral reefs, which have built up on sedimentary rocks over hundreds of years. As the water flows over the coral, underground streams, limestone caves, and springs are created. One of the most popular is Harrison’s Cave, well worth the visit.

Because Barbados gets some 3,000 hours of sunshine every year and the temperatures range between 70 and 86, this is a magnificent place for escaping from the hustle and bustle of life. If you head to the western coast, you will discover some of the finest coral reef diving around, along with numerous shipwrecks. One such wreck called the Berwyn is not very deep so if you do not scuba dive but enjoy snorkeling, you can still experience this type of diving.

Other great things to do on the island include windsurfing, hiking the beautiful countryside, horseback riding along the beach, or simply enjoying the magnificent flora and fauna. Some people enjoy sightseeing, which can be done in nearby towns or places considered a little out of the way. We already mentioned Holetown but another option is Bridgetown. Being the capital of Barbados this town is a blend of colonial and modern architecture that offers great shops, chattel houses, and a 1600 synagogue.

Sam Lord’s Castle is also a great place to visit where you will find a limestone coral mansion. First built by none other than “Sam Lord”, this castle used to hang “wrecker lanterns” at night as a way of luring unsuspecting ships into the reefs. Obviously, the ships thought they were being safely guided into the harbor only to smash so Lord could gather his fair share of the treasure. Many historians dispute this legend but it is an interesting castle just the same.

Another great way to spend an afternoon is at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve. This primate research center is dedicated to learning about and supporting the existence of various breeds of monkeys, especially the green monkey. Other creatures found there include the brocket deer, red-footed turtle, agoutis, and Iguanas. Next, there is the Flower Forest, which is located just 12 miles from Bridgetown. Nestled on a former sugarcane estate, you can walk around and learn about the various tropical flowers. The landscape is mesmerizing and well worth the visit.

Last Updated: 10/19/2006 3:14:00 PM

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