|Basseterre is probably one of the most pleasing capitals to the eye in the Caribbean. Basseterre’s Historic District, towards the centre of the town exhibits excellent examples of Creole and West Indian architecture. Basseterre has been around for some time; French Basseterre was a flourishing and much respected town back in 1672 leading an English visitor to remark that Basseterre was a ‘town of good bigness, whose houses are well-built of Bricks, Freestone and Timber; where merchants have their storehouses, and is well inhabited by tradesmen and are well served with such commodities, both for back and belly, together with utensils for the houses and Plantations…’.|
|A block east of the Circus is Independence Square (shown left), originally called Pall Mall Square. It was renamed on the occasion of St. Kitts & Nevis achieving political independence on September 19th, 1983. The Government first acquired Pall Mall Square in 1750 and it rapidly became the administrative, commercial and social centre of Basseterre. The Square was the site of the slave market. Slaves arriving from Africa were temporarily quartered in the basement of a building on the south side of the Square.|
South of The Circus lies the imposing Treasury Building. It was completed in 1894 and until World War 2 housed half of the island’s government offices. The large archway that faces you is a reminder of the time when sea transport ruled and that archway was where you entered St. Kitts. Nearby are the General Post Office and Customs building. Beyond this towards the sea front lies Port Zante, the Cruise ship terminal. Further along the Bay Road lies the Public Market – colourful, noisy and a good place to get all sorts of fresh vegetables, especially on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Sheer Quality, not quantity
What St. Kitts may lack in quantity of ‘recognised’ dive sites it more than makes up for in those of sheer quality. More than 400 ships sank here between 1493 and 1825 , but only a dozen or so have been identified. There is plenty of potential in this area. The waters around St. Kitts and Nevis are not polluted and overcrowded with human activity and this has meant that the marine environment has largely been spared the effects of coral pillaging, overfishing and dying reefs. Some reef systems are so extensive that there are several dive spots on one reef. Many sites remain relatively unexplored and undisturbed. Listed below are the official sites and a short explanation of each.
Photo © Jams C. Brandon
|Dive Sites||Description/Depth/Skill Level
|Sandy Point Marine Reserve||Designated National Marine Park. Two popular moorings. Paradise Reef is full of giant basket sponges, large coral heads & canyons sloping off to 90ft (30m). Anchors Away is flatter reef section with under-cut shelves and 18th Century coral encrusted anchors.|
|Wreck of River Taw||144ft (48m) island freighter in 50ft (17m). Broken in half with stern turned 180 degrees. Swim-throughs and views into the hull. Macro-photographer’s delight. Skin Diver magazine puts it in top 20 Caribbean Wreck dives.|
|Black Coral Reef||Want to see rare black coral? Divemaster will point out this increasingly rare coral on reef that descends from 40 to 70 feet (13-23m) .|
|Blood Bay Reef||Depth 60-80ft (20-27m). Plenty colourful coral and purple sea anenomes, yellow sea fans and rust-coloured bristle worms. Occasional shy shark. Several small caves in the area too.|
|Booby Island||Small island in the Nevis-St. Kitts Channel. Lots of fish including jacks and snappers.|
|The Caves||40 feet (13m) under Nevis’ West Coast, just north of Charlestown. Series of coral grottos. Shallow depth makes it safe and accessible dive. Thousands of fish live here including squirrel fish, lobsters and barracuda. Day excursion from St. Kitts.|
|Coconut Tree Reef||Largest reef in the area good for novice and expert. Reef from 40 to over 200 ft (67m).|
|Grid Iron||In the Nevis-St. Kitts Channel, a shelf rises to within 25ft (8m) of surface. Shallow water corals, sea fans, sponges and lots of angelfish.|
|Monkey Reef||Well offshore of St. Kitts’ South East Peninsula. Flat reef 50 ft (17m) down with soft and hard corals in circular shape. Edge of reef sees lobsters, nurse sharks, sting rays and lizardfish. Takes an hour to circumnavigate.|
|Redonda Bank||Relatively unexplored, extensive with plenty of hard and soft corals and marine life. Out of the way, but you’ll be one of a few that’s been down there.|
|Nags Head||Experienced divers. Tough current where Atlantic and Caribbean meet. Dramatic plunge of reef to 80ft (27m). Large pelagics, stingrays, turtles, squirrel fish, sea urchins plus other reef regulars.|
|Wreck of M.V. Talata||Sunk in 1985 and is in good nick at 70ft (23m). Hull plays home to many reef fish. Experience helps.|
|Beached Tug Boat||Partly above surface in only 20ft (6m) of water. Ideally suited to novice divers and snorkellers. Jacks, grunts, hind and occasional ray in the offing.|
|Brassball Wreck||Novice divers. 25ft (8m) depth. Good for snorkellers.|
St. Kitts exhibits a range of ecosystems that combine to produce a whole range of activities for your enjoyment whilst you are on holiday. St. Kitts’ Northern, Central and Southern mountain ranges are carpeted in thick rainforest supporting huge bio-diversity. Beaches are classic – white sand, crystal clear neon-blue water, shallow coral reefs and leaning palm trees. Many hiking trails exist into the rainforest; the vegetation becomes a classic, unbroken canopy with giant ferns, cabbage palms, mahogany and burr trees with their odd, winding butress roots and a myriad of different plant species both on the forest floor (mosses, epiphytes, bromeliads, and orchids) and others winding up tall trunks to the canopy (lianas, wild philondendrons, ferns, strangler fig and cockspur).
The rainforest thickens as you ascend higher…
As one ascends it becomes noticeably cooler and the forest is punctuated with the sound of quail doves, zenaidas and thrashers. You may also see the Antillean Crested Hummingbird or the larger Green or Purple-Throated Caribs feeding on red, yellow and orange heliconia flowers. You will hear the piping of tree frogs too. There are also the distinctive termite nests on tree trunks looking like large, fine black soil or honeycomb stuck to tree trunks. The higher you go the more the ferns dominate the vegetation and the more you become enveloped in cloud.
The Most famous animal you will see is the Green Vervet monkey. Introduced from Africa two centuries ago they are said to outnumber the human population and are fascinating to observe. They are fairly shy, but are playful and will occasionally stop for a look. Their intense expressions and furtive glances are priceless. Tours are both entertaining and informative – guides will share scientific knowledge as well as impart stories based on local folklore – of which there is plenty. Just ask your guide about “Markus, King of The Woods“- Dr. Grant H. Cornwell gives an excellent historical background in his photo essay, “Sugar Estates of St. Kitts” and provides a fascinating online account of this famous escaped slave. You will also hear about the many forms of “bush medicine” and treatments drawn from the rainforest, underlying just what a precious natural resource the rainforest is.
The Green Vervet Monkey
Ballast Bay with Nevis in the backgound
|The South East Peninsula
of St. Kitts has large tracts of the two other main types of natural vegetation tracts found on the island: dry forests and mangroves. Dry forests are characterised by organ-pipe cacti and century plants (relative of the agave plant – like a Yucca plant with no stem). These plants are dispersed amongst small shrubs and wild grasses. Many monkeys live in this habitat too and you will often see them in the trees by the peninsula road. Look for the “Tourist Tree” – its bright red bark peeling – and think about your sun cream! You may also see another introduced animal – the mongoose – like a stoat or ferret with, unfortunately, very bad road sense. They seem only to cross at the least opportune moments – they are much better at negotiating snakes which they have all but eradicated from St. Kitts.
are found down at sea level and are vital to the stability of beach sands. They also support a variety of animal and marine life – among them fiddler crabs, sandpipers, plovers and black & white long-legged stilts plus other little crustaceans. You might catch the odd heron or duck too. If you lead a generally charmed life you may spot in the higher branches the magnificent Osprey or fish eagle. More common though are the chicken hawks shrieking as they circle on the thermals above the peninsula hills. Mangrove vegetation includes typically odd-looking above-water root systems of the wetlands forming a complex, sheltered habitat.
St. Kitts is blessed with a myriad of beautiful, complex ecosystems containing a range of photogenic wildlife and a whole host of relaxing (and in some cases deliberately not so relaxing) things to do. From its seas to its forests, there’s something to please everyone.
|The Kitts Music Festival began in 1996 and was a resounding success. Now in its 12th year, the festival has boasted the likes of Dionne Warwick, John Legend, Shaggy, Akon, Chris Brown, Billy Ocean and Jah Rule (to name a few) as well as Zouk legends Cassav, Reggae legend Morgan Heritage and current Calypso stars like Destra. There are several music festivals across the Caribbean but none have leapt onto the world music scene as remarkably quickly as St. Kitts. Artists such as Kool & The Gang, Freddie Jackson, Air Supply, Chaka Khan, Maxi Priest, Cece Winans, Dennis Brown, Arturo Tappin, Earl Klugh, David Rudder and Hugh Masekela have appeared to large, appreciative audiences. Over several evenings a huge variety of tastes are accounted for – Jazz, Salsa, Meringue, Calypso, Soca, Gospel, R&B, Soul, Reggae and Dancehall. This eclectic spicy mix has often been accented with rare acts as the Su Wen-Cheng Chinese Ensemble. Ultimately the flavour is unique and that is why The St. Kitts Music Festival has been an instant success.|
Visitors come from as far as the U.S.A., Canada, Europe as well as other islands in the Caribbean – it makes being there that much more of a multi-national, multi-cultural event. The event is now very much a family one with kids regularly accompanying adult fans. During the festival many visitors participate in rainforest tours, daytime visits to the sister island of Nevis, beach parties, horse back riding and a wide array of watersports before the evening’s music program begins. The general atmosphere is so pleasant that many performing artists get here early and leave late. Several movie stars have fallen in love with the island too and have homes here – Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone and Bill Cosby to name a few. The best advice is to book your flight and accommodation as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss this special event. It may well be the best holiday you’ve ever had. Find out more about the festival at: