The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on September 12, 1999 · Page 683
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 683

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 12, 1999
Page 683
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Page 683 article text (OCR)

The Dutch Caribbean Hell's Gate S A B A ' Windwardside Sctbci No beaches. No shopping. No casinos. You don't come here for that. You come to scuba dive and to climb the mountain. Why? Because it's there. ''"- ;?V Photo by Cheryl Blackerby ALTITUDE ADJUSTMENT: At 750 feet above sea level, The Bottoms, at the southwest tip of the island, is Saba's lowest village. By Cheryl Blackerby WINDWARDSIDE, Saba Leave your flip-flops and beach towel at home for a vacation here. The Dutch island of Saba (pronounced SAY-bah) may be the only island in the Caribbean with no beaches. Residents point out that part of the year there's a tiny beach near the ferry dock, but don't hold them to it. Diving and hiking are the best reasons to go to Saba. Most people have never heard of this 5-square-mile island that covers the steep slopes of a volcano. There are no duty-free shops, and if you happen to see a T-shirt for sale, quick: buy it. It could be a collector's item since there are so few of them. No cruise ships stop here. Do bring hiking boots and good socks, if not for hiking the mountains, for the long walks between towns. And you'll want to take off on foot because the air is as cool and refreshing as an alpine village. The towns of Windwardside and Hell's Gate are high on the mountainsides. Even on summer nights, you need a sweater because of the wind and altitude. Saba's forested mountains are protected by the Saba Conservation Foundation, which offers maps of hiking trails. Short, easy trails are good bets for the first day, and treks that would test the legs of a Swiss mountain climber are better after your thighs have adjusted. The most difficult and the most rewarding is the hike up 1,064 steps to the crest of Mount Scenery 2,844 feet above sea level. It is literally a walk in the clouds. The rain forest is cool, misty, ethereal and very scary if you wait too late to climb down. Dive shops offer courses and boat excursions throughout Saba Marine Park, which surrounds the island. Saba's nickname, the Unspoiled Jewel, was given because the shoreline is undeveloped, and there is no pollution runoff or industrial waste. The park has some of the strictest dive and fishing regulations in the Caribbean. Dive spots, for example, have permanent moorings so anchors don't destroy the coral. The park has a recompression chamber one of only three in the Caribbean (the other two are in St. Thomas and Puerto Rico) which was donated by the Dutch Navy. Saba has several quaint inns, including Scout's Place (011-5994-62205), which has 15 rooms, and Juliana's (011-599-4-62269), which has nine rooms and a cottage (both inns are in Windwardside). Double room rates at the inns start at about $60. There also are numerous cottages for rent. Rates generally are about $60 a day or $400 per week. The Captain's Quarters, a former sea captain's home built in 1832, was severely damaged by Hurricane Georges and is closed. For more information about Saba, its hotels and attractions, call the Saba Tourist Office, (011-599-4-62231). Wet, not too wild B If someone offers you some Saba Spice, a rum drink, make sure you have a designated driver, or a designated friend to guide you on the walk home. Saba Spice is 151-proof. B Statistics are in your favor here. There's been only one murder in 100 years. The mountain hikes are more likely to kill you. Page 10

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