Visions of Paradise
Island History and Geography Island Activities & Attractions 
Overlooking Friendship Bay in Canouan A Brief History

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an independent state with a stable, democratic government. Formerly part of the British colony of the Windward Islands from 1871 to 1969, it became a British Associated State for 10 years prior to full independence in 1979. The governmental system is based on the British system. English, with a unique Vincentian / British accent is spoken throughout the islands.

The British era of the islands' history covers only a short period of time. Archaeologists' research name the prehistoric settlements in the Grenadines as the last intact chronological evidence of South American cultures migration to the area. Buried in the scrub and soil, the Archaeologists found a great diversity of ceramic styles from these migrations.

Roughly hewn stone and shell tools and axes made by stone-age men more than 7000 years ago are found in the islands. These tools belonged to a group of hunter-gatherers, the Ciboneys, who explored and lived on the islands eating fruit and berries, seashells and the pink conch.

More than 200 years before Christ, another culture travelling in 50 foot dugout canoes arrived in these islands. The Arawaks carried fire-burners, animals and plants. During a 1500 year period the West Indian islands were peaceful, but the peaceful Arawaks could not survive the invasion of the Caribs who killed the men and carried off the women.

The Caribs were fierce fighters and strong swimmers. Captured Arawak women refused to speak the Carib language, but eventually the Tupi_Arawakian language died out along with the beautiful pottery created by these women.

In 1498 on his third voyage, Christopher Columbus sighted a new island. Hairoun, the Indian name for the island, "was a land blessed with rainbows, mist, fertile valleys and sun." Columbus named the island "St. Vincent" after the Spanish saint. But, the Caribs were a formidable force and the reefs of the Grenadines so treacherous that the Spanish avoided them altogether. In 1595, Sir Walter Raleigh visited St. Vincent briefly and came away with the impression that the island was inhabited by cannibals and savages. It was not for nearly 200 years that any Europeans were able to settle on the islands. The Caribs of St. Vincent, living in the densely forested, mountainous interior were able to resist European settlement longer than any other island in the Caribbean.

The Caribs of St. Vincent were joined by Caribs fleeing the Europeans on other islands, and also by runaway African slaves and slaves who survived shipwrecks in the area. News of the free men on St. Vincent spread throughout the islands. By 1676, 30% of the population of St. Vincent consisted of former slaves. Women were scarce and the African men were fierce competition for the Caribs. A new mix of former slave and Carib was called the "Black Carib" and quickly began to outnumber the original inhabitants, the "Yellow Caribs".

More History of the Black Caribs and SVG

Geography

Area Maps:

GLOBE Caribbean Map SVG Country Map

Island Maps:

Bequia
Canouan
Mayreau
Mustique
Palm Island
Petit St. Vincent
St. Vincent
Tobago Cays
Union Island


St. Vincent is a rugged volcanic island with a 4000 foot volcano that dominates the northern third of the island. Very little of the island is flat, perhaps only the air strip, the shopping area of Kingtown, and a few isolated areas of beach are truely level. The Central and Southern sections of the island fall from 1000 - 2000 foot mountains quickly to the sea.

The Windward (east) side of St. Vincent is rugged and wild. Exposed volcanic rock cliffs topped with vegetation that leans to the west from constant exposure to the strong Atlantic sea breezes alternate with long stretches of black sand beach sprinkled with huge volcanic rocks and headlands with crashing surf. Most of the island's coconut and banana plantations are found on the Windward side.

The Leeward (west) side of St Vincent is lush and green, again with cliffs alternating with black sand beaches. On the leeward side the cliffs are often dripping with green vegetation. The Caribbean sea is calm and flat on the Leeward side. There is no road that travels around the volcanic north end of St. Vincent. To get from the northern Leeward side to the northern Windward side, one must travel back to Kingstown and make the journey north again.

Dawn in a village on St. Vincent's Windward Side

Although it is only 9 miles southwest of St. Vincent, Bequia appears quite different from St. Vincent. The high point of the island is at 900 feet and Bequia appears to have rounded hills more than mountains. An enormous, deep bay, Admiralty Bay, on the Caribbean side of the island is a favorite with yachtspeople. The Bay is surrounded by hills. Beaches of white sand alternate with exposed rock cliffs along the southern edge of the bay. Bequia is the second largest island in the country.

Bequia's northern coastline borders the Bequia Channel where the Atlantic Ocean forces itself between St. Vincent and Bequia. The currents are strong and seas sometimes tall and choppy in the channel. The island's shoreline is also rough and rugged with rounded hilltops falling off to the sea in craggy cliffs.

Mustique, a four square mile island, is 7 miles southeast of Bequia. Similar in appearance, but without the deep bay of Bequia, it also offers beautiful white sand beaches and rounded hills with some wild vegetation.

The southern Grenadines are small islands, quite close together. Although there are several islands, only the inhabited islands are discussed in this document.

Canouan is a dry island of rounded hills with a barrier reef that runs along the Atlantic side of the island. 900 foot tall Mount Mahoult, "Maho", is the highest point on the island. A ridge with spectacular views runs the southern end of the island with sea on both sides. Beautiful white sand beaches line two bays, Glossy and Friendship, on the southern side. Flowering cactus adorn the hillsides of Canouan. It is 25 miles south of St. Vincent and 11 miles south of Mustiques.

Tobago Cays Mayreau and the Tobago Cays are about 3 miles farther south than Canouan. The Cays are a series of four small sand islands, some topped with low vegetation and palm trees and all surrounded by a large reef and amazingly beautiful turquoise waters. The structure of Horseshoe Reef around the Cays make for treacherous sailing so yachts must follow their charts carefully. Petit Rameau, Barabel, Petit Bateau and Jameby are a wildlife reserve.

Mayreau is similiar to Canouan, dry and hilly, with a mile-long stretch of white sand beach running along the southwest coast at Saline Bay. Salt Whistle Bay on the northwest coast is composed of low hillsides and a thin strip of land barely above sea level. Mayreau is protected from the ravages of the Atlantic surf by the Tobago Cays.

The 1000 foot Mount Tobaoi on Union Island has the country's highest peak outside of St. Vincent. From a distance, Union Island looks like a part of French Polynesia with it's rugged peak protruding above the rest of the island. Superb anchorages in several bays protected by surrounding reefs circle the island. Small Palm Island and Petit St. Vincent, each just large enough to contain one resort are satellites of Union. Palm Island is just one mile from Union and Petit St. Vincent is three miles south. All three islands have white sand beaches.


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