Monday, December 12, 2011: Bridgetown, Barbados
We’ve added one more passenger to our traveling team this week and we’re off for another week of Caribbean ports onboard the amazing Celebrity Summit. As we left San Juan, Puerto Rico, we headed south and east, enjoying a relaxing day at sea onboard, arriving on Monday morning bright and early into the port of Bridgetown, Barbados. Today we will be on a private tour of the island with Glory Tours superguide Vernon as we take in a variety of sights reflecting the unique natural beauty of this 166 sq. mile island nation.
Disembarking the ship and making our way down the pier, we met up with Sarah, the owner of the tour company and met our driver and guide for the day, Vernon. Within minutes, we were off and running as he wanted to get us to Harrison’s Cave, our first stop of the day. As we arrived to the visitor’s complex, we made our way through a small interpretitive center and to the “boarding area”. You see, Harrison’s Cave is a series of limestone caves that you actually drive through on small trams, with a driver and guide.
Fully accessible to all passengers, we enjoyed a guided tour of the caves, marvelling at the countless cave formations, created over thousands of years. As we continued into the darkness of the twisting and curving pathways, cathedral ceilings ovehead were covered in stalagtites as we were gently rained on by the cave showers, as these cave formations very slowly drip from ceiling to floor.
We made several stops within the caves to take pictures, admire cascading waterfalls, and to view many different crystalized limestone features. As the trams returned us to the entry about 45 minutes later, we had all enjoyed a tour deep into the earth to see thousands of years of natural history at Harrison’s Cave.
As we left the site, Vernon shared a number of facts about the island nation. One of the most striking and evident as we drove from place to place was that Barbados is quite different from many of the Caribbean islands, given its development from coral deposits that has risen over time above sea level. Most islands are volcanic in nature, with huge jagged peaks rising dramatically from the ocean in sweeping inclines. Barbados is much more flat, with sweeping farms and large amounts of open grassland spreading across the island.
Our next stop though was to gain a little elevation and to get a panoramic view of the island from the Highland Adventure Centre scenic lookout. Here, a quiet rest stop with picnic benches and manicured green grass welcomes visitors to view a large portion of the Bajan coastline from above. As the blue skies, sun, and good visibility provided a number of great photo opportunities, we enjoed our time here and then headed towards our next stop of the day.
Our next stop was the beautiful St. James Angelican Church. Located in Holetown, it is the oldest Angelican church on the island and sits on one of the oldest consecrated sites, dating back to 1628. Though a hurricane destroyed the original wooden church in 1675, a stone church was erected in its place in 1690. As the cycle of hurricane and rebuild continued, the church gradually added size and beauty and the current structure, consecrated in 1875, is a place of remarkable beauty and awe.
We spent over 45 minutes here and really didn’t know where the time went. From the beautiful stained glass within the windows of the church, to the exceptionally large organ (over 100 years old), and the respectful graveyard outside of original settlers and respected church leaders makes for a feast for the eyes. Two docents were sharing the site’s history and some of the notable architecture and features of the site, helping us to better appreciate what an respected and holy place this is for the people of Barbados. It was a privilege to have been able to visit.
From here, we continued back along the coastline, watching both the small fishing boats, as many make their living still from the sea, along with the massive mega-yachts of the rich and the famous as they fill harbors and residential complexes for visiting elite and wealthy vacationers. As tourism makes up half of the nation’s economy, the scene is repeated throughout many of the islands of the Caribbean.
We continued to work our way along the coastline to enjoy amazing views at North Point, Cherry Tree Hill Reserve, and Bathsheba, all of which showed off the rugged coastline of Barbados. As countless waves slowly erode the rocky shorelines to present beautiful and dramatic bays, cliffs, coves, and rocks, they stand like trophies on a coastal shelf, each one carved individually by nature to be presented to the visitors as they make their way slowly back towards the capital of Bridgetown.
As we returned to our ship and say goodbye to our tour guide, we all remarked as to the amazing balance of natural beauty, history, and variety of things to see and do in Barbados. We would welcome the opportunity to return.
Next stop — The Grand Pitons of St. Lucia!