Monday, December 5, 2011: Basseterre, St. Kitts
The gray skies continued to dominate the horizon as we arrived into our next port of call, Basseterre, St. Kitts. There was no dampening of the spirits, however, as we knew that the sun wouldn’t be too terribly far behind. Disembarking the ship and making our way down the pier at Port Zante, we met up with our superguide for the day, Thenford Grey, at the brillantly yellow cruise terminal building along Bassterre’s waterfront. We awaited a few more people that would be joining our tour and then headed out to the nearby parking lot to board our air conditioned mini-bus for the day.
We began our day winding our way through the congested, but comfortable streets of downtown Basseterre. It was a Monday morning after all, and there were a number of students headed to class, workers to their places of employment and as we passed by, we got a good feel for the vibe of the capital city. We made our way to Circus Plaza, a miniature version of Picadilly Circus, with the Berkeley Memorial Clock in the center of the roundabout. In addition, we saw the beautiful stone co-cathedral and began to work our way to the coastline and out of the city as Thenford provided us with a commanding scenic view of the city with neighboring island, Nevis off in the distance.
As we headed out of the city, Thenford provided us with a treasure trove of information about the island, its people, industry, education, and much more. The time seemed to pass quickly as soon we were at our first stop of the day, Romney Manor. The manor was once owned my the great-great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson (so we’re going way back in the time machine here, folks) and was also the first location on the island to emancipate slaves in the year 1834, going against British guidance.
These days, the manor is a beautifully kept estate with a number of colorful buildings and the home of Caribelle Batik, a traditional method of dying and painting fabric to create beautiful clothing and other textiles. We were treated to a demonstration of the process and once we were done with this, we were free to explore the lush grounds with its substantial collection of plants and flowers.
From here, we continued north along the west coast of the island and arrived at the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. This amazingly restored fortress was originally built between 1690 and 1790 and was a model of military architecture in the 18th century. These days, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and rightly so. The grounds are well cared for and the buildings still have a strong presence as they protect and overlook huge swaths of the island and offer views to many islands in all directions. We enjoyed touring around here and visiting the grounds before it was time to return to the mini-bus and continue our tour of the island.
Next up on our tour of St. Kitts was a trip to Frigate Bay on the southeast corner of the island where we got to see the more “international” side of the island. You see, St. Kitts and Nevis actively encourage international ownership of property on the island with minimal investment ($350,000 USD) and the opportunity, once a property owner to become a citizen of the country with a passport and all rights that this entails. Frigate Bay and other areas of the island are rapidly growing with resorts, condos, and residential communities owned almost entirely by visitors.
We made a stop at the top of the hill and had a view of the narrow strip of land that separates the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean for St. Kitts, where we took some pictures and one member of our traveling group made a new friend (a monkey eating a banana and wearing a pair of newborn diapers — no joke!). We left here and continued our way out to the southern end of the island for our final stop of the day, Turtle Beach.
Here at Turtle Beach, the passengers in our group were given the opportunity to get out to spend time on the beach or to snorkel for an hour or so, or to take a short 10 minute break and then return directly to the cruise ship. While we were considering the options, we stopped to watch some monkeys and mongooses and noticed that the clouds were taking a decidedly dark turn so just as we boarded our mini-bus to return to the cruise ship port, the sky opened up in buckets and we enjoyed a leisurely ride back to Basseterre as sheets of rain ran down the hillsides and the roads.
Arriving back at the port, the rain has subsided and our day ended on a wonderful note. Thenford did a fanstastic job and we would highly recommend him for a wonderful day onshore in St. Kitts!
Next up, we visit the tropical rainforest paradise of Dominica!