Today I had organised a snorkelling trip for us – I was really looking forward to getting out into the warm Caribbean waters and seeing what was below the surface. Our ship docked in the middle of the harbour so we were tendered ashore where we met our snorkelling guide Ludo. There were just the two of us going snorkelling and another Steve from the USA who was going diving with Ludo.
Ludo told us that the winds were coming from the south which was quite unusual for the island and they were making the waters very choppy. Great! We went to the first spot and Ludo decided it was too choppy and actually dangerous for snorkelling so we went to find another spot. This spot looked a bit better but was not the dead calm waters that I was anticipating. We both kitted up and jumped in. The water was warm and there were lots of colourful fish just below the surface so that was cool. Unfortunately Steve drank a bit too much sea water and ended up feeling rather ill. He hopped back into the boat and ended up feeding the fish!
Ludo and the other Steve came back from there dive. It had got quite choppy so we up anchored and went to find a more sheltered spot closer to the harbour. Steve was still not feeling too flash so he stayed in the boat while I went exploring. There were a lot more bigger fish in this spot with all sorts of colour – it was very cool. Ludo and the other Steve went off to dive around a wreck that wasn’t too far away.
We watched a few small planes come in to land. Apparently the airport on the island is one of the more dangerous airports in the world. The planes have to come in over this mountain and then suddenly drop down to the runway. We could see them clearing the mountain and then dropping suddenly. Ludo told us that they just clear the road near the top of the mountain and a couple of years ago this guy was standing on the top of his roof taking photos of the plane coming in when he was hit by the wheel of the plane and killed.
We got back to the ferry dock and Ludo dropped us off – not the most successful snorkelling venture we have ever had but at least I got to swim in the Caribbean and see some tropical fish. We had a wander around the town which is full of high end designer boutiques and restaurants – it is very expensive. There were also a few super yachts docked in the marina which were very nice. One of the boats was called Casino Royale and Steve spoke to the crew who told him the inside of the boat is all James Bond themed – how cool. Unfortunately Steve didn’t manage to wangle us an invite on board. The crew also told us that there is another boat out there called Sky Fall.
After having a look around we decided to go back to the ship via the tender boat. The tender boat pulled up alongside the ship and it was bouncing all over the place. The crew had to work pretty hard to keep it steady.
The island of St. Barts, known for its chic French ambience and cuisine and white-sand beaches, long has reigned as a favorite getaway spot among celebrity jetsetters.
That’s quite a lofty status for a stony, volcanic, eight-square-mile island that claims no fresh water and little workable land. Named for Christopher Columbus’ brother, Bartolomeo, St. Barthelemy is located near the northern end of the Lesser Antilles group in the West Indies, 15 miles east of St. Martin.
Many St. Bartians are descendants of 17th-century settlers from Brittany and Normandy. In the 18th century, France leased the island to Sweden in exchange for trading rights to the Baltic. It is the only Caribbean island which was a Swedish colony for any significant length of time; Guadeloupe was under Swedish rule only briefly at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Symbolism from the Swedish national arms, the Three Crowns, still appears in the island’s coat of arms. Almost a century later, locals voted to restore rule to the French. Today, St. Barts, with its population of about 9,000, is a dependency of the French overseas department of Guadeloupe.
The island’s beautiful beaches lend themselves to water sports, from windsurfing, scuba-diving and snorkeling to jet-skiing, sailing and deep-sea fishing. Whales pass by during migration periods, and dolphins are frequently spotted.
The island also claims fame as a place where conspicuous consumption is on display in the form of mega-yachts, elegant designer boutiques, fancy resorts and fine dining. Considered among the best places to nosh in the Caribbean, lunch or dinner at one of the island’s top restaurants can be a major splurge.
International investment and the wealth generated by wealthy tourists explain the high standard of living on the island. St. Barts is considered a playground of the rich and famous, especially as a winter haven, and is known for its beaches, gourmet dining and high-end designers. Most of the food is imported by airplane or boat from the US or France. Tourism attracts about 200,000 visitors every year. As a result, there is a boom in house building activity catering to the tourists and also to the permanent residents of the island, with prices as high as €61,200,000 for a beachfront villa.
St. Barts has about 25 hotels, most of them with 15 rooms or fewer. The largest has 58 rooms. Hotels are classified in the traditional French manner; 3 Star, 4 Star and 4 Star Luxe. Most places of accommodation are in the form of private villas, of which there are some 400 available to rent on the island. The island’s tourism industry, though expensive, attracts 70,000 visitors every year to its luxury hotels and villas and another 130,000 people arrive by luxury boats. It also attracts a labour force from Brazil and Portugal to meet the industry needs.
The height of tourism is New Year’s Eve, with celebrities and the wealthy converging on the island in yachts up to 550 ft in length for the occasion.