Caribbean travel update: after the hurricanes – how the worst-hit islands are recovering

Following hurricanes Irma and Maria, the most damaged islands are having to rebuild homes and infrastructure, before the often vital tourism industry can thrive again

Barbados

Lying on the verandah of my hotel the crash of the Atlantic Ocean waves is constant. The view both ways along the coastline shows white-topped waves smashing into the boulders and beaches. This is Bathsheba on the East coast of Barbados and it’s not visited by many tourists. In the late afternoon there were more people surfing that sitting on the beach. The waves are gradually eroding many of the rocks that sit proudly on the shoreline and the water has created spectacular sculptures for photographers. With palm trees along the coast and an absence of large-scale development Bathsheba is an ideal relaxation stop for the busy traveller. It’s also close to the exceptional Andromeda Botanical Gardens, which are up the hill from the blue-coloured community centre. These are beautiful gardens with views down to the Atlantic. The Round House Inn is also recommended for its tasty meals with ample portions for the hungry.

Harrison’s Cave is a major tourist attraction in Barbados. After you have paid for your ticket, you can either walk down to the visitor’s centre or take one of the three elevators that have been strategically placed so they aren’t an eyesore. Outside the centre some hidden tape recorders play the sounds of birds and insects to give the experience a more natural feel.

The story of how the cave system was created geologically is very interesting indeed as Barbados is made of coral limestone that has been lifted out of the sea by tectonic plate activity. Most other Caribbean islands are the result of volcanic activity.

Visitors are taken through the cave system on a land train and it’s probably better to sit on the left hand side as you are taken through the caverns, pools, and small streams that are found here.

Although the stalagmites and stalactites are impressive I believe that the cave is overpriced for what you see.

Antigua – Bus Trip

Bus number 17 travels from outside Nelson’s Dockyard to the West Bus station in St John’s, the capital of Antigua. The journey costs either EC$3.75 or EC$2.75, depending on the driver.

The bus I caught to St John’s took 45 minutes and the driver was incredibly considerate. He stopped for people who weren’t yet at the stop, waited for regular passengers to arrive, and even reversed down a hill to pick up two school children. People paid when they got off so I paid when we reached St John’s.

The driver on the return took my money at the West Bus station. He was obviously a frustrated Formula 1 driver as we made the trip in 20 minutes. He seemed to resent passengers asking to alight from the bus, which they did by shouting “Bus Stop”. Even the locals realised the driver was insane; one person told him she wanted to see her grandchildren again after he had overtaken three vehicles on a narrow stretch of road.

Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua

If you like this piece you can buy a kindle version of the book Julian’s Journeys, which contains this story.

Next to the Inn is the most unusual sight in the dockyard – looking like a more orderly version of Stonehenge a dozen stone pillars are all that’s left of a boathouse that was used to repair the sails of ships. The boathouse was very tall, hence the need for the sturdy stone pillars, and the ships would sail into the dock the boathouse was built over. The boathouse had an upper floor where the sail repairers would be able to make repairs quickly and easily without having to climb up the mast on the open sea.

Not to be confused with the Admiral’s Inn is the Admiral’s House on the opposite side of the road. This house is a misnomer as no Admiral has ever been based here and certainly not Nelson as the place was built 50 years after his death at Trafalgar. This building is now the dockyard museum, a charming collection that covers Antigua’s sailing past and the history of the dockyard.

Further along are the Officer’s Quarters built over a large freshwater cistern. On the upper floor are some interesting souvenir shops and small businesses. By the turning circle are some restored capstans and this is where boats were hauled ashore so they could be careened.

Holiday guide to Costa Rica: beaches and adventures, plus hotels and restaurants

This small country is perhaps the best in Latin America for a tropical adventure, thanks to its misty jungles, incredible wildlife, active volcanoes and glorious deserted beaches