Scattered in the east Caribbean between St. Lucia and Grenada in the Lesser Antilles, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a nation made up of 32 islands. The capital of Kingston is located on the largest island, St. Vincent, which is blanketed with tropical forests, edged by black-sand beaches, and dominated by a 4,000-foot active volcano. The Grenadine archipelago continues south from here, comprising dozens of islands and cays, of which only a handful are inhabited. Petit St. Vincent lies about halfway down the island chain, some 40 miles south of St. Vincent.
Lagoons, reefs, and turquoise seas make for excellent swimming, snorkeling, and sailing in the Grenadines, and the islands themselves, volcanic and wild, offer up interesting exploration as well. A few of the nearby islands are described below. Others include Bequia, Mustique, Mayreau, Canouan, and Palm Island.
The five tiny isles known as the Tobago Cays are home to white-sand beaches, a reef that stretches two and a half miles, and nesting and feeding grounds for green and hawksbill turtles. Hiking trails abound, a seabird sanctuary can be approached by boat, and the park even includes a World War I shipwreck for divers to explore.
Just across from Petit St. Vincent, Petite Martinique is actually part of an entirely different country: Grenada. With a population of under a thousand and an area of less than 600 acres, the island has a vibrant culture derived from African, Carib, and European roots. The fishing community here supplies much of the seafood served at PSV.
Home to a small airport and a busy harbor as well as a dramatic topography, Union Island has become a lively port of call. Mount Taboi towers above, at 999 feet, and the town is full of boutiques, Internet cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Marine life is the most obvious draw in these volcanic islands, as the reefs that fringe the shores harbor all manner of species, including angelfish, damselfish, trumpet fish, parrotfish, and sergeant majors, as well as moray eels, lobsters, and large game fish. Sea turtles can often be found, as can barracudas and rays.
Yet birdlife is also quite rich, ranging from herons and glossy ibis along the shores of the islands to whistling warblers, Antillean crested hummingbirds, magnificent frigatebirds, and more. Other resident creatures in the Grenadines include iguanas, lizards, and tortoises.
The livelihoods in St. Vincent and the Grenadines now hinge on fishing, small farms, and tourism, but the past few centuries tell a different tale. Once part of the British Empire, many of these islands were involved in whaling or covered in banana and sugarcane plantations worked by slaves from Africa. As in many parts of the Caribbean, the islands’ cultural heritage resulted from a blending of African and European traditions with those of the indigenous Carib people.
Fishing communities on the islands surrounding PSV use a variety of methods that are gentle on the marine habitat: spear fishing, hand line, and fish pots. Traditional wooden schooners and whaleboats are still crafted by artisans in Bequia and Canouan.
The annual carnival festivities on St. Vincent showcase the costumes and music of the Windward Islands with beauty pageants, parades, and concerts featuring calypso, soca music, and steel drum bands.
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