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Glorious Grenada

TROPICAL PARADISE: a beautiful sandy beach

THE ISLAND of Grenada can be described as resilient after being hit by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The category five storm caused widespread devastation, but undeterred, the island rebuilt itself and has become one of the new sought after destinations to visit in the Caribbean.

This year, over than 20,000 Brits visited the island and it’s clear to see why. It has everything you’d expect from a Caribbean destination: white sandy beaches, crystal blue seas and wall-to-wall sunshine. With all these ingredients, it’s the perfect setting for relaxing and soaking up an incredible landscape.

However, there is more to Grenada than tranquil surroundings. The island is known as ‘the spice of the Caribbean’ and has long been a major source of nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and cocoa. What makes the island so special is the vast range of adventure activities. As someone who has never engaged in many physical activities, I was looking forward to the challenge ahead.

But before I could get started, I was taken to the True Blue Bay resort. Tucked away into a hillside with seaside views of the Caribbean Sea, the hotel isn’t your typical holiday resort. It has real character and has managed to encompass the real flavour of the Caribbean with the bright decor and wooden decking of dining room overlooking the bay.

If you want a real taste of what Grenada has to offer, then booking a day with Mandoo tours is a must. Mandoo (aka Simon Seales) is a native Grenadian who has been running his successful business for many years and has a vast historical and cultural knowledge of the island. He also dresses head to toe in white and tells me he manages to keep his attire clean for the entire day trip. The tour includes a visit to the island’s capital, St. Georges. With a population of 33,000, the city is surrounded by a hillside of an old volcano crater.

The city was built by the French in 1650, which explains the many red roofed houses dotted around in the city, creating a pastel backdrop. The atmosphere is bustling with vendors selling an array of delicious food and local Saturday markets. St. George’s is also home to Fort George. Built between 1705 and 1710, the Fort has figured largely in the American, French and Grenadian Revolution and the US-Caribbean intervention of 1983. The Fort is an important backdrop into the history of the island and many Grenadians are more than happy to share their experiences of what happened on the day of the US invasion.

History aside, a visit to the Gouyave nutmeg processing station shows how the island’s most famed spice is made. But it’s not only nutmeg they produce; as you walk into the building, the intoxicating scent of cocoa fills the air. The owners show how the cocoa is cut from the tree, allowing you to taste the bitter fruit before it is transformed into delicious chocolate.

Grenada is a rolling, mountainous island, covered with fragrant spice trees and rare tropical flowers. This is the view that greeted me to up to the Concord Waterfall.

Concord Valley is host to the three picturesque waterfalls known collectively as the Concord Falls. The first stage is easily accessible by road and is ideally suited for swimming. The second and third stages, known as Au Coin and Fontainebleau respectively are only accessible by foot, but well worth the journey. At Fontainebleau, the water cascades down a 65-foot cliff into a crystal clear pool.

Although it is a top attraction, it hasn’t been developed into a tourist commodity and therefore, with the sounds of the water and the cool sea, it’s definitely a perfect setting to reflect on the surroundings.

The tour encompasses many different attractions such as the River Antoine Rum Distillery. But what makes this tour enjoyable is Mandoo himself, who proves to be an excellent host. He shows real passion and love for his island and is keen to share stories about growing up in Grenada. With such an engaging personality, you can’t help wanting to know more about him and the island.

Grenada also encompasses the island of Petite Martinique and Carriacou, which is where I travelled to next. The island is easily accessible by a short flight or by the Osprey ferry Express. Arriving on Carricaou, the difference to Grenada is clear. With a population of less than 5,000, you certainly feel the intimacy of the island.

But just because the island is small doesn’t mean it fails to deliver on excellence. Diving and snorkelling are available on the island and although I’m a pretty strong swimmer, I have to admit, I did feeli nervous. Thankfully, the guides set my mind at as ease, explaining the various safety procedures and what exactly I would see under the ocean. Although I was briefed, the experience exceeded my expectations, with stunning coral reefs and sea life including tropical fishes all waiting to be explored.

Back in Grenada, there was still plenty of more for me to do, including hiking. Although it seemed like an unattractive prospect, especially in the hot Grenadian sun, it was actually quite different to what I expected, especially as our guide was quite a character.

Telfor Bedeau is 70 years old and has more than 50 years of hiking experience. He is energetic, super fit and put me to shame when I was, at times, struggling to navigate through the rainforest with the aid of my walking stick. Telfor did the hike in jelly shoes, completely unaided. The hike takes you through a private plantation where you will get the chance to see cocoa, nutmeg and banana trees and how they are grown. The final destination of the 45-minute hike is the Seven Sisters Waterfall, a series of waterfalls in the heart of the dense rainforest.

Once there you can slip on your swimsuit (or trunks) and enjoy the rewards of the crystal clear pool at the base of the falls. The water pressure almost feels like a massage as you stand underneath its flow.

To round up my activities I went kayaking at the Underwater Sculpture Park. It is a physical activity and plenty of breaks are needed to rest your arms, but the views are spectacular as you get to take in the coastline as well as observe the array of fish from the clear glass on the bottom of the kayak.

The Sculpture Park is the Caribbean’s first sculpture gallery located entirely under the sea. The gallery is the brainchild of British-born Jason Taylor and it’s a testament to his talent that he was able to create such an underwater marvel.

Grenada may not be the size of the larger Caribbean islands but it certainly delivers on adventure sports, unspoilt landscapes, an array of top class beaches and a history and culture that are diverse and rich.
Add to that the friendly locals and you have a perfect reason to visit the ‘spice of the Caribbean’.

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