Saba is the smallest island in the Netherlands Antilles. It has a size of only 5 square miles. Much of that area is taken up by the volcano Mount Scenery, which has the potential to become an active volcano. With a peak height of about 2,900 feet, this island contains the highest point in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Saba was discovered by the Spanish in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, although the dangerous, rocky shoreline prevented them from actually setting foot on the island. In 1632, when a group of shipwrecked sailors from England were forced to land on the island, they claimed that it was uninhabited. However, there is evidence of possible earlier habitation or visits by the Arawak or Carib Indians. The current population is about 1,500 residents.
The official language on the island isDutch. Although the island is officially Dutch, English is the primary language on the island. The school system has primarily used English for over 100 years. With its small size, many of the inhabitants can trace ancestry back to just a few families. For the most part, the people are a mix of people of Dutch, Irish, Scottish and African descent.
Today, Saba is primarily known for its ecotourism, especially for the underwater environment. Since Saba is a relatively new tourist destination, it only receives about 25,000 visitors per year, many of which come for scuba diving, hiking and climbing. Like the neighboring islands, Saba is consistently listed in the lists of the top ten locations for scuba diving. However, because most of the diving is deep diving, it is considered a challenging location for scuba divers. For this reason, and despite its small size, the island has two hyperbaric chambers in case of diving accidents.
Although the scuba diving locations include shallower reefs and walls, it is for the deep underwater pinnacles that Saba is best known. Starting at a depth of about 80 feet and dropping off into the deep ocean abyss, these pinnacles are really the tops of large, underwater volcanic mountains. There are good numbers of large marine life attracted to these pinnacles. Sea turtles and rays of various sizes and species are often seen.
Saba is ideal for the traveler looking for relaxation. With its small size and population, it only has four small villages to visit. Although there are modern conveniences available, the island really reflects the Caribbean of an earlier, more tranquil time. The airport was built in 1963 and the pier in 1972, so the island was relatively isolated and unvisited until the 70's. Due to this, Saba is often referred to as The Unspoiled Queen of The Caribbean.
Although new to the tourism trade, Saba does feature a number of hotels, inns rental cottages and world class restaurants. Much effort has been made to keep the development of the island in harmony with its goal to remain an ecotourism destination.
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