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Saba, known as "The Unspoiled Queen" due to the protection of its unique ecosystem, is a 13 sq km (5 sq mi) volcanic island in the Leeward Antilles. Since it is not a reef island, it does not have the sandy beaches most notable in the Caribbean, but rather mostly cliff faces and rocky shore. The island, however, attracts tourists for its diverse and vibrant ecosystem and the unique diving experiences (pinnacle diving, wall diving, etc). The population of Saba is 1,424 people spread into four major villages, and includes the 200-300 medical students attending the Saba University of Medicine. The medical school houses a hyperbaric chamber, which coincides nicely with Saba's extensive diving draw. (less...) (more...)

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Points of Interest in The Bottom

Wall Dives can be an almost humorous experience because the sea life that live along the wall may think that the wall itself is down, and orient themselves in that direction. Walls also offer lots of nooks and crannies in which sea life can live and hide, so you often see a wide variety of life on the wall.

The seabeds surrounding Saba are so diverse, that any level of diver can go there and have a good time. It doesn't matter if you're Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Nitrox, or whatever, the sea offers dives for you and the dive shops do their best to work with your wants.

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About The Bottom

History

It is said that Christopher Columbus sighted Saba on his trans-Atlantic voyage, but did not land due to the rocky shores. The island was colonized in 1640 when a group from the Dutch West India Company were sent in from neighboring Sint Eustatius. In 1664 these settlers were evicted by the notorious buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan. This is one of the few times that the rough terrain of Saba was successfully invaded. The Netherlands finally took over in 1816, and that is how it remains today.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Saba was a haven to pirates throughout the Caribbean. Most notably, Hiriam Breaks took residence in Saba, who coined "Dead Men Tell No Tales."

Sugar and rum were Saba's chief exports through the 18th century, as well as fishing (particularly lobster fishing) later. Once trade routes became more open, Saban Lace (a derivative of Spanish Lace) became very popular. By 1928 the women of Saba were exporting $15,000 (USD) worth of lace yearly.

For a long time the only way in and out of Saba was through treacherous Ladder Bay. The Ladder is a long series of rock steps that have a near vertical grade. Finally in the 20th century, a self-educated local engineer took interest in connecting the villages of Saba with a road, which had previously been deemed impossible by engineers before him.

Activities

Saba is one of the top destinations in the world to go Scuba diving due to its sheer underwater cliffs, pinnacles, and the multitude of diving locations surrounding the island that each offer a unique experience. The people in the local dive shops are very friendly and great at teaching inexperienced people how to dive. They can take someone without their Open Water Certification and offer them a quick course and certification to get them in the water, or they can take them all the way into getting their Open Water Certification so they can dive without an instructor present. So even if you've never gone diving before, you can get certified in Saba.

There is also a medical school on the island, where a lot of American and Canadian students come to.

Every October sees a month-long event put on by Sea & Learn: a non-profit foundation sponsoring events geared toward educating attendees about the flora and fauna of Saba and the surrounding waters. Nightly talks are given at local eating establishments by scientists from around the globe who also perform participative field experiments and/or nature surveys.

Food

There are grocery stores in both The Bottom and Windwardside in which travelers can pick up various snacks and food for meals if they want. Meals at restaurants run between $15 and $35 (USD) on average, so the grocery stores offer an alternative to that price.

There are a lot of Guava trees (and even an orchard or two) around the island. Locals have been known to share with visitors if asked nicely.

Groceries (including meat that isn't seafood) only comes in on Wednesday, and this leads to a few phenomenon on the island. For instance, Wednesday is the best day of the week to get red meat (from a grocery store or a restaurant) and oftentimes the locals have parties at their homes where they grill out (meeting them and being friendly ahead of time can land you an invite). Additionally, with the exception of Wednesday, seafood will be the freshest food on the island.

  • Restaurant Eden is found in Windwardside behind the Sea Saba dive shop. Prices average about $25 per entree. Dinner is served 7 days a week from 5.30 til 9.30 Tables are located outside (all open air, some under a cover, others with umbrellas over the tables). The dinner menu is French with international influences. Food is great, some of the best on Saba. This restaurant must be tried if on the island. Website: http://www.edensaba.com
  • Chinese Bar and Restaurant Chinese Bar and Restaurant in Windwardside is one of two Chinese restaurants on the island (the other being in The Bottom). Get to it by taking a steep road next to Brigadoon all the way up and off to the right. The restaurant can't be missed as there is a large lit sign displaying its name on top. The food is decent enough, and price is in the $12-$18 range mostly. It is run by an older Korean couple and their son.
  • Saba Treasure Inn and Tavern Saba Treasure is located in Windwardside near the Sea Saba dive shop, and gets its name from the interior which resembles the inside of a boat. It is said that the best pizza on the island can be found in Saba Treasure, and it's certainly good. The calamari appetizer and sandwiches are also very good. The pizza is relatively inexpensive since it feeds multiple people for one price.
  • Rainforest Restaurant The Rainforest Restaurant offers unique atmosphere and some of the best food on the island. Its theme is to be one with nature, and you certainly feel that way while dining in candle light surrounded by the sounds and smells of the rain forest brought in by the fresh breeze. The taxi will drop you off about 200 yards from the restaurant itself where you will have to walk the remaining distance on a path (bring a flashlight for the return trip!). The menu changes nightly because the restaurant only serves what it can get fresh that day.
  • Brigadoon Every Saturday night sees Sushi Night at Brigadoon in Windwardside, and this shouldn't be missed. Reservations are needed and must be entered by about 2 PM or so of the same day. They also sell Saba Rum which is vanilla and ginger infused rum and is really spectacular. Ask them for a sample! Sit on the patio for the best atmosphere and enjoy the fresh flowers on the tables picked from Tricia's (the owner and cook's wife) garden.
  • Scout's Place Scout's Place is located down the road that is next to Big Rock Importers in Windwardside. It is a Hotel, Bar, Restaurant, Dive Shop, and Boutique all wrapped into one. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and all are pretty good at a reasonable price. Breakfast pricing is about $8, lunch is about $15, and dinner is between $15 and $25 a person. Breakfast consists of a range of choices from French toast to omelets to ham and eggs. Lunch is mostly burgers and sandwiches, where dinner adds in fish and fowl. There is also Karaoke (called Sabaoke by the locals) at Scout's Place on Friday nights. The deco is pirate themed and there is an open air deck that overlooks to the South.
  • Tropics Cafe Tropics Cafe is in Windwardside on a road near Scout's Place on the way to Booby Hill. It is owned by the same people that own Juliana's Hotel (located right next to Tropics), and Juliana's swimming pool is even right next to Tropics. When open, one of the walls is collapsed so that all tables overlook the sea to the South. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served. Standard eggs and whatnot for breakfast, and hamburgers and other sandwiches for the rest of the day. Prices are about the same as Scout's: $8 for breakfast, $10-$15 for lunch, $15-$25 for dinner.
  • Saba Coffee House. 7-7. A new addition to the island, the Saba Coffee House is a little slice of heaven for those interested in what is potentially the best espresso on the island. Small baked goods and sandwiches are sold on the premises, and dinner deals of $7 are the norm. The owners, an English expatriate and his fiancee (a Saba native) are highly affable and friendly. $1-7.

Drinks

There are a few bars on the island including, Guido's, Lollipop, and Swinging doors. Again all of these places have the locals coming in at the end of the day, and its great way to absorb the local culture. Also the medical students on the island get pretty bored there and you will probably get to meet them too at the bars.

The beers in Saba are mostly Belgian and Caribbean/Mexican brews. Heineken, El Presidente, Carib, and Mackeson are the ones most common throughout.

  • The Gate House. In Hell's Gate has achieved Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence since 2002. Reservations are needed.
  • Swinging Doors Swinging Doors is a bar located on The Road in the middle of Windwardside. It is exclusively a bar except on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday nights: Tuesdays and Fridays are BBQ nights, Sundays are steak nights. Many locals hang out here throughout the week.

Shopping

The famous Saban lace, invented by Saba's industrious women (Gertrude Hassell), makes for an excellent souvenir. Cottages, villas, and houses of the sort are currently for sale on the island ranging from approximately 180,000 USD - 1.5 million USD. Living on Saba is an every day luxury for any home buyer. With almost every house on Saba you get amazing ocean and neighboring island views, views of Mt. Scenery, and spectacular views of flora and wildlife.

  • Peanut Gallery, Windwardside (at Lambee's Place). Paintings, prints, ceramics by artists on Saba and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article The Bottom on Wikivoyage.

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