With a population of around 100,000, a surprising array of religions and cultures fill the island, with only Voodoo not allowed to be practised. Shawarma restaurants served by second-generation Syrians and vegetarian Rastafarian treats sit side by side, and the cultural mix is evident in the larger towns and villages.
I was glad to get out of the resort and learn more about the island’s past, although as with most nations my ancestors had touched, the past comes with its own share of harrowing history.
The last few remaining sugar mills are a not so gentle reminder of the slavery that was forced upon the island by the British, and the aggressive waves at Devils Bridge provide a poignant moment to reflect. It was here that slaves would run to, and take their own lives, to escape the miserable conditions that were pushed upon them.
We take a moment to pause, remember, and then celebrate the countries independence, which came on November 1st, 1981. English is the primary language here, and the (much younger looking) Queen still adorns the East Carribean Dollar, the currency used here and on some of the neighbouring islands.
As with anywhere in Antigua, we didn’t have to wait long until our feet were back in the sand, with a bottle of Susie’s Hot Sauce in hand, as we devoured a delicious fresh fish dish.
With more than 365 beaches, one for each day of the year as the locals regular say without prompt, it’s no surprise that for many visitors, tearing themselves away from the lightly lapping waves is a mission they aren’t willing to accept. But for those looking to explore, and understand more of the island, these informative tours provide an easy to manage break from the beach.
As we wind through the nature park that is The Fig Tree Drive, not because of an abundance of figs, but because of the banana, which locals call figs here, Bernadette points out the national tree, the Centenary. In the distance, a zip wire whizzes people through the lush plantation, and we trundle along to the booming bass, back to our all-inclusive Verandah Resort before heading out to the famed local hot spot of Shirley Heights.