Barbados – undeniably one of the top tourist destinations in the Caribbean.
Nestled in the southern Caribbean, caressed by its warm waters, is a small island nation. Countless visitors have traveled there, and many continue to make the trip. Among those who visit the island are people who come for the second, third, fourth time–and more. It is an easy matter to travel there: visitors can fly there directly from airports up and down the United States’ eastern seaboard and from other cities in the USA and Canada. Flights from other regional islands, South America, England, and Germany also arrive regularly.
This little island, almost the southernmost in the chain and the furthest east, does not automatically come to mind when people think of the Caribbean. However, Barbados holds all the charms of its neighbours. Rich in history, magnificent scenery, lovely trees and flowers, incomparable beaches, and perfect weather (even rain showers, while they may be drenching, do not last long), the island is full of delights. Even its name is special: Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos, sighting the island in 1536 on his way to Brazil, called it “Los Barbados” (the bearded ones), possibly referring to the fig trees he saw there. These enormous trees, home to several native creatures, do look as if they have beards.
Speaking of native creatures, the varied fauna of this island adds to its allure. If a person is fortunate, he or she will look up into a fig tree and see bats roosting. However, even if you do not spot one of these winged mammals, the skies (and beaches and countryside) are home to diverse feathered friends. They range from the rare pelican, which was once plentiful and whose image is on the Barbados Coat of Arms, to doves and pigeons (yes, even this island has these birds!), to magnificent egrets, to fun-to-watch sandpipers, to the frequently seen blackbirds and sparrows.
But birds are not the only creatures inhabiting Barbados. There are, of course, animals who call the sea and beach home. Sand crabs can be seen scurrying about. Two varieties of sea turtles visit to lay their eggs, and the Barbados Sea Turtle Project endeavours to protect these animals and their nests. Then there is the amazing flying fish, which can emerge from the sea at a speed reaching 55 kilometres per hour and sail for distances of up to forty meters. From December through April, humpback whales travel past Barbados on their way to their warm-water feeding grounds, and lucky people can spot them from the northern and eastern coasts. An occasional shark is seen offshore, but there is no chance of encountering one: they do not live near the southern and western coasts, where the swimmer-friendly beaches are.
Barbados is also the dwelling place of several members of the mammal family (in addition to the above-mentioned bats). Perhaps the most unexpected native is the black belly sheep. Since farms are small, you might catch sight of one grazing in the countryside or even on city streets. And there is one of Barbados’ most well-known residents, the green monkey. While not indigenous, the three hundred and fifty years these mischievous critters have resided there have made them very different from their African relatives. Another import is the mongoose, which dwells on Barbados’ eastern shore.
Are reptiles your thing? You’ll find them in droves: turtles, tortoises, iguanas, and the world’s smallest known snake: the Barbados thread snake, which measures about four inches and is believed to live nowhere else in the world. And while you might not see them, you will definitely hear the beautiful nightly tree frogs’ chorus.
Last but not least, there are two animals that many don’t think of as such: coral and sea anemones. The former are found on offshore reefs, while the latter thrive on the island’s northernmost point. Their home, the Animal Flower Cave, contains a number of pools, some of which are deep enough for swimming. In addition to these fascinating animals, the cave provides dazzling views.
So when visitors are not basking in that glorious Barbados sun, swimming in the beautiful turquoise waters, taking in the sights of the charming old-new city of Bridgetown, checking out area museums, or visiting the country’s many landmarks, they will delight in the vast array of wildlife inhabiting the country. Not bad for an island twenty-one miles long and fourteen miles wide.