|Country Information & Lifestyle|
The Mother Colony Of The West Indies
St. Kitts, more formally known as Saint Christopher Island, is an island in the West Indies between Montserrat and St.Eustatius in the northern part of the Leeward Islands. To the west the island borders the Caribbean Sea and the eastern coast faces the Atlantic Ocean. Together with the neighbouring island of Nevis, separated by a narrow strait of water two miles to the south, Saint Kitts constitutes one country - The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Situated about 1,300 miles southeast of Miami, Florida, St.Kitts is approximately 68 sq m and is 18 miles long and 5 miles across on average. There is a ring road which goes around the perimeter of the island; the interior of the island is too steep for habitation. Both St. Kitts and Nevis are volcanic islands, a fact to which they owe their dramatic central mountains, their rather unpredictable geologic history, and their lush tropical vegetation.
St. Kitts has a varied terrain: volcanic peaks, rain forests on the higher mountains, fertile lowlands, and coves with black, brown, and white sand. The most outstanding feature of the circular island of Nevis is Nevis Peak, rising to 3,232 feet (985 meters) at its centre. Like St. Kitts, Nevis has forested mountains in its interior and low-lying areas along the coast. Charlestown is Nevis's only town.
The primary language of St.Kitts is English and the majority of the inhabitants are mainly of African descent and call themselves Kittitians. The people of St. Kitts and Nevis are devoutly religious and fifty percent of the population practise the Anglican religion, most of the other people belong to another Christian denomination, though there are some Rastafarians and Bahai followers.
Christopher Columbus sighted St. Kitts and Nevis in 1493. Originally called St. Christopher, St. Kitts is the location of the first British colony established in the West Indies in 1623. For that reason, St. Kitts is sometimes called "the Mother Colony of the West Indies." Five years later, the British officially settled Nevis. The French were soon competing with the British for control of the islands. The native Carib population was virtually destroyed in the first years of European occupation. Eventually, both St. Kitts and Nevis were turned over to the British under the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
Under the British rule, sugarcane plantations flourished on both islands, supported by the labour of slaves imported from West Africa. St. Kitts, Nevis, together with Anguilla, were united within a larger Leeward Islands Federation in 1882. St. Kitts and Nevis achieved full independence on September 19, 1983. The two-island nation remains a member of the British Commonwealth and retains many British traditions.
St.Kitts is a wonderful destination for those who want to get away and truly relax. The capital Basseterre is a picturesque harbour town, set before the dramatic backdrop of St.Kitt's lush green hills, and retains much of the elegant Georgian character of Nelson's days. The French heritage is not nearly as prominent as its British colonial past. The centrepiece of Bassterre is its Circus, a diminutive roundabout modelled after Piccadilly Circus in London.
Independence Square was built in 1790 for slave auctions and council meetings; this public square was officially named in 1983 to commemorate the independence of the islands from Great Britain.
During the 18th century St.Kitts and Nevis were among the finest jewels of the Caribbean sugar colonies, and today on St.Kitts sugar is still a major crop. The modern Sugar Factory replaced the island's local stone sugar mills and is supplied by means of a small highland railway circuit. It is possible to tour the Carib Beer Brewery and have a tasting by appointment only.
Located at Romney Manor, one of the island's most attractive houses, Caribelle Batik is the local artisan's centre. Working with locally-grown, exceptionally fine Sea Island cotton, the artists produce tie-dyed batik and hand-painted creations of all sorts.
Brimstone Hill is known as The Gibraltar of the West Indies and is situated almost 800 feet above sea level. The remarkable fortress is one of the most dramatic spots in the entire Caribbean and commands astounding views of the Caribbean, including Nevis, Montserrat, Saba, St.Martin and St.Barts. Brimstone Hill was abandoned in 1851 and the Citadel of Fort George suffered neglect and vandalism for the next century.
In 1965 the site became a national park and intensive restoration returned the imposing fortress perched atop the hill to its original grandeur. Tours of Brimstone Hill are conducted daily, and highlights include the hospital, ammunition stores, artillery officer's quarters, the Prince of Wales Bastion, and the Citadel of Fort George.
Some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean are to be found on St.Kitts and Nevis. Travelling from Basseterre towards the South East Peninsula, Frigate Bay offers both calm Caribbean beaches ideal for swimming as well as Atlantic beaches perfect for body surfing. The beaches of the southeast peninsula were not reachable until very recently with the construction of a small road.
These beaches beautiful white sand, are exceptional clean and offer really phenomenal vistas of the tropical splendour of sister island Nevis. These undeveloped beaches include Turtle Beach, Sand Bank Bay, Friar's Bay South, Banana Bay, Cockleshell Bay and many more. On the northern end of St. Kitts are numerous gray volcanic sand beaches, worn from the black igneous rock which makes up the island.
The islands offer a wealth of relatively new, untouched dive sites. More than 400 ships sank here between 1493 and 1825, but only a dozen or so have been identified to date. The western (Caribbean) side of the island is well protected and visibility off the shores is usually in the 60 - 100 foot range. There are opportunities for divers of all levels of experience, and most dive locations are within an easy boat trip from the shore, one of the most popular diving locations if Black Coral Reef. The waters off these islands abound with fish, including tuna, wahoo, dorado, kingfish, barracuda, shark, snapper, and mahi mahi.
St. Kitts and Nevis are among the Caribbean's finest destinations for Eco-tourism. Both islands possess a remarkable range of unspoiled ecosystems, from coral reefs and windswept rocky coastlines to the lush density of rare oceanic rain-forests among the clouds. On St. Kitts, a rugged hiking adventure up Mount Liamuiga takes you through the exotic flora and fauna of the island's rain-forest to the mile-wide crater rim of this dormant volcano.
Among the vine-laden trees and tropical wildflowers of the misty cloud forest there are wide variety of rare and colourful birds and butterflies, as well as the elusive green vervet monkey. On Nevis, wander through the cloud forest that encircles the slopes of Nevis Peak, or ramble along the windswept eastern coast to learn about the island's diverse ecology and fascinating archaeological history.
St. Kitts and Nevis undoubtedly rank among the most naturally beautiful of the Caribbean islands, and that beauty lends itself quite well to a wide range of outdoor activities. The islands' tall, volcanic mountains, covered with lush vegetation, are perfect for hiking and exploring, while the inviting azure-blue waters of the Caribbean are ideal for swimming, sailing, fishing, and diving. The islands' three golf courses, two of them professional calibre, are uncrowded and challenging. The beautiful Trent Jones course on Nevis is internationally ranked.
The capital of Nevis, Charlestown, is a particularly modest and charming town. With a population of only 1,500, Charlestown is the sort of place in which you can still feel the tranquillity and the quiet sense of remove that characterised the traditional Caribbean. Life on Nevis is in general quite calm; in Charlestown, it seems to be punctuated by only two events each day--the arrivals of the morning and the afternoon ferry from St. Kitts. Whenever a ferry comes in, a small crowd gathers to watch the wares being unloaded and brought to the nearby open market on the waterfront.
Nevis is famous the world over for its miles-long picture-perfect Pinney's Beach. Smooth, soft, sugar-white fine sands are punctuated by coconut palms and just behind the beach lies a uniquely South-Pacific like lagoon. Pinney's is never crowded and the water, calm and shallow, is perfect for swimming and wading. Other beaches include Qualie Beach in a sheltered cove perfect for swimming, windsurfing, sailing and kayaking, Cades Bay Beach and Lover's Beach.
Visit the birthplace of the great American statesman Alexander Hamilton. The original house, built in 1680, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1840. There now stands on the site a carefully constructed replica. Inside is a fine museum, dedicated not only to Hamiltonian memorabilia but also to Nevisian history.
Cotton Ground is a diminutive village situated close by to Nelson's Spring, the picturesque fresh water source from which Horatio Nelson is said to have replenished his ship's supply of drinking water during his tour in the Leeward Islands.
The rise on which Fort Ashby is located is said to look out over the spot on which Jamestown, Nevis' first capital, once stood. According to legend, the town is supposed to have slid into the sea when an earthquake and subsequent tidal wave hit in 1680. Despite claims that ruins can be seen under the sea when the sand shifts, and rumours that during the full moon Jamestown's church bells can be heard tolling from under the waves, it seems that the town was in fact damaged (and not sunk) during the well-documented earthquake of 1690, only to be slowly abandoned over the following decades.
In Fig Tree village in the church is registered the birth of Alexander Hamilton(in1857) and the wedding of Horatio Nelson and Frances Nesbitt in 1787. Little survives of Montpelier House which was once a prosperous estate and the site of Lord Nelson's marriage to fanny Nisbett. Only the crumbling gate and a few romantic columns remain of the old manor house.
The Eden Brown Estate, a haunting gray ruin, was built by a wealthy Nevisian planter as a wedding gift for his daughter. However, on the eve of the wedding, in a drunken duel, the daughter's fiance and the best man killed each other. In addition to the evocative power of the ruins themselves, the estate is said to be home to the ghost of the ill-fated bride-to-be.
The ruins are all that remain of the first resort destination in the Caribbean, the 18th-century Bath Hotel. Built in 1778 for the astounding expense of 40,000 island pounds, this once luxurious hotel attracted many prominent Europeans to Nevis and its soothing waters. Samuel Taylor Coleridge spent a number of months here, and it seems undoubted that both Nelson and his friend Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence and the future King William IV, attended gala social functions here in the 1780s.
The hotel's days of splendour ended along with the collapse of the sugar industry in the 19th century, and the original structure suffered considerable damage in a 1950 earthquake. Visitors can still take a mineral bath in the five spas built on a fault over a hot spring.
The island of St Christopher has a rich legacy of folk traditions. Carnival is celebrated in December when the folk groups of the Moko-Jumbies,(Stilt-walkers), the Masquerade dancers, usually accompanied by a group of musicians playing a fife, a kettle drum and a big drum, and African Caribbean rhythm patterns, Mummies, the Bull and the Clowns perform on the streets as they have for generations.
Artists of St. Kitts and Nevis create works inspired by their own native traditions, life on the islands, and African roots. Paintings depicting tropical landscapes or clowns performing, pottery with colourful glazes and wood carvings are just some of the beautiful crafts available.
With its rich soil St.Kitts and Nevis grow a wide variety of fresh produce. An abundance seafood and meat such as goat add to the diet. The style of cooking is fairly simple flavoured much like other West Indian cuisine. Dietary staples include yams, plantains, rice and peas. Soups are popular and lime juice is a common seasoning. Hot pepper sauce made from Scotch Bonnet peppers is a speciality on Nevis. Goat water stew, perhaps the country's most well-known dish, mixes goat, breadfruit, tomato-based stew.
Another favourite dish is cook-up, or pelau, which combines chicken, pig tail, salt-fish and vegetables with rice and pigeon peas. Many villages on Nevis hold cookouts on Friday and Saturday nights, where people come together to eat, drink, play games like dominoes, and have a good time. Conkies bear a similarity to tamales though instead of having filling rolled inside the dough the cornmeal is mixed together with grated sweet potato, pumpkin, coconut and a few other ingredients, together wrapping banana leaves they're boiled rather than steamed.
Rum is as popular on St.Kitts and Nevis as it is throughout the Caribbean. The Brinley Gold Company on St.Kitts manufactures rum with such distinctive flavors as coffee, mango and vanilla, but the national drink is actually Cane Spirits Rothschild distilled from fresh sugar cane. Several bars will provide moonshine rum produced by individuals with homemade stills.
St.Kitts and Nevis has built up a widely established reputation for fine food, a reputation which the local restauranteurs guard zealously. Restaurants specialise in Chinese, Western, Creole, Indian and West Indian cuisine. Most restaurants in St Kitts offer a continental menu with island variations. Nevis is less grand and Charlestown's small restaurants cater more to Nevisians than visitors
We cannot leave this gorgeous island without mentioning Horatio Nelson, Britain's greatest naval hero. It was on the island of Nevis that Nelson met and married Fanny Bisbet and the island still bears traces of the young captain's presence. His position at the time was Commander of the Leeward Islands Squadron. Nelson's legacy is still visible in the fine restored Georgian dockyard that now bear his name.
In the words of Horatio Nelson "I have always been a quarter of an hour before my time, and it has made a man of me." Follow in his footsteps and arrive here at anytime and the islands will make you the finest man in the world