St. Vincent is a volcanic island. We tend to forget that many Caribbean islands have volcanic origins until an eruption takes place. A volcano is an opening in the earth’s crust through which lava, volcanic ash and gases escape. An ERUPTION is associated with the speed and sheer force with which ash, lava and gas escape from the ‘mouth’ of the volcano.
What makes a volcano dangerous, in addition to the force and pressure at which ash, rocks, boulders and lava are spewed, is the sheer HEAT. A Volcano is HOT – real hot. The temperature of lava flow is usually about 700° to 1,250° Celsius, which is 2,000° Fahrenheit. The lava flow is usually molten, burning everything to a frazzle in its path.
The La Soufrière volcano in St. Vincent erupted on April 9, 2021, for the first time in 42 years with no new activity since April 22, 2021. Luckily, in both instances, there was no loss of life.
St. Vincent is a multi-island nation of 110,000 inhabitants. Thanks to an excellent Seismic Research Center at the University of the West Indies, and its early warning system, there are no reports of injuries or deaths on the 110,000 population of St. Vincent. About 20,000 persons were evacuated just before the 2021 eruptions began.
While no persons were directly killed by the volcano’s eruption, the cost of displacement, psychological stress, fear, depression, insecurity and worry have been immeasurable. These are the ‘invisible’ tolls that often cannot be measured, appreciated or adequately understood. The cost of any disaster is generally difficult to measure. The volcano in St. Vincent is only one of its disasters.
An erupting volcano, together with the Covid-19 Pandemic, has literally wreaked havoc on the hearts, minds, and psyche of the entire population, not to mention its animals, land, resources, buildings and physical infrastructure. The costs have been immeasurable and unimaginable.
Can you imagine trying to be Covid-clean when, darkened by the ash from a volcano, you cannot see your own hands or the person next to you; when you have no water; no transportation; when you have to remove layers upon layers of ash; can you imagine the difficulty of breathing in an ash-filled atmosphere; of eating; of caring; of carrying about your daily activities?
But once there is life, there is hope. And as the tiny, 12,000-strong population of Montserrat has demonstrated, when its volcano erupted in 1995, burying its entire city, there is hope, there is opportunity and always a reason to live.
Montserrat is showing us how to turn ‘ash into cash’. This tiny Caribbean island identified an entire volcano value chain – an example that can be exploited for sustainable and resilient development in St. Vincent. Consider that the volcano also represents a renewal – new land, new beaches, new places and spaces and new, more fertile lands. You can now get even higher on its Mystical and Magical Marijuana.
Perhaps most importantly, St. Vincent is demonstrating the sheer will, unity and resilience of its people, and of the Caribbean region. The Caribbean is small. But it truly has a big heart. The out-pouring of support from other Caribbean islands has been amazing. And with the ash from the St. Vincent’s volcano has reached Barbados and St. Lucia, most are realising that it is really ‘One Caribbean’ and ‘One Caribbean Space’. There is strength in unity and there is nothing like a good volcano or pandemic to bring the whole island and the entire Caribbean together. Indeed this volcano has proved, yet again, the value of regional institutions such as the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center. St. Vincent’s Prime Minister also graduated from a regional institution, the University of the West Indies, rated among the top 5 in the world.
Now, let’s get real. It appears that Pandemics occur every 100 years and volcanoes appear every 50 years. So we may not be around for the next Pandemic in 2120 or the next volcano in St. Vincent in 2071. So the coast is clear. We can have fun, without fear for the next 50-100 years.
But more seriously, we often see a Caribbean country as One Single Island. This is definitely not the case for St. Vincent. It is St. Vincent AND the Grenadines (SVG). And the Grenadines consist of dozens of islands (over 30). The volcano is located on a section of one of them! It does not mean that the whole of St. Vincent, or the Grenadines or the whole of the Caribbean is affected.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines continues to be an amazing place to live, work and play.
In some islands, it is EITHER, OR – you can EITHER have amazing coral-sanded beaches OR majestic mountains. But few islands have both. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is special because you are not talking about ONE island. The grenadines comprise an entire chain of coral islands that provide one of the most incredible Caribbean locations for Sailing.
Young Island has an amazing hideaway resort just off the main island of St. Vincent; Bequia is a boater’s paradise and a historic whaling community; Mustique caters to the rich and famous, boasting of house-owners and visitors such as Mick Jagger, Tommy Hilfiger and Princess Margaret; Petit St. Vincent is a private island resort all to itself; then you have Palm Island, Union Island; Canouan and the list goes on.
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, you are spoilt for choice. There is an island to suit your every mood. To experience the Grenadines to the fullest, take a boat trip, sail the islands, and discover some unique and unspoilt locations.
The main island of St. Vincent is also not to be missed. The capital Kingstown is home of the oldest Botanic Gardens in the western Hemisphere, it has cobblestone streets, colonial buildings and an old Caribbean charm with many handsome and historical churches. Explore historical attractions, nature and hiking trails.
Root vegetables and organic produce, the stuff the Usain Bolt has been nurtured on, are found in quality and abundance in the Mesopotamia valley (originally created from rich volcanic soil decades ago).
Organic is part of the rich agricultural heritage of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as is its Marijuana and Rastafarianism.
Commercial cultivation of cannabis in SVG began in the 1970s. The island’s inaccessible hilly and volcanic interior, rich soil, and wide array of often empty islands, contrived to make it an excellent place to cultivate and traffic cannabis. Helped with the demise of the former cash-crop banana, due to stiff competition from Latin American countries, many youths turned to Marijuana (cannabis) cultivation, at least until the USA clamped down on production in the 1980s. And despite reduced production, cannabis out-paced the banana economy by 2000, contributing some US$50 million to the island’s Gross Domestic Product.
Take a tour of the Magical Marijuana Mountains – you will definitely get a High.
The Mountains offer great hiking opportunities, not to mention the awesome vistas. Explore the botanical gardens.
Take a boat trip to Bequia – an idyllic Caribbean island that is just slow-paced, but nice and elegant and full of history – visit the whaling museum and the Donkey sanctuary. And as an extra bonus, you may even have a sighting of whales on the 25-minute ferry trip across the channel.
The islands of the grenadines are best enjoyed by boat – if you are a boater, it’s a boaters paradise. The boat guys are the best – they really look after you and can remember you (and your boat) even after a decade! The diving is excellent and the snorkelling superb.
Discover the other islands by ferry – a reliable, comfortable service that goes between mainland St. Vincent and Bequia (25 minutes), Canouan (1½ hours), and Union islands (2 hours), with an “as needed” stop in Mayreau.
Eat local and drink Fresh – in addition to its purely organic fare, St. Vincent has one of the most amazing sources of natural and pure water.
Take a tour to the island of the Rich and Famous at Mustique and stay on Mustique at one of its two boutique hotels on the island.
Dr. Auliana Poon
Dr. Auliana Poon is the founder and Managing Director of Leve Global and Exceptional Caribbean.
Auliana loves the Caribbean and believes in its people. Her personal mission is to change the world; to transform our societies. And this is precisely why she has spearheaded Exceptional Caribbean – a continuing mission to elevate tourism, trade and lives.
As CEO of Tourism Intelligence International, now Leve Global, it was a pleasure to lead our team in implementing the European Union-funded Euro 6 million Sustainable Tourism Development Programme for St. Vincent and the Grenadines on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism, Sports & Culture.