SABA, Dutch Highpoint - A hiker's paradise

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Feb 15, 2013
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Worcester, MA
Hi all,
I'm ending my 2 weeks of radio silence to offer up a trip report of Saba (Dutch West Indies). I typically don't post trip reports for non-NH places in this forum, but I swear to you guys that I've found a hiker's paradise and I just have to share.

We spent a couple weeks in St Martin, but took a vacation in the middle of our vacation to visit Saba, a 3000 foot volcanic mountain in the middle of the Caribbean on which exists the most incredible environmentally conscious country I've ever witnessed.

Imagine a whole country that practices leave no trace as a way of life. A place where drinking water is filtered rainwater, power is produced by solar panels on your roof, composting toilets are used by all, and signs encouraging you to "Leave only footprints" are more frequent than stop signs. Saba is very steep and rocky, so much so that it wasn't possible to build a road until last century. As a result, the four small, quaint, Dutch villages in this country are all connected by an extensive network of hiking trails. When you arrive and ask for a map, you get a trail map instead of a road map.

There aren't road signs telling you where to go... there are trail signs telling you how to hike to the nearest town:

We stayed in a small cabin in the middle of the rainforest, a good 20 minute hike 400ft UP from the nearest village. To go to town, we hiked. At night after dinner? We hiked through the rainforest with headlamps back to our cabin.

One of the first things we did was to stop by the Saba Conservation Society to speak with the British Steve Smith. This guy was a boat captain who ferried people to Saba, and decided to stay. Now, he is the local trail expert whose advice had led many a happy hiker exploring through paradise:

We hiked Mt Scenery, the highest point in the Dutch Kingdom. Mt Scenery is a dormant volcano, erupting last about 5000 years ago. However, given its height and the relatively low clouds of the Caribbean, the summit is in the clouds more than 300 days a year (yeah, sound familiar?). The result is that the top has a persistent mist that creates what is known as the Elfin Cloud Forest, with some GIANT vegetation.

Here's Jen with a BIG leaf:

The Mt Scenery Trail:

We hit a small rain storm, and got to test our question as to whether or not the giant leaves could suffice as an umbrella:

There were some awesome views to be had. This is a picture of Windwardside, the nearest village:

After hiking Mt Scenery, we decided to go to the base of the mountain near the coast. Stories abound of a volcanic rock coast that gives the feeling of walking on Mars, with the occasional dispersed tidal pool. Arriving at this area, I encountered some amazing climbing. Great footholds, hand holds, grippy rock, and LOTS of scrambling:


Sometimes, the trail marker was the only reminder that you were still on Earth:



This trip was simply amazing. You get to hike everywhere you go, which takes you through savanna, sharp jagged rocks, rain forest, cloud forest... The locals are the most environmentally conscious people, and are super friendly. One guy I met came up the road holding a 6 pound pineapple he'd grown, and chatted with us for a half hour about how they farm organically on Saba. Things that are now becoming trendy in the US (local sourced, organic, sustainable, solar, etc.) are the way of life there. There is food literally falling off the trees: bananas, guava, mango, avacado, lime, coconuts... there was just an unimaginable amount of fruit bearing trees everywhere.

So there you have it - a whole country made just for hikers. This place really truly is paradise. It's the most amazing place I've ever been, and by far, the highlight of a great vacation.

In closing, here are a couple more pics that really show how beautiful this country is:




Nov 22, 2004
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Cambridge, MA
So cool--I love those moon-like areas, and the towns just nestled in the mountain. This seems like a great place for a hiking vacation. Thanks for sharing with us!