Saba is a five-square-mile volcanic island located in the Leeward Netherlands Antilles. Saba lacks the sandy beaches shared by destinations across the Caribbean, and instead features mostly solid cliffs and rocky shores. Tourists continue to visit Saba, however, drawn by its diverse and vibrant ecosystem and wide variety of diving experiences, including pinnacle diving and wall diving.
Saba was colonized in 1640 when a group arrived from neighboring Sint Eustatius. In 1664, the famous buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan evicted the settlers, one of the few times Saba’s rough terrain was successfully invaded. The Netherlands finally took over in 1816, and remains in control to this day.
The Bottom is the largest city and also the island’s capital. Windwardside is the second-largest town and is home to most of Saba’s shopping and tourism attractions.
For generations, the only way in and out of Saba was through treacherous Ladder Bay, a series of rocks with a near vertical grade. Finally in 1943, Josephus Lambert Hassell, an engineer, designed and supervised the building of the road from Fort Bay to The Bottom. Over the next 20 years, 14 kilometers of road was painstakingly laid by hand and wheelbarrow by locals. It is said the men of the Hell's Gate district put in the most effort on the project because they were the farthest removed from the bay.
Opened in 1963, Saba's airport consists of a 1,300-foot length of runway, the world’s shortest international runway, on the island’s largest, flattest portion of land. Although no major crashes have occurred there, it is considered among the world's most challenging airports for pilots, who need special training to land there. The runway is flanked by a large cliff that the plane flies directly toward before banking hard left to get in line with the runway. The airport is 60 feet above the ocean, with sheer cliff on both sides. Errant planes run the risk of over-shooting the runway and falling into the ocean. Winair is the only airline currently serving the airport.
Saba’s Mount Scenery has the highest elevation in all of the Netherlands and features hiking trails that takes visitors to the mountain’s summit. It’s best to hike in the morning as the peaks are often foggy in the afternoon. The trails offer a nice view of Saba's flora and unique beauty, and some pass old ruins while others delve into caves. Some go around the uninhabited side of the island, and some pass through the rain forest. All of the trails are well marked and in good condition. An excellent trail map is widely available.
Saba is one of the world’s top diving destinations due to its sheer underwater cliffs and multitude of dive locations. Local dive shops are very friendly and excel at teaching inexperienced divers, and many travelers obtain their dive certification in Saba.
Wall Dives offer an intriguing perspective on the underwater landscape as plants and animals living along the walls orient themselves in that direction, and the walls feature nooks and crannies in which sea life live and hide.