Barbados an independent island state within the Commonwealth is the eastern Caribbean. It is one of the youngest of the islands having been created less than one million years ago. The island was created when the Atlantic and Caribbean crustal plates created followed by a volcanic eruption. The coral surrounding the island then accumulated and goes as deep as 300 feet creating a paradise for scuba divers.
There is now proof that the first settlers on Barbados had made their way there from Alaska down through Canada and down to the South and finally to Venezuela and it was from Venezuela some made their way in dug-out canoes to Barbados. These people were the Arawaks, who were a pastoral people. Finally a taller and stronger race, the Caribs, landed on the island and conquered its peaceful people some time during the early 13th century. Today, however, there are only small numbers of these people, known as the Kaligano, still living on the island.
The English arrived in 1625 and claimed the island for the British throne but did not settle the island until 1627. Convicted criminals and indentured servants were then brought to the island to work on the tobacco, cotton and sugar plantations. In reality they were white slaves. Later these white slaves were joined with black slaves from the West coast of Africa, supplied to the island by Dutch slave traders. Today, the descendants of these slaves live together in St Martin’s River and along the coast.
Slavery was abolished in 1834 and with it came a time of apprenticeship for the people of Barbados. The continued to work without pay, but in return were provided with free accommodation by the plantation owners. In 1838 the people of Barbados were finally granted their freedom and so began the development of the multi-ethnic culture of Barbados.
Barbados won its independence from Britain in 1966 but the island has remained true to its British roots evidence of which can be found in the many colonial buildings and the garrison in Bridgetown.
Why go to Barbados?
Most of us think that Barbados is only for the glamorous and wealthy, but if you are on a budget it is possible to find really pleasant guest houses or if you don’t mind self-catering this is another way of enjoying a good holiday on the island without breaking the bank. Getting around in Barbados is not expensive as there is a good and cheap public transport system as well as the possibility of hiring a mini-moke to explore inland away from the crowds.
The island has 5 distinct areas: there is the upmarket west coast with its luxury hotels and villas; the less developed south coast popular with surfers; the rather wild east coast; the interior with historic plantation houses, old slave caves and of course sugar cane, and finally the area around Bridgetown and the nearby Garrison area.
Things you should know
- The currency of the island is the Barbados dollar (BD$), and ATMs on the island issue withdrawals in BD$.
- Tap water in Barbados is safe to drink.
- Topless bathing is illegal in Barbados.
- If you deck yourself out in gold jewellery you may experience a few problems so rather leave jewellery in a safe place.
- Walking along unlit streets is not wise and it is not a good idea to be alone on an isolated beach.