Tourists who want to see and appreciate the world they are protecting will not want to miss these amazing sights which provide a look at the best of Antigua’s natural world. The best place to see unspoiled coral reefs and wildlife like nurse sharks, barracuda, and trumpet fish is at Cades Reef. Snorkelers and SCUBA divers can enjoy the coral pillars which descend like steps, and even explore underwater tunnels. Stingray City (www.stingraycityantigua.com), located at an offshore sandbar, specializes in providing expert eco-conscious instructors and guides who help tourists explore the reefs and coexist with schools of stingrays while leaving the delicate ecosystem unharmed. A can’t-miss natural wonder is Devil’s Bridge National Park, named for its arching limestone formation which was carved by the sea.
In Codrington Lagoon on Antigua’s nearly uninhabited sibling island Barbuda, the Frigate Bird Sanctuary is one of the most popular attractions for nature lovers. Here visitors will find over 5,000 frigates, a spectacular bird known for its large wings and habit of patrolling the skies in search of other birds whose meals they can steal. The island is also home to anywhere between 200 and 400 species of migrating birds, a number which varies throughout the year. It is also a popular place for hiking, and tourists will have no problem finding a water taxi to the island and back. Wadadli Animal Nature Park (www.wadadlianimalpark.com) on Antigua is another great place to visit for those who want to get to know native species of both plants and animals and learn about the island’s ecosystem.
Seeing the Island
There are multiple tour companies on the island which visit the top nature spots, but all are not equal when it comes to both eco-education and walking the walk. Eli’s Eco Tours (www.adventureantigua.com) is by far the best for anyone who wants to learn about the island’s ecosystems and get a chance to explore - as a bonus, the tours are conveniently designed to serve cruise ship passengers whose time is limited. The Eco Tour travels by boat and is accompanied by a naturalist who provides expert commentary and can answer questions. In addition to a guided hike on “bird island” and a chance to swim and explore Devil’s Bridge, the tour includes an up-close look at the shore line’s crucial mangrove root systems and a private snorkeling session complete with instruction.
A fun way for people to get a new perspective on the island’s rain forests while not leaving any footprints (carbon or otherwise) is the Rainforest Canopy Tour (www.antiguarainforest.com), a zipline course located just off Fig Tree Drive. Fig Tree Drive is fun to explore on its own, full of tropical fruit trees and roadside fruit vendors selling fig (which is actually the Antiguan word for banana), mango, and the island’s unique black pineapple. This is also a great area to find hiking trails that lead through the rainforests and to vantage points as well as beaches and coastal overlooks. Visitors can also take guided tours of the island by horseback instead of opting for the popular gas-guzzling jeep tours.
Supporting Sustainable Businesses
Those just making a port call in St. John’s can still make a difference - if visiting on a Friday or Saturday, St. John’s Public Market is the best place to find local produce and locally made products and crafts. Rosmacs Herb Garden in nearby Johnson’s Point offers fascinating tours of the garden that explain not just the plants but also the innovative sustainable gardening practices used here. As a bonus, you can also purchase the handmade herbal products, including traditional remedies, all sourced from the garden you just visited.
Of the island’s numerous resorts, only a handful have put in the effort to become truly sustainable hotels, but Sugar Ridge Resort (www.sugarridgeantigua.com) stands apart from the rest. Continuously looking for ways to improve, the resort has implemented energy-saving, water-conserving, and recycling measures as well as engaging in community outreach and socially responsible practices. Other recognized green resorts are the all-inclusive Cocos Hotel Antigua, Keyonna Beach Resort, and Carlisle Bay Resort.
All Sandals Resorts & Beaches Resorts participate in the EarthCheck benchmarking and certification program. From recycling to conserving, ecological responsiveness is a Sandals commitment and they are among the most eco-friendly and community-friendly resorts in the hospitality industry. At the Sandals Grande Antigua in St. Johns (www.sandals.com), guests enjoy the cooling trade winds off Dickenson Bay, while surrounded by majestic palms.
Environmentally friendly dining choices include Jacqui O’s Beach House, OJ’s, and Darkwood Beach Bar and Restaurant in Saint Mary’s Parish and Turner’s Beach Bar and Restaurant in St. John. www.visitantiguabarbuda.com