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Getting to Know Antigua

Photo by Josh Dobson via Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

Sand, sun, rum and fun. That’s Antigua! Offering excitement as well as relaxation, Antigua might be the destination you’ve been waiting to plan for.

The island of Antigua was once a British colony, and now shares a government with nearby island Barbuda. It’s still got close ties to Britain (as evidenced by locals’ love of the sport of cricket) but maintains the distinctly Caribbean feel that visitors love.

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Let’s look at some things to do while visiting Antigua:

Learn about Island Environments

One of the things I love most about the Caribbean is that you can experience a variety of environments and ecosystems in a single day. From the coastline and beaches to the jungle-topped hills of Antigua’s highlands, you get a very different perspective of what sort of habitat the island makes and the challenges for preserving the environment.

Hiking tours are avaialable, or, if you like an adrenaline rush along with your explorations, try the zipline in the jungle.

Spend some time also appreciating the challenges of different human habitats on the island–visit the museum at Betty’s Hope Sugar Plantation and the Christian Valley Agricultural Station to get an understanding of the historic agriculture-dependent economy of the island.

For views over the island and out to sea, ascend to Shirley Heights, where you can also enjoy a barbecue and band on Sundays.

Marvel Under the Sea

But you’re not flying to Antigua to stay under the tree canopy. After refreshing yourself at the hotel, dive right into a different set of ecosystems–underwater. One big draw is the island’s friendly (and big!) sting rays, that will even eat out of your hand if your guide gives you the right kind of food (calamari). However, in general, feeding wild animals isn’t the best idea–no matter how good the intentions of the tourists involved, sometimes animals can be harmed and may become dependent on their human-given food. Luckily, if you’d like to see the rays but not feed them, you can also do so by snorkeling or scuba diving on many of the reefs and coastal areas of the island.

In particular, the Cades Reef Underwater Park is a popular dive spot, as well as the shipwreck of the Andes in Deep Bay.  Visibility is generally good in Antigua, reaching up to 140 feet (42 meters), and dive conditions are excellent all year round.

Explore Historic Sites

Antigua doesn’t make international news very often now, but back during Britain’s Napoleonic Wars in the late 1700s, this was a strategic staging point for Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson. One of the top sights on Antigua is visiting the well-preserved dockyards which served as a home for the British ships under Nelson’s command and are now a national park. The area is fairly large, and encompasses a museum and interpretive center as well as cafes and restaurants and plenty of self-guided walking excursions.

For an afternoon out of the sun, pop in to the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, where you can get an introduction into the local indigenous history and culture as well as see more modern relics, for example famous cricketers’ bats.

And, if you’re traveling in a group that likes to drink, a stop for a tour at the Antigua Distillery is a good way to round out your experience of the culture and heritage of the islands.

Have you been to Antigua recently? What activities did you enjoy most?

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Beth Green

Beth Green is an American freelance writer who has lived in Europe and Asia since 2003. She grew up on a sailboat and, though now a landlubber, still enjoys a peripatetic life. She writes blogs, articles and suspense about travel, expatriate living, and many other topics. A social media addict, she’d love to hear from you about your favorite travel experiences.
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