Why you need to make Grenada your next adventure destination
Kitted out and ready to head out on Sun Hunters dune buggy tour through St George's
“When I say duck, duck. Doh ask who, when or why. Otherwise, you going to get bush slapped.”
Melroy aka ‘Help’ aka ‘Beetle’ was administering the safety briefing as we rode along the winding roads out of St George’s in an open back pickup truck outfitted with benches and guard rails.
You could stand up once you heeded Beetle’s words, letting the cool, crisp mountain air wake you up where coffee might have otherwise failed you.
I was embedded in a team of journalists heading up into the mountains to explore one of Grenada’s soft adventure offerings - river tubing down the Balthazar River.
River tubing, as it turns out, is just one of the many ways you can get outdoors and get active in the Spice Isle.
The island has been ramping up its soft adventure product over the last few years, hoping to offer visitors more than just the ‘sun, sea and sand’ many expect of Caribbean islands.
Grenada is an island that, topographically, allows you to go from the beach to a mountaintop in about 20 minutes, so the typical day for a tourist in Grenada can span from snorkelling in crystal clear waters to hiking through lush, green forests.
Mount Qua Qua sits overlooking the Grand Etang National Park
Grenada’s multi-pronged approach to marketing the island has paid off - 2018 was a record year for them, with over half a million tourists touching its shores from all of their markets.
Almost 2000 Trinidadians journeyed to the Spice Isle last year, a 38 percent increase on the year before.
So why should anyone in Trinidad and Tobago consider hopping a flight to Grenada instead of venturing further out to the United States or Europe?
For starters, Grenada is just a short 30-minute flight away, making it perfect for a long weekend getaway.
The all-inclusive offerings, like Spice Island Beach Resort, Sandals Grenada and the newly opened Silversands means Trinidadians and Tobagonians can indulge in a resort option not available at home.
The island, while similar in many ways to our own twin isle, has its own unique tourism offering, making it different enough to be interesting.
According to Francine Stewart, Marketing Manager for the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA), prospective visitors from the region should definitely consider their neighbouring islands as a vacation destination.
“Yes we are similar, but yes, we are also very different. So yes, there is that notion that it costs just the same to go to the US. So if it costs the same to go to the US, why don't you want to come to your neighbour? Come to your neighbour and experience your neighbour, you know, come to your backyard, and enjoy your backyard versus going to the US or going somewhere else.”
Stewart says the GTA has been focusing on promoting outside of the already highly-subscribed to Spicemas season, turning its efforts towards its festivals - food festivals, their chocolate festival, regattas and the upcoming dive festival.
Beyond that, soft adventure has landed on the Authority’s radar as a product worth promoting.
Tour company Funtastic Island Adventures is one of the tour companies offering a range of outdoor adventure activities including the river tubing experience our guide ‘Beetle’ was escorting us to.
At our destination - the Balthazar River - we were kitted out in helmets and life jackets before we received a safety briefing from our guides.
Once we clambered into our bright orange inner tubes, off we went, bobbing up and down the calmer parts of the river, which gave way at intervals to short rapids. The guides floated alongside us, getting off their tubes at times to dislodge anyone who strayed into the riverbank or got stuck in some rocks. Once you were rescued, you were sent spinning down the river with a complimentary splashing from ‘Beetle’ and friends.
It took around 30 minutes to travel the length of the course but it was 30 minutes of a unique cocktail of relaxation, exhilaration and gut-busting laughter when you were unfortunate enough to get stuck.
At the end of the route we were treated to some rum punch and light snacks before we climbed back on to the shuttle, bound for our next adventure.
Grenada is a volcanic island, and where there are volcanoes, there are usually sulphur springs, which Grenada has no short supply of.
Just a 12-minute drive from the Balthazar River, up the rocky, winding roads through farmland into the Clabony area, we found the sulphur springs, named for the village they occupy.
Getting to the pool does require a short, low-intensity hike up a well-marked trail. A guide is recommended nonetheless and we were fortunate to have Simon Greene - owner of Hidden Treasures, yet another tour company specialising in adventure - primarily of the hiking variety - as ours.
Clabony Sulphur Springs
The springs are a murky brown colour but don’t let that discourage you from climbing into the lukewarm pool of water, which, despite its origin, doesn’t have a strong smell of sulphur.
Greene instructed us to rub the bright yellow rocks on our skin - the sulphur has medicinal properties that can be used to cure a variety of ailments like eczema and skin rashes.
We were also treated to a chocolate massage from one of Grenada’s top masseurs, a welcome add-on to our already relaxing excursion.
The massage preps your muscles for the descent back to the roadway, which can be a bit precarious if your feet are wet from the pools. We recommend using a guide rope where possible.
Another day in Grenada brought yet another adventure, this time - a dune buggy ride through the streets and trails of St George’s parish.
This particular excursion, offered by Sun Hunters, was a personal favourite.
We started the experience at the Sun Hunters HQ near the Maurice Bishop International Airport.
The team started us off with a safety briefing - tour companies in Grenada do not play around with their safety briefings - a waiver-signing and a helmet-fitting before we were assigned to our buggies.
A guide gives a briefing ahead of the Sun Hunters dune buggy tour
We drove up and down the undulating roads of George Town and environs in our small but mighty dune buggies, single-file with a guide in front and behind the group to ensure maximum safety.
Every now and then, the route diverted from paved roads to muddy, winding dirt trails, both of which lead the group to stunning vistas over the capital city for photo ops.
The most challenging trail was the one to Annandale Waterfall, which was a bumpy, rocky and mostly downhill, meaning your foot was just a little heavier on the gas pedal than you intended it to be.
The waterfall itself was a fitting reward for our efforts - a cool respite from the heat of the day.
We were entertained by the Annandale Jumpers Association, locals who angle for tips by performing death-defying jumps from the cliffs into the pool below.
Sun Hunters has been operating for just about three years, and, at the time of publication, was the only off-road tour company endorsed by the Grenada Tourism Authority.
If you’re less of a landlubber and more of a water baby - the sea surrounding Grenada is rich with coral reefs and underwater features for you to explore snorkelling or diving. I managed to sneak in a quick dive with the Sandals Grenada Aqua Centre team, which does two dives daily from the resort. Scuba diving is included in the resort package for certified divers and they also do the PADI certifications for Open Water and Advanced divers at a cost.
If you prefer to stay close to the surface then you’ve got to try snorkelling in Grenada.
It’s home to the world’s first underwater sculpture park, the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park, which is accessible to both divers and snorkelers alike.
We, unfortunately, did not get to snorkel the park, but we did head out with the Sandals Aqua Centre to a location just south of the resort to paddle above colourful reefs teeming with sea creatures. An added bonus was the slew of celebrity homes perched above where we were snorkelling - our guide pointed out Oprah and Lewis Hamilton’s vacation homes to us.
A guide points out celebrity homes overlooking a snorkelling site in Grenada
There are few islands that can boast of truly having it all – but Grenada might just be one of them. The island is teeming with experiences – sun-soaked white sand beaches fringed by turquoise water, luxurious all-inclusive resorts where you can be waited on hand and foot, a vibrant nightlife and impressive culinary scene.
With all that in mind, rest assured that when you head to the Spice Isle, you can enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation, knowing there’s a waterfall waiting to be chased less than half an hour away.