Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Research Sources

My wife and I are often asked what our favorite sources are for researching Caribbean islands. It would be virtually impossible for me to attempt to identify all of the possible resources available. However, I will provide you with a short list of what has worked and what hasn't worked for us.

With no offense to the publishers, editors and contributors... we've come to the conclusion that guidebooks such as those published by Fodor's, Frommer's and Lonely Planet are pretty useless once you select a destination that is not frequently traveled. We got great use from such guides when visiting Disney World in Orlando, Florida, but the information they provide for the leeward and windward islands of the Caribbean is sadly lacking.

An interesting type of resource that may be considered a bit unconventional, are non-fiction books related to travel and life in the Caribbean. Examples of such books that we found to offer an astoundingly accurate representation of life on various islands include "An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude" (Ann Vanderhoof, 1952, Random House, New York) and "A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean" (Melinda Blanchard, 2000, Random House, New York). Although published as entertainment and not necessarily intended as travel guides, books like these helped to provide our family with wonderful insights of the Caribbean most likely not possible without actually visiting each of the islands.

Another type of resource comes from a group of Caribbean travelers who live a life many of us envy. I am referring to cruisers... yachties... modern-day recreational sailors. These are the people who brave the seas to sail from one exotic locale to another. For some, their boats are their year-around homes. For others, their boats offer a respite from the real world for the short time that they are living on-the-hook. We found cruisers to be an invaluable resource for up-to-date information for every island in the Caribbean, no matter how big or small. They divulge many important travel details including local knowledge on lodging, dining, shopping, entertainment, political matters, cultural issues, crime concerns and much more. Start with excellent cruiser guides like those offered by Chris Doyle of Grenada (DoyleGuides.com).

Finally, we suggest that you spend some time browsing the Internet. We purposely did not place this resource first, as the information on the Internet is only as good as the source. Unfortunately, there are just as many (if not more) bad resources on the Internet as there are reputable ones. You can always find someone who has had a bad experience in the Caribbean, but we have learned that the problem often has more to do with the visitor then their accused. One example of a trustworthy source of Caribbean traveler information on the Internet is the Grenada Travel Forum. Here, island natives, ex patriots and frequent visitors offer their advice free for the asking. Similar forums can also be found for other Caribbean destinations.

Why Carriacou?

Ever since our family began visiting island destinations, we have been drawn to locations that have fewer tourists, less shopping, no cruise ships and a whole lot more peace and quiet. Holidays in Hawaii and the Western Caribbean were adventuresome and exciting, but they always included an element of "stress" that should not be associated with what would otherwise be considered a restful vacation.

As we read more about the Caribbean, we found ourselves being drawn further east; to locations that have remained off the beaten path and much less developed. We yearned to find the "old Caribbean" described in books such as "Escape to the Tropics" (Desmond Holdridge, 1937, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York). Could such a destination still exist?

Introducing Carriacou.

Carriacou is officially part of the three-island nation of Grenada (which includes: Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique), although it's location places it at the southernmost reaches of the Grenadines.

It is difficult to say with all certainty what attracts us to Carriacou, but it is probably best described as a combination of the wonderful native people (and most of the ex patriots who now live there), the natural beauty of the island's features, and the lack of commercial development. The island is one of the last remaining Caribbean locations that has not been completely spoiled by man. We hope that in some way, we can help it remain that way for future generations to enjoy.

Choose Your Island

There are lots of reasons people travel to the Caribbean. Some like to frequent the casinos made available in select countries; some like to partake in the all-inclusive pampering offered at various resorts; some like to party like a rock star until daybreak; some like to build their skills are various water activities.

So why do we travel to the Caribbean? We like limin' (a.k.a. resting and relaxing on island time).

The Caribbean offers something for everyone mentioned above, and most all of the others too. The culture and environment, whether native or introduced, varies widely across the island chain. It is difficult to find someone who cannot enjoy a holiday at one of the islands across the region.

To make an initial assessment of the variety offered throughout the Caribbean, we suggest that you spend some time reading an informative periodical, such as "Caribbean Travel and Life" or "Islands" magazine. These magazines do a great job of introducing the reader to many different aspects of various islands. From there, the reader can narrow down their list of potential destinations.