Tucked away in the Caribbean Sea, the five-square-mile island of Saba is arguably the region’s best-kept secret. Home to just four villages, a singular road that was dug out by a local with nothing but a shovel, pristine hiking trails, impeccable dive sites, breathtaking villas and locally-owned boutique hotels, the tiny but mighty island will take any well-traveled visitor by pleasant surprise. As the peak of a dormant volcano that pokes out from the ocean below, Saba appears to be just a speck on the map. But don’t be fooled It’s packed with loads of unexpected character. The smallest commercial runway in the world? Check. A field of solar panels that powers the whole island for 8-10 hours per day? Check. A population of 2,000 family-like residents that welcome all visitors with open arms into their close-knit community? That’s Saba.
As more regions and countries develop their tourism industry, it produces significant impacts on natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution, and social systems. The island of Saba, also known as The Unspoiled Queen, has a goal to be a sustainable destination so tourism can live on and more visitors can enjoy what the hidden island has to offer.
This year’s the island Sea and Learn Foundation will be turning 20 years old and there will be an event this October to commemorate the occasion. The Sea & Learn program has been able to make a slower tourism month into one of the busier times of year and it kicks off the “high season” on the island. Through its engaging programs and educational initiatives, this remarkable foundation has not only enriched the island’s high season but has also raised awareness about the importance of marine and environmental conservation.
Scientists are invited to the island to share their presentations and workshops. Every year since 2003 they educate and excite visitors, students and locals on the islands’ 5 square miles which is home to five eco-systems; from arid terrain to a cloud forests. Throughout the entire month of October, a variety of naturalists, scientists and academics, in fields ranging from sharks and the fish communication to spiders and vines, provide casual but informative multi-media presentations.
Besides Sea and Learn, Saba has positioned sustainability to the forefront for years. Here is just a sample of some of the initiatives that have helped protect this small but beautiful island:
- Saba runs totally on solar power for 8-10 hours every day.
- Saba Marine Park encompasses the waters and sea bed encircling the entire island up to 200-feet in depth. The Marine Park was protected “not to repair a damaged environment, but rather to ensure the continued quality of an extraordinary resource”
- Saba Research Center is the first marine lab in the Windward islands of the Dutch Caribbean for applied research. Their Diadema project aims to restore long-spined sea urchin populations on the coral reef around Saba.
- The hydroponics farm at Saba’s Rendez-Vous uses 80% less water than conventional farming methods. These efforts not only help to reduce the island’s water usage, but also increases locally-grown produce found in grocery stores, which is otherwise all imported.
- Plastic ban since 2021
- Island collects over 1 million pounds of recyclables every year
- Hope Spot: The Saba Bank – the largest submarine atoll in the Atlantic Ocean — was named a “Hope Spot” in early 2023 by Mission Blue, an international marine conservation organization, making it the first Hope Spot in the Dutch Caribbean. Destinations that receive this award are considered special places as they have been scientifically identified as being critical to the ocean’s health and championed by local conservationists.