The Caribbean is one of the most diverse and enchanting regions in the world. Exotic combinations of its landscapes, people, history and culture offer the traveller a unique and inspiring experience and present it among the top 10 travel destinations in the world. From wandering villages to swashbuckling cosmopolitans, the Caribbean is a melting pot of colourful cultures and profound natural beauties. Good beaches, excellent conditions for scuba diving and snorkelling and a general atmosphere of “live and let live” have made this region a hotspot for young tourists. If you are looking for an adventure or two on to explore the “wild side” of nature, embark on a tour to the Caribbean where the daily itineraries include everything from jungle swings to unusual hitch-hiking trails. Raft the rapids on some of the world's wildest rivers, plunge from the highest bungee jump and climb a volcanic peak, there are adventures aplenty in the Caribbean. For the less adventurous, leisure options are abound; you can suntan on serene beaches, play a round of golf on a fabulous course or sip a cocktail while watching the red Caribbean sun set over the vast horizon. This is also a prime hiking region, full of tropical forests and trails and splashed with thousands of endemic wildlife species. Moreover, the cultural fabric of the Caribbean region is an interesting patchwork of colourful traditions. And then there are all those too familiar Caribbean tourist attractions that range from pristine coastlines of West Indies to extraordinary sceneries of Puerto Rico, from the flashy markets of Jamaica to the exotic landscape of Trinidad and Tobago. In short, the variety of the Caribbean’s natural world is rich, endless – and yours to explore.
The Caribbean, also often referred to as the Antillen or the West Indies, is a region that denotes the existence of numerous islands and countries over and around the Caribbean Sea. More specifically, it encompasses the terrain that is situated above the Caribbean Plate. A conglomeration of 7,000 islands, islets, reefs and cayes, the Caribbean islands are scattered around the sea, with Mexico on the north to Venezuela of South America. Anguilla, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Puerto Rico are some of the prominent islands of the Caribbean archipelago. Apart from these islands, there are many countries that are although situated on the mainland of Central America and South America but are considered as part of the Caribbean region. Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, Costa Rica, French Guiana and Colombia are some such countries. Belize and Guyana are also members of CARICOM. Some parts of the Bahaman Archipelago are also considered as part of the Caribbean one.
The Caribbean is a paradise of blue water and white beaches that has an astounding treasure trove of physical beauty, fertile soil and mineral wealth. The region boasts of a strong contrast in climate, topography and landscape. The regional geography of real Caribbean is complex and interesting. It is a result of interaction between sets of physical and environmental patterns that evolved through time. The Caribbean illustrates the construction of its terrain by plate tectonics theory, the evolution of plants, animals and island environments. A generous tropical climate, the accidents of geology and the action of ocean on land have bequeathed today’s Caribbean terrain.
The varied landscape of this region ranges from volcanic mountains, lakes and limestone cliffs to lush green hills, mangrove swamps and forests. In fact, 40 per cent of the Caribbean terrain is covered with tropical forests. There are outstanding rain forest retreats on the islands of Trinidad, Dominica and Puerto Rico. On the other islands, spectacular national parks and nature reserves have been established to ensure the secured preservation of the fauna and flora, unique to the Caribbean. Vast and tumbling rivers, mountains and dense rainforests are spread over the territories of Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Aruba, Barbados and Saint Kitts and Nevis. The Caribbean is also home to the highest waterfall in the world, the Angel Falls that comes gushing down from more than 3,200ft. The Kaieteur Falls is another such natural wonder of the region. There are several mountainous peaks too including the remote Mount Roraima. The Caribbean also remains vulnerable to natural disasters like ocean storms and tornadoes but not in severe levels.
The waves and currents of the Caribbean Sea play havoc over the region and is the major determinant of physiological and zoological factors. The Caribbean waters nestles massive walls of vibrant corals and is home to a great number of marine species like the shark, barracuda, swordfish, marlin, dolphin, porpoise and turtle. Over land, much of the Caribbean’s island wildlife is endemic. On the mainland, there is an amazing range of animals and reptiles, the jaguar being the most prominent among them. From metre-long pre-historic iguanas lazing in the sun, giant crocodiles gliding through the swamps to fireflies flashing in the night, the Caribbean showcases an amazing collection of wildlife. But it is the different types of birds that give the Caribbean a distinct characteristic. Across the Caribbean, you’ll see egrets, sandpipers, terns, parrots and pelicans. Hummingbirds are as common in gardens as they are in the woods and forests. The flight of the scarlet ibis at Caroni Swamp and the bats at Cayman Islands and Grenada are the most popular one. However, strength of approximately 60,000 pink flamingos, spoonbills and ducks out number the human population in the Caribbean island of Great Inagua. At the front of plant life, the gardens and forests across the Caribbean experience a year-round explosion of colour with passionflowers, orchids, heliconia, hibiscus, poinsettia and palms. These are the lands of bougainvillea and coconut trees, home of the mango and huge watermelons.
The Caribbean community boasts of a long history built on courage and fortitude. The region’s unmatched diversity and beauty and natural wealth came into light when the great historical sweep of exploration and migration touched the Caribbean shores nearly 500 years back. This triggered an explosion of trade that changed the economic and political structures of the world forever. People arrived from all over Europe, Africa and Asia to this region and contributed to the creation of humanity’s richest melting pot. The results of this unique meld of history and culture can be seen amidst the population, architecture, languages, food, museums and monuments of the Caribbean archipelago. However, even before the days of invasion, the Caribbean had its own share of civilisations and human evolution stories. Excavation works brought out 7000-years old human remains from southern Trinidad at Banwari Trace. These earliest archaeological evidences have been termed as Archaic or Ortoiroid. Between 400 BCE and 200 BCE, the Saladoid culture came into the Caribbean with first ceramic-using agriculturalists. In the following centuries, several Amerindian indigenous peoples inhabited the islands, which included the Taino, Galibi, Lucayans and Arawak-speaking groups. Derived from the major Amerindian tribe of Caribs, the Caribbean archipelago first came into contact with outside world when Christopher Columbus landed on its shores in fifteenth century. In successive decades, Spanish colonisation efforts spread rapidly all over the region and the French, Dutch, Danish and British followed suit. Among these, the British West Indies became the largest colony that later gave way to the West Indies Federation. By seventeenth century, The Caribbean became infamous for the brutal pirate attacks. After centuries of foreign domination, Haiti, the former French colony of Saint-Domingue on Hispaniola was the first Caribbean nation to gain independence from European powers when in 1791. Gradually, all the major islands emerged independent from their respective foreign rulers and established as republics. Today, all most all the countries, territories and dependencies under the Caribbean region are united under the Caribbean Community and Common Market or CARICOM. This organisation consolidates the economical and trade relations between the Caribbean nations. The Caribbean today is one of the few places free from internal aggression and prospers from tropical agricultural products and tourism.