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Barbados, the jewel of the Caribbean

Cheerful customers enjoying their favourite tipple at the Rum Shop in Bridgetown.

Nairobi; Kenya: The magical allure of the pear-shaped island of Barbados in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean cannot escape the attention of holidaymakers seeking a destination with a difference.

This Caribbean island is known for its diversity — from the vibrant capital Bridgetown to its culture and centuries’ old expertise in making rum in the distilleries around the country.

Here you can live the high life on a budget and enjoy meeting cheerful Barbadians or Bajans.

Apart from the touristic activities such as water sports and must-see spots, there are some hidden gems that will impress visitors.

Before slave trade was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1807, more than 387,000 Africans — ancestors of 92 per cent of the island’s current 274,000 residents — were brought to Barbados, normally the first port of call for slaves from Africa, to work on sugar plantations.

There are eye-catching views down the coastline, boasting many crowded and secluded beaches with white and pink sand.

COLONIAL INFLUENCE

The 15 square mile capital Bridgetown, with a population of 110,000, is an interesting city.

Its British colonial influence remains to this day with such landmarks as Lord Nelson Statue, Kensington Oval, Trafalgar Square and districts named after Weymouth and Strathclyde cities.

Bridgetown has a deep water harbour and is a major hub and entry point for large cruise and cargo ships in the Eastern Caribbean region.

The city is split into two by Careenage Canal which is just large enough for pleasure or fishing boats but offers interesting views.

Crossing the Chamberlain Bridge spanning the Careernage induces a nice feeling when you take a walk through Bridgetown, passing by the Parliament Building with its attractive architecture.

There is always something unexpected to be discovered in Barbados.

Some 850 feet above sea level in north-eastern Barbados lies Cherry Tree Hill, an idyllic beauty spot offering unparalleled views of the Scotland District where St Andrew Parish, one of the 11 parishes, is situated.

Its green rolling hills are a feast for the eyes. A visit to the Nigel Benn Aunty Shop and Bar in St Andrew Parish will rekindle memories of UK-born World Champion middleweight boxer Nigel Benn whose roots are in Barbados.

His aunt Lucille, who owns this brightly painted rum shop, extends a warm welcome.

Its walls are adorned with family photos of the world-famous boxer and his Bajan family.

Visitors head there for a drink and a chat with Lucille sharing plenty of stories about her famous nephew. Do not forget to sign her guest book.

Do not be fooled by the name Shark’s Hole Beach — there are no sharks there but beautiful crystal clear blue waters and soft pink sand.

This is a beautiful secluded bay perfect to get away from the crowds and to watch sea life or enjoy a dip. It is arguably one of the most serene beaches in Barbados.

The Animal Flower Cave on the northern coast in the Parish of St Lucy is an amazing and unique cave that opens into the Atlantic Ocean.

LOVE TO EAT

Its name comes from the sea anemones found in the pools inside with eye-catching green and brown formations by oxidation of copper and iron.

Some of these pools are deep enough and you can swim in them.

Enjoy the outrageously stunning view of the Atlantic where waves crash against the cliffs. The brave ones go for cliff jumping!

Bajans love to eat and take their gastronomic traditions seriously.

Food and drink form an important part of life on the island.

Visitors can enjoy a variety of local delicacies like the flying fish made with corn meal and okra and coucou.

The best place to enjoy this and other Bajan food is the Waterfront Café in Bridgetown.

Pigtails, a dish of salt meat served with rice and peas or roasted in sweet and sticky barbeque sauce, is also a popular street food.

It has a delicious and unusual taste. Pudding and Souse are a Saturday staple for non-Muslims.

It is made from pork pickled in lime juice, cucumber and onion and served with pudding made of grated breadfruit. Mutton Pepperpot, a traditional spicy stew with a tasty twist cooked over days and flavoured with

an array of spices and scotch bonnet peppers, is my favourite. It is also available in pork and beef flavours and is served with rice.

A Bajan buffet, served at many places, is the best gastronomic treat but you have to go for it when you are hungry. There is no shortage of pricey restaurants.

Also worth a visit it the Oistins Fish Market on a Friday or Saturday night and enjoy the excitement of the island’s most popular market.

Here you will rub shoulders with the locals and join them in the dance hall to the sweet strains of calypso music. Bajans love to dance to the 50s, 60s and 70s music.

Join the Rum Tour and enjoy cocktails with expert shakers at the Mount Gay Rum Barbados Distillery.

Here is an opportunity to discover why Barbados is famed for the world’s finest rum.

The Distiller shows you how to create this precious spirit and become a rum expert as you pick up the tricks of the trade such as the subtleties of flavours to tickle the palate.

Barbados boasts more than 1,600 rum shops. There is a lot more places worth visiting and exciting nightlife on this charming island.