Most visitors to our island are lulled into thinking that the island, with its lush, vibrant vegetation, is not too distant from their idea of what paradise may be like.
While the island does offer its more beautiful side to the casual observer, it has had a fiery beginning. Most of the Windward Islands in the Caribbean share the same volcanic origin, and while several are long extinct, several of them still have active volcanoes within their territories. Grenada is no exception, and actually has one active undersea volcano, off the northern shore of the island, between the town of Sauteurs and the sister island of Carriacou.
However, over the centuries, Grenada's volcanoes have been reduced to eroded remnants, which have been taken over by the rain forest. A most notable example of this, is the Grand Etang Lake and Forest Reserve, which is situated in the crater of the extinct volcano. There are excellent hiking trails in the area, which are maintained by the government, and which are there for the enjoyment of all.
The most popular area in Grenada, for hiking and trekking, is in the rain forest around the Grand Etang Lake, in the central part of the island. This is only a small snapshot of what the island is like in general, as there are several waterfalls, hot springs and plantations where they meander through the hills. Needless to say, the views are exceptional.
Grand Etang, however, is a crater lake surrounded by a lush tropical forest and is part of the nature reserve. A series of trails has been marked, and hiking them is well worth the effort. The scenery is breathtaking, with the chance to see a fascinating cross-section of the flora and fauna which make up this rain forest. There are a few different trails which take you around the National Park. They pass waterfalls as well as Grand Etang Lake. Hikes at Grand Etang range from an easy 15 minute walk, to 6 hour long excursions.
Note: When hurricane Ivan hit the island in September 2004, the rain forests received significant damage. However, there has been amazing re-growth and it is back to its original lush beauty.
Levera National Park covers over 450 acres and is one of the most beautiful scenic areas in the north of the island. There is a white sand beach which is well visited at weekends. The shallow lagoon is a very important wildlife habitat too, with a thriving mangrove swamp that is home to many species of birds and aquatic animals.
Under the sea, you will find sea grass beds and rocky reefs - nice to snorkel over. These are safe havens for marine life to feed upon and spawn.
Ocean Spirits is the conservation organisation that monitors and protects the sea turtles, offering outreach programmes on the island and volunteer placements to visitors. During May - September, sea turtles lay eggs on the patrolled beach. Among the pleasant walks at Levera, is a trail that circles the lagoon.
Bird watchers and nature lovers are drawn to this shallow crater lake for the variety of Caribbean birds and wildlife that can be seen here.
There is a pleasant, relaxing walk around the edge of the lake that is suitable for all abilities and ages. Another nice spot for a walk and a picnic!
This quiet mangrove estuary along the south-western coast is one of the best bird-watching locales on Grenada. In addition to the estuary, La Sagesse includes three fine beaches edged with palm trees, a very good coral reef for snorkelling, a pristine example of dry thorn scrub and cactus woodland, and a salt pond. Of course, a good salt pond is the avian equivalent to a stunning beach, and this is one very inviting salt pond. The pond attracts an abundance of different species, including the brown crested flycatcher, Caribbean coot, green backed heron, little blue heron, and the northern jacuna.
La Sagesse also includes a small guesthouse, several cabanas, and a bar and restaurant on the beach, which is known for its very tasty lunch fare.
One of the noteworthy things about the eastern/Atlantic side of the island, is that nearly all the bays along the coast are mangrove habitats. Prime nesting areas for many birds and spawning grounds for fish, these areas have now been brought under the control of the Ministry of Forestry and Fisheries, in order to preserve as much of it as possible from encroachment by development. The result is that any development in these areas has to be approved by the government, and special emphasis has been placed on preserving the mangroves.
Hog Island is an idyllic deserted island within the protected area where Roger's Barefoot Beach Bar is the hub of chilled out socialising on Sundays.
Conservation Kayak offers tours half or full day around the south coast - their focus is environmental education and preservation. SUP Grenada gives enthusiasts the chance to paddle board in the beautiful bays too. Excellent for bird watchers and snorkellers, the variety of marine life in and around the mangroves is stunning.
Grenada has an extensive array of coral reefs along the south and west coasts that are accessible by boat. There are several dive shops that offer dive excursions and snorkelling trips. In an effort to preserve the reefs, a buoying system was put in place in the Marine Park so boats do not drop anchors on the reefs and destroy the delicate corals. The marine life is astounding, and the government has imposed restrictions and hunting seasons on the more popular sea species, like the lobster, in order to preserve the diversity and sustainability. They have also brought into effect restrictions on the sizes of nets, so that fishermen do not catch the juvenile fish.
The Grand Anse Reef Regeneration Project (GARRP) has installed a series of 'pyramids' off Grand Anse beach in an effort to attract marine life and develop coral growth in this area. You can snorkel or dive around the structures which have been highly successful so far.
The Marine Park, is home to the world's first Underwater Sculpture Park. You can snorkel or dive around the sculptures which explore themes of local folklore, history and culture. The dive centers and day charter yachts organise tours to the Marine Park.