Babbie De Derian, Travel Editor
After an efficient computer check- in, my Jet Blue non-stop flight to Grenada takes off from JFK without delay … and as always, the flight attendants greet me with a “happy to have you onboard “welcome and award winning service.
It is easy to fall in love with Grenada; it is an island where one feels special just being here. Smells of spices perfume the air; sounds of music penetrate the night. Grenada is pure soul; unique with its lush rain forests, cascading waterfalls, clear blue waters, white sandy beaches, fragrant spice plantations, and luxury five star resorts … but what impresses me most is the island’s warm and welcoming people who love life, work hard to take care of their children, and are proud of their culture, food and music.
“Music and Beyond”, a non profit, supports the development of local artists, inspiring them to create original music. With the launch of the first
International “Pure Grenada Music Festival”, the island set sail on a unique and creative biodegradable future …using music, art and food as a platform to convey the message: “saving the planet is everyone’s responsibility, and by changing our habits, we can work together in an artistic way to achieve this goal:”. One of the creative solutions to this issue is the recycling of waste paper and plastic into reusable art objects locals can use and visitors can buy: such as turning glass bottles into red wine glasses and plastic bottles into whimsical chandeliers.
The décor, designed and installed by visual artist Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe, a graduate of Smith College, and a team of local artists, interacted with space in innovative ways. Bamboo trees were hollowed out and then fitted with recycled materials and solar powered lights … large plastic bottles were turned into colorful octopus shaped chandeliers, and wooden shipping crates into comfortable love seats where one could sit and pedal to change the colors of the lights.
Malika tells me: “The Pure Grenada Music Festival provides the opportunity to entertain and educate in a purely aesthetic way that feels organic by connecting the people of Grenada in a green project that uses culture to protect the island’s natural beauty and products”.
The week long festival, held at a variety of venues, gave local talent an unprecedented once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete to play back -up for the stellar line-up of culturally diversified musicians, brought in from around the world … many, Grammy nominees and winners such as: British Collective, Angelique Kidjo and Estelle. Throughout the day, and into the early morning hours, locals and visitors, young and old, swayed and gyrated to the pulsating beat of salsa, soul, swing, reggae, jazz, hip hop and rock.
Grenada’s Underwater Sculpture Garden
It is common for a sunken ship wreck to serve as an artificial reef, but rarely does strategically placed underwater art. After Hurricane Ivan ravaged the island’s ecosystem in 2004, British born artist Jason Taylor created the concept to bring the area’s fragile ecosystem back into balance. The underwater museum, with 65 life size pierces of original work by a roster of talented artists, spreads out over an area of 800 square meters. It is highly successful in reflecting Grenada’s culture, and in attracting a stunning array of marine life.
Captain Howard takes me out to the reef on a RPI boat. I don snorkel gear, jump into the water, and then follow my guide. I circle the “Nutmeg Princess” (a tribute to the island’s spice industry) and “The Lost Correspondent” (a relic in today’s society) which depicts a man working at his desk on a typewriter; the desk, covered in historical newspaper cuttings, documents Grenada’s involvement with Cuba. “Vicissitudes”, a circle of children holding hands, reflects the changes in growing up through a lifetime of changes. Swimming my way through the breathtakingly beautiful and magical underwater kingdom, I am humbled by this amazing feat of artistry and ecological planning.
Leatherback Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs … One of the rare acts of nature takes place at Levera Beach, on the Northern part of the island, from April through July when female Leatherback Turtles return to the beach where they were hatched to lay and bury their eggs. We drive for two hours to reach our destination, and then follow marine biologists down the dark deserted beach for about half a mile. A huge leatherback (I name Renada) has just .emerged from the sea, and has begun digging a deep hole. We watch in awe for more than an hour as she drops 120 eggs (the size of golf balls) into the hole. The scientists weigh measure and place a tracking mechanism around one of her fins. Mesmerized, we watch her bury her eggs, using her back and then front flippers. When she is satisfied the eggs are safe, she rests for awhile, and then turns, slowly dragging herself back to the water. Sadly, I watch her disappear into the sea; having been told only one of her hatched eggs will survive.
Two great affordable places to stay when on island are: True Blue Bay Resort (right), owned by Magdalena Felden who recently opened the Chocolate Museum in St. George) and the other, Le Phare Bleu (left). Owner Jana Ganiga is one of the founders of the Pure Grenada Festival. Both have water view restaurants that serve “not-to-be-missed local food”.
Before leaving Grenada, I look to the heavens; count hundreds of stars and thank the Universe for this precious moment in time and the “pure essence” of an island that has inspired me to reflect and act on the urgency and responsibility we all have to protect Mother Nature.
Special thanks to Christine and Renee from the Grenada Tourist Board and Edwin Frank, our knowledgeable and reliable tour guide.
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