The Grenadines are a chain of islands and islets located between Grenada and St. Vincent in the Lesser Antilles, noted for its beautiful scenery, spectacular beaches and diverse marine habitats. Its cultural heritage is a result of the blending of African, Carib, East Indian, Portuguese and European influences.
The Grenadines are a group of 35 small islands located between Grenada and St. Vincent in the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, in the West Indies. They stretch over a distance of 90 km (56 miles) from the Island of London Bridge in the south to Bequia in the north.
The natural boundary of the site approximates to the Grenadine Shelf, which is some 50m (164 ft) deep and falls off steeply in the Tobago Trough. Geographically, the area lies along the interface of the Caribbean and South American Tectonic plates. Several active undersea mounts (e.g. Kick’em Jenny) attest to the on-going movement of these plates.
The northern Grenadines are administratively part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, while the southern islands are a dependency of Grenada. The international boundary between Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines runs east to west across the bank between Petit Martinique and Petite St. Vincent. Nonetheless, the links among all the Grenadine Islands on both sides of the boundary are historically strong and continue to be active.
Fishing, informal trade, tourism and island social life proceed with little attention to the boundary. In both countries 'mainlanders' concede that the connections among the Grenadine islands are in most cases stronger than those with the main island. Efforts by the two countries to conserve coral reef biodiversity can be seen as contributing to reef biodiversity conservation at the regional level.
In the Grenadines there are nine (9) islands with permanent settlements. The largest islands – Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, Union Island, Petit Martinique and Carriacou — have towns and communities with public (schools, clinics, utilities) and private supporting infrastructure. Others are resort islands, such as Palm Island and Petit St. Vincent. Most of the other islands are visited primarily by yachters and fishermen.
The islands of the Grenadines range from rocky volcanic headlands to tiny cays that barely rise above sea level. The largest islands are Carriacou in Grenada (3,400 ha or 8,400 acres) and Bequia in St. Vincent (1,800 ha or 4,447 acres). Although many of the islands are inhabited and used for agriculture and the surrounding waters for commercial fishing, much of the area still exists in a relatively undisturbed condition.
Islands of the Grenadines:
- Isle Quatre
- Balliceaux Island
- Savan Island
- Sail rock
- Tobago Cays
- Union Island
- Palm Island
- Mopion Island
- Petite St. Vincent
The entire Grenadines area is noted for its beautiful scenery, spectacular beaches and diverse marine habitats that include coral reefs, mangroves and seabird colonies. The area supports the most extensive coral reefs and related habitats in the Windward Islands (the Grenadines Bank constitutes approximately 11% of the coral reef area of the Lesser Antilles).
All islands have a variety of surrounding fringing, patch and barrier reefs, and there are numerous offshore reef shoals on the bank. There are reef-related seagrass and lagoon habitats and areas of extensive mangrove forests.
Sea turtles nest in the area (particularly in Carriacou and Union Island) and several species of whales have been sighted. All these values add up to present a harmonious blend of natural features within a "cultural seascape" of high scenic value.
Seascapes: The varied and beautiful seascapes of the Grenadines formed by the islands, rocks and surrounding coral reef habitats are a key feature of the area and a main attraction for visitors.
Marine Habitat and Biodiversity: The diverse marine habitats associated with coral reefs are home to rich marine biodiversity which is the basis of much of the tourism activity (scuba diving, snorkeling, whale watching). The islands and the surrounding marine environment are considered as an integrated terrestrial and marine ecosystem.
Although no one single natural feature dominates, there are a large collection of values that have global significance (i.e. Tobago Cays) which occur from remnant patches of tropical dry forest, mangroves, sea turtle (4 species) nesting beaches, seabird nesting colonies, coral reefs, marine mammals (including whales) and volcanic features.
Terrestial Heritage: The islands are believed to be home to a variety of endemic terrestrial species, e.g. the recent discovery of a new species of lizard on Union Island. Twenty-six bird species that are regionally threatened are found in the islands.
Geology: The area is an active subduction zone with undersea volcanoes and seismic activity. Geologically, the Grenadines are special because of their volcanic origin. This volcanism is still present in phenomenon such as Kick’em Jenny, which is an active submarine volcano located north of mainland Grenada.
There is also another less active submarine named Kick’em Jack in the area. These volcanoes are important as their explosion may result in the creation of new land masses, and new marine life has been found by Northern Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) in their vicinity.
Cultural Heritage: The cultural heritage of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a result of the blending over the centuries of the African, Carib, East Indian, Portuguese and European influences.
- Indigenous People’s culture and history such as the site where the Black Caribs were exiled before shipment to Central America. With respect to Colonial history, there is a unique history linked with the Garifuna people — the Caribs who were taken to British Honduras after their defeat by the French and the British.
- Big Drum Nation Dancing — African traditions have been well preserved in Carriacou from the days of slavery.
- Boat Building and sailing — the Grenadines are renowned for their indigenous boat building skills and seafaring traditions. There is also the rich historical aspect of shipwrecks in the area. Some reports noted that Grenada alone has 163 wrecks, one of these being a slave ship wreck off of Isle de Ronde. The Grenadines have been touted as some of the best sailing grounds in the world. Historically, Carriacou was once described as the healthiest place in the Caribbean to live, as historically people sailing from Europe were brought to Carriacou to acclimatize before making their way to their final destinations. Carriacou had a supply of fresh water and its beaches were easy locations to land boats.
- Pre-Columbian History — There are many pre-Columbian settlement sites throughout the islands that have the potential for heritage tourism and to provide opportunities for research. The pre-Columbian history of the Grenadines is very rich. This history has been well documented by Dr. Kirby, with his research on petroglyphs in the region producing linkages to South American petroglyphs. This Amerindian history is still present in the names of the Grenadines (Bequia — land of clouds; Carriacou — land of reefs). Many indigenous artifacts have been found in the region.
- Rites of Passage (Weddings,Tombstone Feast, Wakes) — Many rituals and rites have been preserved in the Grenadines
- Caribbean Vernacular Architecture
- Fortifications — A system of colonial fortifications exists throughout the islands
- Festivals (Maroon, Masquerade, Carnival, Shakespeare Mas)
- Music and Dance (Quadrille, Parang, String Band)