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  • Flag                                   Coat of Arms                           Tourist Board

    Saba (pronounced sā-ba) - is a Caribbean island and the smallest special municipality (officially public body) of the Netherlands. It consists of the potentially active volcano Mount Scenery, which at 887 metres (2,910 ft) is the highest point within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

    Saba, including the islet of Green Island, became a special municipality after the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles on 10 October 2010. The island has a land area of 13 square km (5.0 square mi) and a population of 1,991 inhabitants. Its current towns and major settlements are The Bottom (the capital), Windwardside, Hell's Gate and St. Johns.

    The official language of Saba is Dutch, but English is the principal language spoke on the island and in its schools since the 19th century. English, therefore, can be used in communication with the government, although there is a local dialect. Since January 2011 the U.S. dollar has been the official currency, replacing the Netherlands Antillean guilder.

    Saba is home to the Saba University School of Medicine, which was established by American expatriates in cooperation with the government of the Netherlands. When classes are in session, the population rises by over 300.

    The origin of the name "Saba" is often attributed to the Arawak Indian word for "rock," which was "siba." The true source of the name is of Greek and Arabic (colloquial Arabic Saba سابا and classical Arabic صباح) origin, and the Biblical queen of Sheba – meaning "morning".

    Christopher Columbus is said to have sighted the island on 13 November 1493, but he did not land, being deterred by the island's rocky shores. A group of Englishmen shipwrecked at Saba in 1632 and said when they were rescued that it was uninhabited. There has, however, been evidence found indicating that Carib or Arawak Indians may have actually been on the island.

    The French claimed Saba in 1635 for Louis XIII of France. In the late 1630s, the Dutch Governor of the neighboring island of Sint Eustatius sent several Dutch families over to colonize the island for the Dutch West India Company. These Dutch family names included Heyliger, Leverock, and Vanderpool. The Netherlands have been in continuous possession of Saba since 1816.

    In the 17th and 18th centuries, the major industries of Saba were sugar and rum, and later fishing, particularly lobster fishing. Saba was also believed to be a favorable hideout for Jamaican pirates. As Saba is a forbidding, steep and natural fortress, Saba became a private sanctuary for the families of smugglers and pirates. The most notable native pirate was Hiram Beakes, who famously quipped, "Dead men tell no tales".

    Legitimate sailing and trade later became important and many of the island's men took to the seas, during which time Saba lace became an important product made by the island's women. During this period of time, with most of the island's men gone out to sea, the island became known as "The Isle of Women". The remains of the settlements of 1630–40 can be found on the west side at Tent Bay, which was destroyed by a landslide in the 17th century.

    Geography and Ecology
    The vegetation of Saba is mainly composed of woodland forest with ferns, damp soil, and mango trees. There used to be forests of Mountain Mahogany until a hurricane in the 1960s destroyed many of the trees. Despite the common name, these trees are not related to other Mahogany species. There is one species of true mahogany, the small-leaved mahogany, that is found on the island, planted at lower levels. Unfortunately these native mahogany trees are at risk of going extinct on Saba.

    Visitors refer to Saba's forests as "the Elfin Forest" because of its high altitude mist, and mossy appearance. There has been a woodland reserve created and aptly named "Elfin Forest Reserve". Saba's lush plant and animal wildlife is diverse and is cared for by the Saba Conservation Foundation.

    4.3 km (2.7 mi) southwest of Saba is the edge of the Saba Bank, a very large submerged atoll with especially rich biodiversity. Saba Bank is the top of a sea mount and it is a prime fishing ground, particularly for lobster.

    People and Culture
    The population of Saba (the Sabans) consists of only 1,991 people who come from all over the world. The island's small size has led to a fairly small number of island families, who can trace their last names back to around a half-dozen families. This means that many last names are shared around the island, the most numerous being Hassell and Johnson. Most families are a rich intermixing of Dutch, Scottish, and African heritage. The population is also descended from the Irish who were exiled from Ireland after King Charles I ascended to the throne of England in 1625 and exiled them to the Caribbean after he had forcibly procured their lands for his Scottish noble supporters.

    Slaves were also imported to work on Saba. Both English and Dutch are spoken on the island and taught in schools.

    Sabans are mostly Roman Catholic by faith; however, there is also a Wesleyan Church Holiness community on the island. Other religions practiced on the island include Jehovah's Witnesses, Anglican, Seventh-day Adventist, Muslim, and Jewish faiths.

    As Saba is now part of the Netherlands (by becoming a Netherlands public body), the island recognizes and performs same-sex marriage. The first marriage performed on the island – as well as the first same-sex marriage in the Caribbean Netherlands – was held on Tuesday, 4 December 2012, in which a male couple, a 26-year old Aruban and a 27-year old Venezuelan, were joined in matrimony.

    Useful Links
    Click here for an Overview of Saba. Go to the Saba tourism page for information on Events and Activities.  For more information on this Caribbean destination, visit the official Saba Tourist Bureau website. 

    Note: Information provided on this page were derived from a combination of internal research and readily-available outside sources, such as destination tourism offices, official press releases and marketing media kits.

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    Fast Facts

    Capital: The Bottom

    Motto: "Remis Velisque" (Latin),"With oars and sails" (English)

    Anthem: "Saba you rise from the ocean”

    Climate: Daytime temperature on Saba averages 80°F. Easterly trade winds and the mountain create ever changing cloud movements. Winter evenings often require a light sweater. The temperature is always cooler on the top of Mt. Scenery.

    Dress Code: Casual sportswear is appropriate dress anytime on Saba. Bathing suits are not appropriate within the villages. A light wrap may be needed in the evenings in the wintertime. Being shirtless in any of Saba's villages is actually against the law!

    Getting Around on Saba: Transportation on and around the island is made easy by our taxi drivers. Sit back and enjoy the ride and let your driver be your guide.

    Taxis are readily available on Saba.

    Restaurants and Night Life: Each village has several small and individually unique restaurants. Most offer outdoor dining as well as a friendly bar. Cuisine is a mix of American, European, Chinese, Italian, and the local blend of Indonesian and West Indian Creole. On weekends there is always an "island-wide party" that everyone is invited to. It may be disco music, steel band drums at poolside, or a barbeque at the bay under the stars.

    Shopping: On Saba you will find many beautiful, delicate linen items with hand-drawn threadwork designs. Artists find Saba a perfect inspiration for their work that includes watercolors, photographs, jewelry and books.

    In Windwardside, stroll the main road to Windwardside's mini-mall where you will find many souvenirs, boutiques, dive shops, the tourist office, an art gallery, several restaurant/bars, a supermarket and a bank; and nearby the post office and more dive shops, hotel, restaurants and bars.

    Time Zone: Saba is on Atlantic Standard Time year round. During day light savings time, noon in New York is 1 PM. on Saba. During spring and summer, the hour is the same as EST on the east coast of the US.

    Diving: About 150 species of fish have been found in Saba’s waters. A main draw for divers are the pinnacle dive sites, where magma pushed through the sea floor to create underwater towers of volcanic rock that start at about 300 feet (91 m) down and rise to about 85 feet (26 m) beneath the surface. The waters around Saba were designated as the Saba National Marine Park in 1987, and are subject to government regulation to preserve the coral reefs and other marine life. The Saba Conservation Foundation has operated a hyperbaric chamber in case of diving emergencies, since 1991.

    Saba Lace: Saba lace, also known as "Spanish work", is actually drawn thread work, and as of 2013, it is still produced on the island. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Saba lace was a major export. In the 1870s, as a young lady, Mary Gertrude Hassell Johnson, was sent to a Caracas convent in Venezuela for study—where she learned the difficult craft. On her return, lacework spread through the island. The women of Saba began a mail-order business, and would copy addresses of businesses off shipping containers from the United States, and write to the employees. Often, they would get orders for the lacework, and it started a considerable cottage industry. By 1928, the women were exporting around $15,000 (USD) worth of lace products each year.

    Tourism, Ecotourism, Conservation: The island of Saba is relatively new to the tourism industry, with about 25,000 visitors each year. The island has a number of inns, hotels, rental cottages and restaurants. Saba is known as "The Unspoiled Queen" of the Caribbean. The island is especially known for its ecotourism, having exceptional scuba diving, climbing and hiking. A non-governmental conservation organization, Saba Conservation Foundation, helps protect the nature and culture of the island.

    Taxes & Tipping: The government room tax of 5% is automatically added to your bill. A service charge of 10% or 15% will also be added to your bill. Tips for taxis and guides are at your own discretion.

    Travel Information
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    All travel to Saba connects in St. Maarten.

    Several major airlines from North America, Europe and South America carry daily flights into St. Maarten's Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). Special charter flights are also available from major cities during the winter season. There are currently two airlines and two ferry services that operate schedules to Saba's shores from her international hub.

    By Air from St. Maarten
    Winair (Windward Islands Airways) makes four or more flights each day to Saba to Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport. Inter-island flights can be arranged, some are scheduled weekly.

    By Sea from St. Maarten
    Dawn II (Tuesdays, Thursdays, & Saturdays)
    Dawn II is based at Fort Bay, Saba, traveling three times a week to Dock Maarten Marina, Great Bay, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten.

    Departs Saba at 7:00 am ~ Arrives Dock Maarten at 8:30 am
    Departs Dock Maarten at 4:30 pm ~ Arrives Saba at 6:00 pm
    Reservations Recommended. Check-in at least 30 mins. prior to departure to clear immigration.

    The Dawn II features a fully air conditioned passenger cabin with comfortably padded seats inside, seating outside to enjoy the cool caribbean breeze andlots of space for luggage and dive gear!

    Dawn II is available for private charters for private groups or island hopping.

    The Edge (Wednesday through Sunday)
    Travels to Saba from Sint Maarten (from Simpson Bay/Pelican Marina) on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays, departing Sint Maarten. This means of transportation is good for travellers who overnight on Sint Maarten. Please note prices and schedules do change, check with the operator before your trip.

    Customs and Immigration
    A valid passport, birth certificate or voter's registration is needed to enter as well as a return or ongoing ticket. 

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