There’s much more to the Caribbean than lazing on beaches with a rum punch. Chloe Cann documents the natural wonders your clients have to see to believe
Glass Window Bridge, The Bahamas
With some 700 islands to its name, The Bahamas isn’t a country that’s short on coastline, but arguably there is no more striking a spot than Glass Window Bridge on Eleuthera Island. Routinely called “the narrowest place on earth”, just a sliver of road stretches over the water, joining the northern and southern parts of the island. The most jaw-dropping aspect, however, is not the waves thrashing just a few feet below, but the panoramic view: on one side is the choppy navy water of the Atlantic ocean, while on the other is the tranquil aquamarine Caribbean Sea. Anthony Stuart, director for UK & Europe at The Bahamas Tourist Office, recommends a taxi tour of the island: “Take an early morning flight from Nassau, then a taxi tour. The Queen’s Highway runs the length of Eleuthera – pull off the road just past Glass Window Bridge to pause and marvel at this narrow stretch. Then take in some history at Preacher’s Cave and the Queen’s Baths and visit one of the pink-sand beaches before heading to North Eleuthera for the flight back to Nassau.”
Getting there: Eleuthera is a three-hour ferry or short seaplane ride away from Nassau.
Book it: Seven nights all-inclusive at the four-star Breezes Resort on Nassau, in a Deluxe Garden View Room, leads in from £1,599pp, including return flights from London and private transfers, based on travel between October 16 and December 3, 2015.
Harrison’s Cave, Barbados
So vast is Harrison's Cave that walking doesn’t suffice – instead an electric tram descends into the vast series of limestone caverns and tunnels, whizzing past streams and pools of spring water as it goes. The caves remained unexplored until 1970, and only opened to the public in 1981, but the attraction has since become one of the island’s most popular. The tour guide manning the tram points out the impressive natural formations as they go, from stalactites and stalagmites to “soda straws”, or baby stalactites. The largest of the caverns, the Great Hall, measures 50 feet high and the massive stream cave system is estimated to be 1.5 miles long. Rebecca Evans, marketing executive for Funway Holidays, says: “It’s best to visit Harrison’s early morning to avoid the crowds. It’s a must-see attraction but also a good tour to keep for a rainy day if you have small children to entertain.”
Getting there: It’s 20-minute drive to Harrison’s Cave from Halcyon Palm hotel. Funway also offers tours of Harrison’s for £40pp.
Book it: Seven nights staying at the three-star Halcyon Palm, including return flights from Manchester with Thomas Cook Airlines, leads in from £489pp, based on a November 17 departure.
The Great Blue Hole, Belize
One of the world’s most iconic seascapes, Belize’s Great Blue Hole is a must for keen divers. Famous undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau even named it one of the globe’s top 10 scuba diving sites. The “submarine sinkhole” has an almost perfect circular shape and spreads across some 1,000 feet of azure Caribbean Sea, with a depth of 407 feet. The Great Blue Hole forms part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System – a Unesco World Heritage Site – which is the second largest coral reef system in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef. It’s home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world: expect to encounter all manner of tropical fish, plus Caribbean reef sharks, nurse sharks and blacktip sharks on a dive here.
Getting there: Local operators offer day trips to the Blue Hole, some three hours by boat from Ambergris Caye, several days a week.
Book it: Kuoni offers stays at Victoria House, Ambergris Caye, from £84 per person per night including breakfast. The operator can tailor make an itinerary which includes a stopover in Miami as there are no direct flights to Belize.
Sulphur Springs, St Lucia
Forget drive-in movies, entertainment in St Lucia comes courtesy of mother nature, which boasts the world’s only “drive-in volcano”. A road runs right up to and through the volcano’s seven-acre crater – the hottest and most active geothermal area in the Lesser Antilles. Clouds of steam billow from crevices, pools of mud bubble and the smell of sulphur courses through the air in this prehistoric-looking landscape. Atlyn Forde, director of marketing for the UK and Europe at the St Lucia Tourism Board, says: ‘’The volcano and sulphur springs are easy to get to either by car or an organised tour. The water temperature in certain areas is cool enough for tourists to bathe in and many believe the minerals within these waters offer health-giving qualities, which is a real pull for both tourists and locals alike.’’
Getting there: The springs are a 10-minute drive from Jade Mountain Resort. The hotel offers morning tours of the springs for $53pp.
Book it: ITC Luxury Travel offers seven nights for the price of six on stays at the Jade Mountain Resort between September 15 and December 21. Seven nights’ all-inclusive, staying in a Sky Jacuzzi Suite leads in from £4,349pp, including return flights from Gatwick and private transfers.
Dunn’s River Falls, Jamaica
With film credits that include 1988 film Cocktail, as well as James Bond film Dr. No, it’s little surprise that Dunn’s River Falls is one of Jamaica’s premiere tourist attractions. Shaded by trees and fed by spring water, the falls tumble down over limestone tiers, forming small pools of water. Expect to see human chains materialise, as visitors help one another up the terraced cascades, which measure 180 feet in height and 600 feet in length. The 90-minute climb can be attempted alone or with the help of a local guide.
Getting there: Dunn’s River Falls is a 10-minute drive from Sandals’ Ochi Beach Resort. Island Routes offers commissionable tours from $54pp.
Book it: Seven nights staying at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort, Ocho Rios, costs from £1,489pp, based on travel between September 9 and December 3, 2015. The price is on an all-inclusive basis, and includes accommodation in a Riviera Bamboo Grove Room, return flights and resort transfers.
Tayrona National Natural Park, Colombia
Encompassing wild beaches lined with tall palms and thick swathes of emerald green rainforest, Tayrona National Natural Park has got to be one of Colombia’s best-kept secrets. “It’s this combination of rainforest rolling down to deserted golden-sand beaches against the mountainous backdrop that most appeals to our clients about Tayrona,” says Rainbow’s Latin America product manager Amanda Sweeney. “After a few days exploring the charm and history of colonial Cartagena, Tayrona offers a great escape from the hustle and bustle to enjoy soft adventure activities or just well-earned downtime.” Stunning scenery aside, the park – which sits on the Latin nation’s Caribbean coastline – is also a biodiversity hotspot. More than 100 species of mammals and 300 species of birds live there, some of which are endemic to the area. Visitors are in with a chance of spotting howler monkeys, iguanas, eagles and jaguars, among other creatures.
Book it: Rainbow Tours’ Colombia & Caribbean Beach itinerary leads in at £2,215pp for 13 days, with several days spent in Tayrona. The price includes accommodation, transfers, return flights and breakfast throughout.
Parc National la Visite, Haiti
A Haitian proverb succinctly outlines Haiti’s terrain: “Dye mon, gen mon,” which means “Beyond the mountains, more mountains”. Aside from its small coastal plains Haiti is characterised by a rugged, mountainous interior. Three mountain ranges dominate the country, and at almost 9,000 feet above sea level Pic la Selle is the Caribbean nation’s highest point. Craig Vines, operations manager at Wild Frontiers, explains why the national park’s peaks merit further exploration: “Visiting Parc National la Visite offers a great chance to get away from the heat and crowds in Port-au-Prince. There is the chance to walk in pine forests, meet local farmers taking their produce to market or indulge in a spot of bird watching. It adds a beautiful rural dimension to a trip to Haiti.”
Book it: Wild Frontiers’ tour, Haiti: The Undiscovered Caribbean, leads in from £2,695pp for 11 days. Most meals are included but international flights are not.
Laguna Dudu, Dominican Republic
A hidden lagoon shaded by ferns, flanked by caves and boasting crystalline waters might sound like a paradise only found on the pages of romantic novels, but the Dominican Republic has the real deal. Laguna Dudu is comprised of two freshwater lakes connected by two underwater tunnels measuring 200 metres in length, through which you can scuba dive, admiring shellfish encrusted stalactites; it’s said to be the only such system of tunnels and lakes in the world. Those who don’t dive can make use of the rope swings, take part in cliff jumping or simply wallow in the warm waters.
Getting there: El Dudu is located just outside of Cabrera, a four-hour drive from Punta Cana. Alternatively, the Hoyo Azul is a similar lagoon, which is a 30-minute drive from Punta Cana. Several local operators also offer tours there.
Book it: A week’s all-inclusive stay at the Club Med Punta Cana leads in from £1,599 per adult and £975 per child (aged 6-11). Children under six stay free. Price valid for a January 2 departure from Gatwick.