Travel with Cooky is a website that has come on to the scene recently and is smashing it! Ryan, or Cooky, takes you on a journey that started for him at 18 when he left home to travel around Australia, and has now travelled to 50 countries. His blog is amazing and I really urge you to check it out. Today he is taking us on a journey to the Caribbean. He is going to show us his Caribbean Dream and give us some tips about travelling in the beautiful Caribbean islands.
A Caribbean Christmas would be an absolute dream for anyone in the world right now. It may not be free sailing for travel with the Covid-19 pandemic refusing to release its grip on the globe, but with a vaccine on the horizon, there is no reason why you cant plan your dream trip right now! Covid-19 may well have paused normality for the entire world but there is absolutely no reason why you cannot use the gift of time that has been a side effect of the pandemic. I truly believe that the gift of time we have been given is something we may never have again. When was the last time you thought, wow I have so much time on my hands here? Time is precious so waste it wisely. In a previous article I wrote about how to avoid being a ‘lockdown loser’ and use the time to plan your future, take up a hobby or plan that trip of a lifetime. In this article you will find out about some of my top tips for visiting the Caribbean and some of the not so well known spots that will help your trip stand out from the crowd. The only problem you will have after reading this article is choosing your first Caribbean destination.
Where Time Stands Still...
I have been lucky enough to visit 11 different Caribbean islands during my 31 years, and each is not without its charm. Picking a destination can be one of the biggest headaches you will have. The Caribbean is a place where time really does stand still. It is even known to run on its own time zone… ‘Caribbean Time’. This is where 5 minutes could mean 2 hours or it could mean just later that day. One thing you have to get used to is Caribbean time. The people are so friendly and so laid back… well they are horizontal if I am honest. Rushing does not exist in this part of the world, so leave your impatience at the airport!
Unfortunately, your time on the islands will come to an end, which seems impossible in a place where time seems to not only stand still, but go backwards as the pace of life could not move any slower.
Having been to a large proportion of the West Indies I can definitely say that this policy on life is everywhere. Not only this, it is also extremely contagious! You really can see how the islands got the saying ‘No problem, man’!
One only has to listen to Jamaica’s legendary Bob Marley to see just how true his lyrics fit life in the sunny island paradise.
Something For Everyone
This is not to say that each island is the same. Oh no, each place really has something different to offer. Do you want to have a beach for every day of the year? Antigua boasts 365 beaches around the island. Do you want waterfalls? Dominica will be the place for you with 365 waterfalls to visit across the country. Take in the beautifully scenic landscape of the Piton Mountains in St Lucia as you drive the coastal roads.
Get off the beaten track! My favourite beach in the Caribbean was one in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. How did I find it and why was it my favourite you ask? I picked up a map… closed my eyes and pointed. My finger landed in an area called ‘Smugglers Cove’. So on entering a local taxi, I asked the driver to take me there.
He looked up at me strangely with an air of intrigue and confusion spread across his face. “How dya kna bout dis place? ‘Ere is a ‘idden gem of da island where very few know’ he questioned in his iconic thick West Indian accent.
I could see exactly what he meant. The beach was only accessible off road and as I stepped
through the covering of palm trees, the coastal beach opened before me. Crystal clear water, sand as golden as the treasure that would once have been ushered through the cove.
With a local wooden hut serving rum being the only ‘structure’ around on a deserted desert
island of a beach. This was paradise like I had never experienced.
The best trips really are the ones where you avoid the mainstream tours run by tourist
companies. In almost every country I visited, I have found the best option is to actually go local. One of my top tips is it actually find a local taxi driver, ask them what they would charge for the day. Tell them you would like to see the island hotspots but wish to see the real island and local life. I guarantee that you will see so much more of the island life that the Caribbean has to offer than just on a bus with other tourists. What’s more, you also give back to the island directly by supporting the local tourism and community. I promise, for what you would pay to go on a tourist based bus trip, this would more than cover the cost of the solo local trip.
Some of the sites I saw in Jamaica really opens your eyes to actual Caribbean life. From
travelling to ‘9mile’, the birthplace of Bob Marley, to actually driving the shanty towns and
witnessing first hand the Jamaican funeral process. Driving past school children who barely see tourists who chase your vehicle just to wave and smile at you or sipping a cold beer at a local ‘hut-bar’ are things you will never see if you don't get off the beaten track and away from the tourist mainstream company trips
Go local, absorb the culture, and give back to the community directly. They will appreciate this more than you can ever imagine.
The West Indies is not only an adventure of the soul, but one for the palate too. The people all pride themselves on living off what mother earth provides and you will be astounded by the flora and fauna around you. Jerk chicken, curried goat, plantain, akki, saltfish, fritters, bananas, exotic fruits and the spice that burns fire in the soul of every Caribbean kitchen. Scotch bonnet chillies are never far away as a main ingredient as well as pimento and ginger and cinnamon that all give the incredible taste the islands became famous for.
Fresh seafood is always high on the menu, and I can guarantee nothing is frozen. In Barbados I used to watch the fishermen come back to the shores as the sun retreated behind a glistening Caribbean sea with their catch of the day. It wouldn’t be long before the fish were on the BBQ sizzling in hot sauce and spices as the aroma filled the air over the sounds of the soft reggae beats.
So, where would I recommend visiting? Everywhere! However, I would be well beyond my word limit for the article if I were to delve into this. Once you get bitten by the Caribbean bug… one island just won’t be enough!
I have been extremely lucky to witness some of these beautiful islands and amazing
destinations. You can very easily head to a Sandals Resort destination and lap up the sun sea
and cocktails. However, to me the Caribbean has so much more to offer! The culture of the
Rastafari, the history of independence, and at times, the quite eye opening poverty that is
apparent all over the West Indies. These are places of extreme beauty, but are also very poor
and at times poverty stricken nations. For this reason, crime in some areas can be extremely
high and you really need to research where you can go.
Kingston, the capital of Jamaica is one of these places. I did not visit here because of the
research I had previously done. This is not a safe city, and anyone I spoke to who had visited
the capital advised against it. They just did not feel safe.
Places like this are in every country around the world as we all know. Travelling is all about
exploration and absorbing culture and you want to do this safely. Visit parts of the islands where you will struggle to find a frown. Eat and drink with the locals and embrace their culture, but do not be naive and go there ignorant.
Jamaican Me Crazy
While visiting one of the islands, myself and some fellow travellers decided we wanted to go on a real night out. Not to overpriced tourist trap bars full of holiday makers. We wanted to witness the true nightlife of the island. We spoke to a local taxi driver earlier in the day and asked where he would recommend. He gave us a location, gave us a pick up time from our accommodation and a pick up time once we had finished the night.
On arrival, we thanked the driver and confirmed our pickup time and location at that very spot. We proceeded to walk to the entrance of the bar. An outdoor bar with grass and straw roofs offering limited shelter, a dance floor amp; DJ and a predominant essence of marijuana. We were met by armed bouncers, a sign reading ‘No Weapons Allowed’ with a cross through a picture of a handgun and an airport style security walk through.
First thoughts… what the hell have we come to. Three Englishmen walking into a local nightclub standing out like a sore thumb. Did we receive looks? Yes. Did we receive a bother? No.
We had a fantastic night and were even greeted by the management who brought us a drink as a welcome. Did we need to keep our wits about us? Absolutely, as I would anywhere and
everywhere I travel. I have been in bars in European cities and felt more awkward.
The end of the night was met when we hit our arranged curfew pickup by the driver, who met us outside the outdoor nightclub come bar come dance fest.
But as we all know, a night out anywhere in the world would not be complete without food! An old oil drum cut in half greeted our eager eyes as a local vender sold jerk chicken roadside over hot coals. A Caribbean delicacy that was irresistible at 2am after a few too many rums!
Again… this is a place and an aspect of Caribbean life I just would not have experienced had
we not asked for local knowledge.
Forget The World
The Caribbean, no matter where you choose to venture, will leave an ever lasting influence in
your heart. The people are some of the friendliest you could ever wish to meet. The food is
absolutely to die for and the West Indies is shrouded in an awe and beauty that is so difficult to put into words. They say a picture paints a thousand words. Well, seeing truly is believing in the Caribbean. Take in the sun, the rum and the reggae beats as you are transported to heaven on Earth.
I have never been to anywhere else where you can actually feel your soul revitalise in a
cacophonous mix of culture and paradise that will leave the senses tingling.
“Emancipate yourself from metal slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds”- Robert (Bob)
Ryan is the founder and creator of the blog ‘Travel With Cooky’. His brand spreads across social media by the same namesake and provides top travel tips, tricks, reviews and advice on how to travel the world for less, all from his own experiences!
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