Saba

SAB_Island-300x300The tiny island of Saba is the peak of a 500,000-year-old volcanic cone that last erupted 5,000 years ago and is now considered inactive. The island’s highest point is the 877 metres (~2877 feet)-high Mount Scenery, which also holds the title of highest peak in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Guarded by steep cliffs on all sides, Saba has no permanent beaches and only one landing point. Much of the island is covered with lush primary and secondary rain forest that harbours an extraordinary abundance and diversity of nature.

The cloud forest on Mount Scenery is dominated by 200-year-old mahogany trees and is home to many rare and endemic species. The trees are covered with epiphytic plants and mosses that soak up rain from the surrounding clouds and supply the forest and everything downslope with moisture.

Saba’s terrestrial park stretches from Great Hole on the northeastern shoreline and the Pirate Cliffs in the northwest, up to the cloud forest at the peak of Mount Scenery. The park contains everything from arid coastal vegetation to rich cloud forest as well as the culturally important site of the island’s former sulphur mine. The cliffs around the island are important roosting and nesting sites for seabirds such as the Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus) and the Audubon’s Shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri).

Underwater, the Saba National Marine Park is famous for its spectacular pinnacles that rise from the ocean floor to within 20 metres (~60 feet) of the surface and are home to a vast array of corals, sponges and fish species. Teeming with life, these pinnacles attract charismatic sharks, tuna, foraging sea turtles, and numerous fish. Large predatory grouper, snapper and grunts flourish here too, protected by local fishing restrictions.

The Saba Bank, located 11 kilometres (~6.8 miles) from Saba, is a submerged atoll, the third largest of its kind in the world, and is rich in biodiversity. It is a flat-topped seamount rising 1800 metres (~5905 feet) from the sea floor and is crowned by a ring of growing coral reef and other marine habitats. The Saba Bank National Park was established in 2010 at a massive size of 2,679 square kilometres to safeguard the wealth of biodiversity on the Bank, including sea turtles, humpback whales and over 200 species of fish.