Saba: A Pristine Island Paradise with Big Eco-Ideas

Photo courtesy: Cees Timmers

Saba is one of the most visually stunning and lovingly conserved places on earth. Contained within its pristine five square miles is a unique combination of natural and manmade wonders. Like a magnificent green emerald soaring 5,000 feet from the sea floor (3,000 above sea), Saba is a truly unspoiled tropical paradise that has been beautifully maintained and thoughtfully developed over the centuries.

Although indigenous Caribbean people passed to and fro for thousands of years, the first permanent settlement was established by 17th century pioneers, the ancestors of today’s population. Beyond what was necessary for survival, the island has been virtually untouched until the 21st century. And yet Sabans have thrived while also developing a global reputation as a world-class eco destination.

Photo courtesy: Cees Timmers

Tourists come from all over the world to discover the Island’s many allures. Above sea, the local microclimate has produced extraordinary wonders including the protected Elfin forest atop Mount Scenery. The result is a photographer and hiker’s paradise. Even the local vernacular blends sensitively into the natural scenery; an exquisite twist on traditional Caribbean design mixed with Old World architectural styles.

With its excellent weather and abundant sunshine, combined with modern horticultural techniques, Sabans have become even more food independent with the creation of organic, hydroponic farms that dot the peaks. The sea is also a reliable and excellent source of food for the island. The Saban fishing banks are some of the most abundant and protected in the region.

The island is committed to a “Clean, Green and Safe” experience for both locals and visitors. While sustainability is a centuries long effort on Saba, the island’s formal plans began in 1987 with the establishment of The Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF), an NGO whose mission is to preserve and manage Saba’s natural and cultural heritage.

Photo courtesy: Cees Timmers

Saba’s coastlines and waters have been declared a national marine park, and many other efforts have been implemented to safeguard the islands natural offerings. In the area of power, the Saban government plans to transform the island into 100% sustainability in the energy sector with the goal of eventually eliminating reliance on fossil-fuel generated electricity. 40% renewable electricity is targeted for 2020.

The Dutch Government and Saba Electric Company NV is focused on upgrading the current power plant into a more energy efficient and clean operation as well as insuring it is less vulnerable to the whims of nature. The partnership developed the first solar system on island. Projected estimates are that it will generate 20% of Saba’s energy. The next step is a second solar plant and potentially a wind turbine.

2018 begins the next phase of building an even more resilient, healthier Saba. Financed by the Netherlands, Saba’s government, the harbour and airport are being upgraded, made safer and more environmentally compatible. Waste management and water management will be improved using higher environmental standards and anew water bottling plant will insure a continued supply of affordable, high quality drinking water.

Saba’s recycling facility will be elevated to higher environmental standards. A new recycling campaign focuses on redesigning the final waste separation at the landfill to reduce the need to burn, resulting in improved air quality.

Both the government and local population are focused on a more sustainable lifestyle combined with preservation of the island’s unique natural and manmade heritage while moving into the future with new, more sophisticated tools. Saba is a small island imbued with traditional respect for one’s environs combined with a sophisticated world view and very big, yet doable, eco-ideas. It’s a place where you can truly live safely off-the-grid while maintaining the ability to connect to the world at a whim.