The Caribbean is a magical, beautiful part of the world. Consisting of constitutional monarchies, territories of France, the UK, the Netherlands, the USA, democracies and more, the region is an exciting and vibrant destination. Gorgeous beaches, beautiful water, great food and amazing people make this destination seriously bucket-list-worthy.
To help you plan, I thought a little bit of information on the Caribbean may be useful.
The region takes its name from that of the Caribs, an ethnic group present in the Lesser Antilles and parts of adjacent South America at the time of the Spanish conquest of America.
The word “Caribbean” has multiple uses, with the principal ones being geographical and political. The Caribbean can also be expanded to include territories with strong cultural and historical connections to salvery, European colonisation and the plantation system. Then we have the United Nation’s geo-scheme, which presents the Caribbean as a distinct region within the Americas.
Physiographically, the Caribbean region is mainly a chain of islands surrounding the Caribbean Sea. To the north, the region is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico, the Straits of Florida and the Northern Atlantic Ocean, which lies to the east and north-east. To the south lies the coastline of South America.
The climate of the area is tropical to sub-tropical and the region enjoys year-round sunshine, divided into dry and wet seasons, the latter six months of the year being wetter than the first half.
Hurricane season is from June to November, but they occur more frequently in August and September and are more common in the northern islands of the Caribbean. Hurricanes that sometimes batter the region usually strike northwards of Grenada and to the west of Barbados. The principal hurricane belt arcs to north-west of the island of Barbados in the Eastern Caribbean.
Water temperatures vary from 22°C to 31°C all through the year. The air temperature is warm – 20-30+ °C. The northern islands, like the Bahamas, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, may be influenced by continental masses during winter months, such as cold fronts.
The languages of the Caribbean reflect the region’s diverse history and culture. There are six official languages spoken in the Caribbean:
- Spanish (official language of Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico)
- French (official language of Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, St Barthelemy and St Martin)
- English (official language of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Maarten, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the US Virgin Islands)
- Dutch (official language of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius, St Maarten and Suriname)
- Haitian Creole (official language of Haiti)
- Papiamento, a Portuguese- and Spanish-based Creole language (official language of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao)
Dozens of the Creole languages of the Caribbean are widely used informally among the general population and there are also a few additional smaller indigenous languages. Like the history and the scenery, the Caribbean languages are diverse and beautiful.
With a variety of entities making up the Caribbean, the visa requirements are not standard. Good news for South African passport-holders is that the Dominican Republic, Bahamas and the Turk and Caicos islands don’t currently require visas. Some of the other countries allow you to get a visa at the airport and in some instances, your multiple-entry Schengen visa is suitable. Our advice is to check with your travel agent when you book, as they are always up to speed with the latest requirements.
Despite the Caribbean being around six hours behind South Africa in terms of time, if you choose to holiday at an all-inclusive resort such as with Club Med (it’s advisable to opt for all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, where the quality-to-price ratio is good), you don’t need to worry too much about jet-lag!
“Our resorts always have relaxing areas or fun activities on offer – so if you want to sleep into the new time zone, or ‘power through’ with activities and parties, we’ve got you covered! So search ‘Caribbean’ on our website and find out more about the individual resorts. Our GOs cannot wait to share their Caribbean paradise with you!’ says Olivier Hannaert, MD of Club Med Southern Africa.
by Carel Nolte for Club Med