Caribbean Travelweb


Guide To Montserrat

 


Description

Montserrat is a lush green and mountainous island of approximately 39 square miles, and lies in the Eastern Caribbean chain of islands, some 27 miles southwest of Antigua. Known fondly as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, this pearl shaped island - 12 miles long and 7 miles wide is situated 1,150 miles north of the equator. The island rises in a series of dramatic mountain slopes to the high point of over 3,000 feet at the Soufriere in the Exclusion Zone. The islands of Redonda, Nevis and St. Kitts in the north and west, Guadeloupe to the south and Antigua to the northwest can be seen from the various points on the island.

Volcanic activity continues on and off, but Montserrat’s northern third remains a safe landing, with the volcano monitored round-the-clock by a team of scientists that keep the island’s current 4,700 residents aware of Mother Nature’s inner rumblings. In summary, Montserrat makes for an unusual holiday.

The volcano is the star attraction, most easily viewed from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. Tours are conducted by scientists several days a week. The ruins of Plymouth are today a ghost town under a blanket of ash. Daytime access to the former capital is possible with a police escort, arranged through hotels or the tourist office.

Montserrat also offers many of the Caribbean’s traditional activities. Most of the beaches are of the blacksand variety, but tawny Rendezvous Bay can be reached by a trail over a bluff or by hiring a boat. Lime Kiln Bay is a prime snorkeling location, and there’s also good diving. An expanding network of hiking trails accesses rainforests, old banana plantations and views from sea cliffs. Local forest rangers help visitors track the threatened Montserrat oriole, the national bird, and other rare species.

Getting There

By Air

To get to Montserrat, travellers should fly into Antigua and then can easily connect to two of Montserrat's daily scheduled 15-minute flights operated by FlyMontserrat and St. Vincent & the Grenadines Airline SVG Airline - Note that there are NO direct flights to Montserrat ONLY from Antigua. Charter flights can also be operated by these airlines to neighbouring islands.

By Helicopter Charter

Caribbean Helicopters

Entry Requirements

Passport/Visas

British citizens may present a driver's license or official ID card as proof of citizenship. All other must have a current passport. Entry visas may be required of visitors from Cuba and Eastern Bloc Countries, and can be obtained from British Consulate offices. An onward or return ticket is required. CARICOM citizens can travel on an official ID card, which must bear a photograph of the individual. There shall be proof of accommodation and one must possess sufficient funds to sustain one’s self for the length of the visit.

Getting Around

Public Transportation

To get around on Montserrat by public transportation, there is a choice of taxis, or minibuses. Taxis and minibuses have green license plates beginning with 'H'. You can hail a taxi or a minibus as it passes, but there are no scheduled times and no official stops. These vehicles usually stick to the main road, and it's largely a daytime service with very few running in the evening.

Local rental car companies are available, please check with your hotel for arrangements. A local driver's license is necessary if you plan to drive in Montserrat. You can apply for this at your port of entry or at the Police Headquarters at Brades. The cost is EC$50 and you will need to produce your valid driver's license from your country of origin.

Helpful Visitor Information

Money

The Eastern Caribbean Dollar is the official currency but US dollars are widely circulated and freely accepted. The rate of exchange is approximately EC$2.70 = US$1.00. All major credit cards are accepted as are Canadian dollars and traveler's cheques. You will find the American Express agent at Travel World International Limited, located at Davy Hill.

Banking

There are several Banking Services available in Montserrat. Banking hours are:

The Royal Bank of Canada opens Monday to Thursday 8am - 2pm, Friday 8am - 3pm.
Bank of Montserrat opens Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 8am - 2pm, Wednesday 8am - 1pm, Friday 8am - 3pm.
Montserrat Building Society opens Monday to Thursday 8:30 - 2pm, Friday 8:30am - 3pm.
Both the National Development Foundation and the St. Patrick’s Co-Operative Credit Union open Monday to Thursday: 8am - 1pm, Friday 8am - 2pm.

Health Requirements

No vaccination is required unless transiting or coming from an infected area within SIX MONTHS of arrival. Persons known to have come from any country which has suffered cholera, yellow fever or smallpox epidemics must have vaccination certificates. Drinking water is perfectly safe from the tap, but bottled, purified and mineral water is available.

Medical Facilities

The main hospital is located in St Johns and can handle most routine and surgical emergencies. Accident and Emergency: (664) 491-2802. Doctors in private practice are also available. A dental clinic is available, as are private dentistry services. Arrangements can be made quickly to transfer more serious problems off island by helicopter to Antigua or Guadeloupe.

Time

GMT- 4. EST +1

Climate/Clothing

Winter and summer temperatures average between 76° and 88° (F) with constant breezes from the sea and mountains. Rainfall averages 60" a year. Casual lightweight clothing is recommended; a light jacket or sweater is advisable for the late evening in the winter months. Sneakers/trainers or rubber-soled shoes are practical for hiking and mountain climbing.

Telephones

Both domestic and international direct dialing telecommunications are provided by Cable & Wireless (W.I.) Ltd. A fully digitalized telephone system, international and national services, international direct dialing (IDD), facsimile, data and telex services are available from public coin and card phones. Additionally, Cable & Wireless offers Boat phone, the Caribbean Cellular Service; leased circuits and 1-800 Toll free service. The Cable & Wireless office is located in the heart of Sweeneys and is open five days a week; Monday to Friday 8:00am-4:00pm. Tel: (664) 491-1000, Fax (664) 491-3599. Prepaid calling cards can be purchased at that office. Phone booths are located all around the island and cards can be purchased.

Electricity

220/110 volt electricity - 60 cycles

Duty Free

Gift articles up to a value of $US185 ($EC500), including the allowances of wines, spirits, cigarettes, tobacco, cigars and perfume may be imported free of duty, provided that they do not exceed what is permitted. The allowance into Montserrat is 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, half a pound of tobacco, 40 ounces of alcoholic beverage and 6 ounces of perfume. Personal items are exempt from import duty.

Activities and Attractions

Beaches

In Montserrat, the beaches are remarkable in appearance in comparison to other islands as they all, except one, Rendezvous Bay, have glistening, black sand as a feature resulting from the volcanic nature of the island. They are some of the most secluded and unspoilt beaches in the world. For swimming and sunbathing they provide the most calming and leisurely experience available, all without harassment and removed from the population of resorts and other commercial activity. Woodlands Beach, Lime Kiln Bay, Little Bay and the tiny Bunkum Bay (perfect for romantic evenings!) are among some of the island’s notable beaches to visit.

Shopping

There is a wide range of shopping available, dotted throughout the island. Many of these will be fairly close to where you choose to stay. With a little exploration, there are many surprises in store. Boutiques selling handicrafts, souvenirs, gear for water sports, fashion wear, T-shirts, toiletries and spirits can be found. Best local buys include fine souvenir items such as dolls, ceramics, tea towels and creative ornaments small enough to carry home with you as gifts. You can also choose a locally printed T-shirt from a variety of amusing designs. Montserrat’s own Sea Island goods and a variety of local jams and jellies, drinks and spirits are also available for those who love the tropical taste of Montserrat...

Restaurants

There are many options in Montserrat, from some of the best West Indian cooking in small restaurants to elegant dining in the hotels and in a lovely old West Indian home. Everyone takes great pride in their cooking, whether it be West Indian specialties or international cuisine. Try not to leave without sampling the Montserratian local dishes, such as the famed ‘mountain chicken’ (only for the adventurous), the unique souse and, of course, the hearty ‘goat water’, a thick brown stew of goat meat (which is very tasty and much like mutton). All tastes and budgets are admirably catered for. You can choose from the snackettes and wonderfully welcoming small restaurants dotted around the island, the occasional pizza, fast food snacks, bakeries or bars and ‘liming spots’ all while exploring this gentle isle during the day.

Scuba Diving

The island of Montserrat is surrounded by a shelf that gently slopes from the coast to about 60 feet depth. Then the sea floor abruptly drops into the abyss of the Caribbean Sea. The shelf is covered with sand and volcanic rocks. The rocks form the base of extensive patch reefs. The rim of the shelf slopes down at about 45 degrees making it easy to explore. Outcroppings of rocky material provide substrate for deep water reef communities.

Water Temp Average 80 F 25 C - Visibility  50 to 100 ft 15 - 30 m

Hiking

Centre Hills
With the volcanic southern mountains out of bounds, attention is focused on the forested Centre Hills, which provide several stimulating hikes. Forest rangers conduct the hikes and are knowledgeable about the trees, birds and other wildlife. You may even glimpse of Montserrat's shy national bird, the Montserrat Oriole. This hike takes around three hours and is quite strenuous but well worth the effort. The Montserrat National Trust and Forestry Division are doing some work to open up this trail. For further information, call the National Trust, who can put you in touch with the forest rangers. Prices depend on number of people.

Silver Hills
In stark contrast to the lush, forested Centre Hills, the uninhabited Silver Hills in the far north are dry and barren, nevertheless providing a most interesting though strenuous hike. These mountains are the island's oldest volcanic range (long extinct). They were eroded generations ago by sugar and cotton growing, and now grazing goats are completing the process. There are hopes however of revitalizing the area, and many local people hope that this area may one day provide the site for a new airport, opening the area for development. Take a flask of water for this hike.

Island Attractions

Oriole Walkway Trail, Montserrat
The Oriole Walkway Trail starts at Hill Top near the Bank of Montserrat andruns SW to Cassava Ghaut. Highlights include an abundance of flora andfauna. Excellent views of the Silver Hills, the northern part of the islandand Olveston can also be seen from this trail.

Montserrat Volcano Observatory, Montserrat
The Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) located in Flemings, Salem. TheObservatory is a colourful state-of- the art building equipped to monitorthe volcano on a 24-hour basis. The Observatory is strategically positionedto view the volcano and surrounding environs including the abandonedcapital, Plymouth. There is also a helipad on site. Educational talks are offered.

Blackwood Allen Trail, Montserrat
The Blackwood Allen Trail located in the Centre Hills. The hike startseither at the Grand View B & B in Baker Hill or in Mongo Hill next to theSeventh Day Adventist Shelter. Highlights include a variety of flora andfauna including our national bird - The Montserrat Oriole and the nationalflower - The Heliconia. The trail allows for stunning views of the northernvillages and the coastline below. The route also takes you through theBlackwood Allen Stream where a variety of fresh water fish species can befound.

Cot Trail, Montserrat
The "Cot" located also in the Centre Hills. The Hike starts abovetheNational Trust Compound. Highlights include the ruins of "The Cot",the onetime summer cottage of the influential Sturge Family. A hike through thelush vegetation also affords breathtaking views of the villages belowincluding some of the Exclusion Zone. A duck pond is located further alongthe trail.

Runaway Ghaut Trail, Montserrat
Runaway Ghaut Trail takes you westward through a winding decent. Highlightsinclude lush riparian rain forest. A number of fruit trees can be seenenroute. There are also more than 20 species of birds which may be seenalong the trail.

Duberry-Cassava Trail, Montserrat
Duberry-Cassava Trail starts in Woodlands. A short walk will take you to apicnic area and to ruins of unknown use and origin. This area is ideal fora relaxing afternoon with the chirping of birds and a trickling steam in thebackground.

Rendezvous Circle Trail, Montserrat
This trail is located in Silver Hills and can beaccessed either from Drummonds or Little Bay. Highlights of this trailinclude captivating views of mountains and valleys of the Centre Hills. Onthis trail you will notice the distinct difference in vegetation to that ofother parts of the island. The ruins of Rendezvous Village, the 1st IrishSettlement on the island dating back to the 17th Century can be seen on thistrail. The trail then leads to Bantin Ghaut, which is located close to aneglected gun battery. A challenging climb is rewarded with a dip in theinviting Rendezvous beach below the only white sand beach on Montserrat.

Oriole Complex, Montserrat
The Oriole Complex of the Montserrat National Trust is located on the mainroad in Olveston. Surrounded by well-established gardens, the Complexconsists of a reception area and gift shop. A small reference library and videos on the history of Montserrat are available for use by students and the general public. The Complex also houses aNatural History Centre which displays interesting exhibit about the island'shistory and heritage, biodiversity and marine life.

Jack Boy Hill Viewing Facility, Montserrat
Jack Boy Hill Viewing Facility strategically positioned to view the volcano and surrounding environs including the abandoned airport and destroyed Eastern villages. The Facility includes: - A Viewing Platform - A Concession Area - Picnic Areas with seating - Toilet Facilities - A telescope to zoom in on the volcano - A mini-trail - Barbecue Grills - Landscaped Areas

 

 
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