When we think about tropical islands, specific images come to mind. We see crystal clear water, beautiful weather and for some islands we think of volcanoes. For a lot of the islands around the world and the majority in the Caribbean region, volcanoes are responsible for their formation. This has occurred through centuries of eruptions, hot flowing lava, and nature at its best. However, Barbados - the tropical heaven that sits apart from the Caribbean archipelago at an eastern angle, does not share this volcanic past. The island nation of one hundred and sixty-six (166) square miles was the cause of shifting tectonic plates, an action much less dramatic than an exploding volcano.
You see, Barbados is located in a unique position, Latitude 13º10' N and Longitude 59º 32' W. This means that it is located in the Atlantic Ocean to the east and not the Caribbean Sea. The island was literally birthed from the sea over a million or more years, when tectonic plates from the Atlantic and Caribbean collided, with the Atlantic plate pushing under the Caribbean plate. It was the result of a very slow crash of two forces over hundreds of thousands of years which first created Barbados’ coral reef then an island which slowly emerged from the sea. Notably, the hills and tall rock formations you may come across, especially in the parish of St. Andrew are the first coral formations that surfaced from the ocean. Essentially, Barbados is one big coral reef protruding from the sea.
Due to this geological formation, Barbados has many caves both inland and along its coasts. One of these is Harrison's Cave, a popular tourist attraction. There are approximately 12 barrier reefs at different points across the island, supporting an underwater ecosystem which is of great importance to the island. Additionally, these reefs protect the coastlines from the effects of waves and storm surges.
Conservation & Protection
Barbados’ coral reefs help to protect our beautiful white sandy beaches that are loved by many around the world - Just one of the great features of this lovely island of Barbados. Additionally, the economic value of both reef marine life and those beautiful beaches is priceless. As such, the government of Barbados has gone to great lengths in preserving marine life and its natural habitat. From sustainable tourism legislation to the formation of agencies whose sole purpose is to protect, preserve and educate locals and visitors about the importance of marine life and the reef systems - the challenge of coral reef preservation is being tackled head-on. The Coastal Zone Management Unit is the leading organisation charged with this mandate. This unit, which is supported by legislation, oversees areas such as shoreline protection, development control and preserving marine life / habitat management. One major enemy of marine life is the structural development of the island, and this must be mitigated and controlled with proper building techniques and cooperation.
However, the island is also impacted by factors, not within its control. Climate change, for example, poses the greatest threat. The increasing temperature of the waters, rising sea levels and more active hurricane seasons are destroying Barbados’ marine life and Caribbean marine life as well. This fight must be taken seriously at the global level with each individual doing his part.
Making Protecting our Island Fun!
Preserving our island for coming generations is also undertaken by private enterprise, with several businesses seeking to protect and preserve. Among these, some educate, while offering unforgettable experiences. As a result, visitors to the island have lovely options to choose from to discover the remnants left behind from Barbados’ original formation. Here are some of the enchanting and treasured experiences that you must indulge in to truly appreciate Barbados’ coral stone paradise.
Atlantis Submarine: The Atlantis Submarine is the perfect way for you to get up close to the underwater world of Barbados. The submarine dives to depths of 150 feet. For 40 minutes the underwater voyage reveals gorgeous coral reefs and shipwrecks. On this must-do adventure, the knowledgeable pilot of the submersible vessel educates you along the journey. Not only giving you information about what you see but about the importance of the island's marine ecology.
Eco Dive Barbados: As the name suggests, Eco Dive Barbados is an environmentally friendly dive company with the mission of providing clients with unique and personalised diving experiences. Barbados has many wonderful diving sites, including Carlisle Bay - there the variety of fish species, picturesque corals and shipwrecks is a diver’s heaven. The team at Eco Dive will make sure you have a memorable experience no matter your level of diving expertise.
Harrison Cave: Harrison Cave Barbados is a must if you want to learn about the ecological origins of Barbados. The active cave system located in the middle of the island takes you away from the coastline and deep into the bowels of the island. There, you will discover waterways, large and small caverns, stalagmites and stalactites and delight in the unique history of the location. There are several options for how you can explore the cave system. You can ride a tram into the depths, there are walking tours or for the more adventurous - crawl through tiny crevices, wade through chest-high water and climb through small spaces to obtain a unique perspective of the cave.
Animal Flower Cave: The cave, located in the northern parish of St. Lucy, is like no other. After taking the stairs to descend into the depths, the cave system opens up to showcase the power of the Atlantic Ocean. Created through centuries of crashing waves, the sea cave features natural pools and animal life waiting for you to experience. The Animal Flower Cave is a natural wonder that gives you a great understanding of how Barbados was formed.
Folkstone Marine Park: An ideal spot for experienced divers, the Folkstone Marine Park is one of the ways human intervention was used to help preserve marine life in Barbados. The marine park, which can be found in St. James is home to an artificial reef which was made from the sinking of the ship Stavronikita. At a depth of 120 feet she awaits all willing divers! Conversely, the not so adventurous can snorkel around the reef system which is closer to the shore and not so deep. On land, you can find the Folkstone Marine museum where you can learn more about the marine life of Barbados. It is also interesting to note that the Bellairs Research Institute of the McGill University of Canada is located a stone’s throw away from the Folkstone Museum.
Your next vacation should take place in Barbados - a coral stone formation pushed from the depths of the ocean. The wondrous beauty of the beaches and Barbados’ marine life is here to be enjoyed and experienced, and great care is being taken to ensure that the beauty is enjoyed by generations to come.