Saba (/ˈseɪbə/; Dutch pronunciation: [ˈsaːbɑ]) is a Caribbean
island which is the smallest special municipality (officially
“public body”) of the Netherlands. It consists largely of the
potentially active volcano Mount Scenery, at 887 metres
(2,910 ft) the highest point of the entire Netherlands.
Saba has a land area of 13 square kilometres (5.0 sq mi). As
of January 2013[update], the population was 1,991 inhabitants,
with a population density of 150 inhabitants per square kilometre
(390/sq mi). Its towns and major settlements are The Bottom
(the capital), Windwardside, Hell's Gate and St. Johns.
2 Geography and ecology
4.2 Education and health
4.3 Same-sex marriage
9 Notable people
10 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Saba from the Encyclopaedie van Nederlandsch West-Indië
Christopher Columbus is said to have sighted the island on
13 November 1493. He did not land, being deterred by the island's
perilous rocky shores. In 1632 a group of shipwrecked Englishmen
landed upon Saba. They stated they found the island uninhabited when
they were rescued; however, clear evidence has been found indicating
that Caribs and
Arawak Native Nations have lived on the island.
In 1635 a stray Frenchman claimed
Saba for Louis XIII of France. In
the later 1630s, the Dutch Governor of the neighboring island of Sint
Eustatius sent several Dutch families over to colonize the island for
the Dutch West India Company. In 1664, refusing to swear allegiance to
the English crown, these original Dutch settlers were evicted to
St. Maarten by Thomas Morgan and other English pirates that had
been convicted to stay on Jamaica, to return within the months and
years following. The
Netherlands have been in continuous possession of
Saba since 1816, after numerous flag changes (British-Dutch-French)
during the previous centuries. By 2016 the island had
been French for 12 years, English for 18 years, and Dutch for 345
In the 17th and 18th centuries Saba's major industries were sugar,
indigo and rum produced on plantations owned by Dutchmen living on St
Eustatius, and later fishing, particularly lobster fishing. In the
Saba was believed to be a favorable hideout for Jamaican
pirates. England also deported its "undesirable" people to live in the
Caribbean colonies, and some of them also became pirates, a few taking
haven on Saba. The island of
Saba is forbidding and steep, a natural
fortress, and so the island became a private sanctuary for the
families of smugglers and pirates. The most notable native Saban
pirate was Hiram Beakes.
Later, legitimate sailing and trade became important, and many of the
island's men took to the sea, during which time "
Saba lace", which is
pulled thread work, a Spanish form of needlework introduced by a nun
from Venezuela, became an important product made by the island's
women. Throughout the late 19th century and early
20th century, the primary source of revenue for the island came
from the lacework produced by the women. During this period of time,
with most of the island's men gone out to sea, the island became known
as "The Island of Women".
The remains of the settlements of 1630–1640 can be found on the west
side at Tent Bay. These settlements were destroyed by a landslide in
the 17th century.
A status referendum was held in
Saba on 5 November 2004. 86.05%
of the population voted for closer links to the Netherlands.
Geography and ecology
Saba island as viewed from the north, with Mount Scenery's peak in the
Saba consists largely of the potentially active volcano Mount Scenery.
At 887 metres (2,910 ft) the volcano is the highest point within
the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The vegetation of
Saba is mainly composed of woodland forest with
ferns and damp soil, and many mango trees. Visitors refer to Saba's
forests as "the Elfin Forest" because of its high altitude mist, and
mossy appearance. A woodland reserve was created and named "Elfin
Forest Reserve". Saba's lush plant and animal wildlife is diverse and
is cared for by the
Saba Conservation Foundation.
There used to be forests of Mountain Mahogany trees until a hurricane
in the 1960s destroyed many of the trees, which are Freziera undulata
in the family Theaceae. Despite the common name, these trees are not
related to other Mahogany species. One species of true mahogany tree
is found planted on the island at lower levels, and that is the
small-leaved mahogany Swietenia mahagoni, Meliaceae. The native
mahogany trees are considered to be at risk of becoming extinct on
4.3 kilometres (2.7 mi) southwest of
Saba is the edge of the Saba
Bank, a very large submerged atoll with especially rich biodiversity.
Saba Bank is the top of a sea mount and it is a prime fishing ground,
particularly for lobster.
A non-governmental conservation organization,
Foundation, helps protect the nature and culture of the island.
Saba's government house.
Saba became a special municipality within the country of the
Netherlands after the dissolution of the
Netherlands Antilles on 10
The head of the island is the Island Governor, current held by
Jonathan G. A. Johnson.
The population of
Saba (the Sabans) consists of 1,991 people who
come from all over the world. Saba's small size has led to a fairly
small number of island families, who can trace their last names back
to around a half-dozen families. This means that many last names are
shared around the island, the most numerous being Hassell and Johnson.
Most families are an intermixing of Dutch, English, Scottish, and
African heritage. The population is also descended from the Irish who
were exiled from that country after the accession of King Charles I of
England in 1625. Charles exiled these Irish to the
Caribbean in an
effort to quell rebellion after he had forcibly procured their lands
for his Scottish noble supporters.
Saba was traded among the many European nations that
fought for power in the region. Slaves were also imported to work on
Saba. In recent years
Saba has become home to a large group of
expatriates, and around 250 immigrants who are either students or
teachers at the
Saba University School of Medicine.
Both English and Dutch are spoken on the island and taught in schools,
and both languages are official. Despite the island's Dutch
affiliation, English is the principal language spoken on the island
and has been used in its school system since the 19th century.
English is the sole medium of instruction in
Saba schools. Dutch
government policy towards
Saba and other SSS islands promoted English
medium education. English can therefore be used in communications
of and to the government.
Saba English, a form of Virgin Islands Creole English, is the local
Education and health
Saba is home to the
Saba University School of Medicine, which was
established by American expatriates in coordination with the
government of the Netherlands. The school adds over 400 residents when
classes are in session, and it is the prime educational attraction.
A.M. Edwards Medical Center is the major provider of healthcare for
Saba (as in
Bonaire and Sint Eustatius), marriage is open to same
sex and opposite sex couples following the entering in force of a
law enabling same-sex couples to marry on 10 October 2012. The
first same-sex marriage was performed on
Saba on 4 December 2012
between a Dutch and a Venezuelan man, both residing in Aruba, where
same-sex marriage is not performed.
Main article: Economy of Saba
Since 2011 the
U.S. dollar has been the official currency,
Netherlands Antillean guilder.
Saba is primarily livestock and vegetables, especially
Saba lace, also known as "Spanish work", is actually drawn
thread work, and as of 2013[update], it is still produced on the
A playground on Saba.
The tourism industry now contributes more to the island's economy than
any other sector. There are about 25,000 visitors each year.
a number of inns, hotels, rental cottages and restaurants.
known as the "Unspoiled Queen" of the Caribbean.
especially known for its ecotourism, having exceptional scuba diving,
climbing and hiking.
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport offers flights to and from the nearby
islands of St. Maarten and Sint Eustatius. There is also a ferry
service from St. Maarten; the ferry boats "Dawn II ~ The
and "The Edge" both travel to
Saba three times a week. In addition,
there are anchorages for private boats.
About 150 species of fish have been found in Saba's waters. A main
draw for divers are the pinnacle dive sites, where magma pushed
through the sea floor to create underwater towers of volcanic rock
that start at about 300 feet (91 m) down and rise to about 85
feet (26 m) beneath the surface. The waters around
designated as the
Saba National Marine Park
Saba National Marine Park in 1987, and are subject
to government regulation to preserve the coral reefs and other marine
Saba Conservation Foundation
Saba Conservation Foundation has operated a hyperbaric
chamber in case of diving emergencies, since 1991.
A view of the village of Windwardside, taken from Mount Scenery.
There is one main road, known as "The Road". Its construction was
masterminded by Josephus Lambert Hassell who, contrary to the opinion
of Dutch and Swiss engineers, believed that a road could be built.
He took a correspondence course in civil engineering and started
building the road with a crew of locals in 1938.
After five years of work the first section of the road from Fort Bay
The Bottom was completed. It was not until 1947 that the first
motor vehicle arrived. In 1951 the road to
Windwardside and St. Johns
was opened and in 1958, the road was completed. Driving "The Road" is
considered to be a daunting task, and the curves in
extremely difficult to negotiate. Driving is on the right hand side.
In 1963
Saba residents built the Juancho E. Yrausquin
Airport. This 400-metre (1,300 ft) landing strip is reputed to be
the shortest commercial runway in the world, and is restricted.
Only trained pilots flying small
STOL airliners, such as the Twin
Otter and the
Britten-Norman Islander may land there, as well as
helicopters. Consistent air service from
Sint Maarten and Sint
Eustatius is available through Winair.
In 1972, a pier was completed in
Fort Bay to access the island. Travel
is also provided by ferry services to and from
Sint Maarten with the
Dawn II and The Edge.
Of note are 800 steps carved from stone that reach from Ladder Bay to
the settlement known as The Bottom. Until the late 20th century,
everything that was brought to the island in boats and ships was
carried up by hand using these steps. The steps are now often used by
tourists who wish to experience an intense climb.
Saba is highly dependent on fossil fuels
imports, which leaves it vulnerable to global oil price fluctuations
that directly impact the cost of electricity. Current electricity
supply depends entirely on one diesel power plant located close to sea
level by the harbour and it is estimated that fifty per cent of the
cost of electricity is related to the price of fossil fuels and
According to a report by the Low Emission Development Strategies
Global Partnership (LEDS GP), the Government of
Saba made the decision
to transform the island to 100% sustainable energy to eventually
eliminate dependence on fossil fuel-generated electricity. This new
energy policy is defined by the ‘Social development plan
2014–2020’ and ‘Saba's energy sector strategy’. Intermediate
targets are 20% renewable electricity by 2017 and 40% by 2020.
Main article: Culture of Saba
Saba's houses have a cottage look with red roofs. The lifestyle is
slow and old-fashioned with little nightlife, even with the emergence
of an ecotourism industry in the last few decades. Sabans are proud of
their history of environmental conservation, calling
Saban women continue to make two traditional island products, Saba
Saba Lace is handstitched lace, which the
island's women began making in the late 19th century and built into a
thriving mail-order business with the United States.
Saba Spice is a
rum drink, brewed with a combination of spices.
As in other
Caribbean locations, Sabans throw an annual Carnival.
Saba's Carnival takes place the last week in July and includes
parades, steel bands, competitions, and food.
Another event held in the capital
The Bottom is '
Saba Day'. This is
the national day of the island in which all offices, schools and
stores are closed. The island celebrates its diversity and culture
through various activities and parades.
The Bottom holds host to a
concert at the sports field where local and other
come to perform.
The most popular sports on
Saba are football, futsal,
softball, basketball, swimming and volleyball. Due to the small
population, there are few sport associations. One of them, the Saba
Volleyball Association, is a member of ECVA and NORCECA.
The primary school is
Sacred Heart Primary School in St. John's.
There is one secondary and vocational school in
Saba the Saba
Comprehensive School in St. John's.
Saba University School of Medicine
Saba University School of Medicine is a for-profit medical school
located in the
Saba capital The Bottom.
Saba University confers upon
its graduates the
Doctor of Medicine
Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree.
School of Medicine was founded in 1992 as an international alternative
to U.S. and Canadian medical schools. Since its founding, more than
2500 students have earned their medical degree at Saba. Saba
University's graduates practice primarily in the
United States and
Saba website features graduates who have gone on to
appointments at medical centers in the US and
Canada including the
Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, the
University of Toronto,
Yale University and more. In recent years,
99% of Saba's students have passed the
USMLE Step 1 exam on their
first attempt. Class sizes are 80-100 students per matriculating
class. Students complete the first 20 months (five semesters) of basic
science medical education on the campus on
Saba and return to the US
Canada to complete clinical rotations at hospitals affiliated with
North America portal
^ a b "Population of Dutch
Caribbean (1 January); sex, age: Saba".
Statistics Netherlands. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
^ a b c English can be used in relations with the government
"Invoeringswet openbare lichamen Bonaire,
Sint Eustatius en Saba" (in
Dutch). wetten.nl. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
^ The domain for the
Netherlands Antilles has remained active after
its dissolution. The
ISO 3166-1 alpha-2
ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code BQ was established for
the entity "Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba". ("ISO 3166-1 decoding
table". International Organization for Standardization. Retrieved
2010-12-17. ) An Internet ccTLD has however not been established
by the IANA, and it is unknown if it will be opened for registration.
^ Mangold, Max. Duden – Das Aussprachewörterbuch. In: Der Duden in
zwölf Bänden, Band 6. 7. Auflage. Berlin: Dudenverlag;
Mannheim : Institut für Deutsche Sprache, 2015, Seite 747.
^ "Wet openbare lichamen Bonaire,
Sint Eustatius en Saba
(Law on the public bodies of Bonaire,
Sint Eustatius and Saba)". Dutch
Government (in Dutch). Retrieved 14 October 2010.
^ "Preserving Tradition on the Island of Women and Lace". Brigham
Young University. 2015-09-21. Retrieved 2017-06-12.
^ "Antillen opgeheven". NOS Nieuws. 2009-11-18. Archived from the
original on 2009-12-24. Retrieved 2010-10-10.
^ Dijkhoff, Marta, Silvia Kowenberg, and Paul Tjon Sie Fat. Chapter
215 "The Dutch-speaking
Caribbean Die niederländischsprachige
Karibik." In: Sociolinguistics / Soziolinguistik. Walter de Gruyter,
January 1, 2006. ISBN 3110199874, 9783110199871. Start: p. 2105.
CITED: p. 2108.
^ "Burgerlijk wetboek BES, boek 1" (in Dutch). Government of the
Netherlands. Archived from the original on 4 April 2016. Retrieved 12
^ "Aanpassingswet openbare lichamen Bonaire,
Sint Eustatius en Saba"
(in Dutch). Government of the Netherlands. 1 September 2010. Archived
from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
Saba records first gay marriage on Tuesday". St. Maarten Time. 4
December 2012. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved
4 April 2016.
^ "First Gay Marriage In Dutch Caribbean".
Curaçao Chronicle. 4
December 2012. Archived from the original on 1 April 2016. Retrieved 4
^ "First same-gender wedding in
Caribbean Netherlands". Dutch
Caribbean Legal Portal. 5 December 2012. Archived from the original on
4 April 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
^ "Plein". Pleinplus.nl. 2009-12-02. Archived from the original on
2011-07-24. Retrieved 2010-10-10.
^ a b "Welcome to Saba!".
Saba Tourist Bureau. Retrieved 30 July
^ a b Witte, Brian (13 July 2013). "Diving off Saba, the Caribbean's
unspoiled queen". The Miami Herald. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
^ "SCF to receive subsidies for refurbishment of hyperbaric chamber
and mooring system". SabaNews. 23 November 2012. Archived from the
original on 30 July 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
Caribbean Travel Guide". LukeTravels.com. Retrieved
^ Slawych, Diane (16 November 2006). "Saba's road less travelled".
Canoe.ca. Retrieved 1 August 2013. [dead link]
^ Tweddle, Andy (20 January 2011). "Five of the smallest airports in
the world". Business Traveller. Panacea Publishing. Retrieved 22
^ "Energy Snapshot
Saint Martin & Sint Maarten" (PDF). National
Renewable Energy Laboratory. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
^ a b "Towards 100% sustainable energy on the
Caribbean island of
Saba". Low Emission Development Strategies Global Partnership (LEDS
GP). Retrieved 15 March 2016.
^ "Cruyff Courts Saba/Sint Maarten/Sint Eustatius". Windward Roads
B.V. 1 January 2007.
^ "1st Cruyff Court Dutch
Futsal Championship 2007 (Aruba)".
RSSSF. 6 February 2008.
Saba and St. Eustatius compete in softball". Pearl FM Radio –
Pearl of the Caribbean. 27 June 2011.
^ Home. Sacred Heart Primary School. Retrieved on February 28, 2018.
Saba Comprehensive School. Retrieved on February 28, 2018.
^ a b "About
Saba University". Saba.edu. Retrieved 2016-10-24.
Saba - Alumni Profiles". www.saba.edu. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
Bolles, Joshua K. (2013). Johnson, Will, ed.
Caribbean Interlude: The
Saba the Rock. Will Johnson.
ISBN 978-1-4675-6637-7. . A first-person account by an
American journalist of the eleven months he spent on
Saba in 1931,
illustrated with photographs of
Saba at that time.
Nielsen, Suzanne; Schnabel, Peter. Folk Remedies on a Caribbean
Island, the Story of Bush Medicine on Saba.
ISBN 9789990407594. Aguide to many of the plants of Saba,
including their medicinal properties.
Shrout, Richard Neil (1989). "The mysterious island of Saba" (PDF).
South Florida History Magazine (2). pp. 3–7 – via
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saba.
Saba travel guide from Wikivoyage
Island Government of
Saba's Tourist Bureau homepage
Saba's online newspaper with local information
Saba Conservation Foundation's homepage
Saba (N.A.): Bos en nationale parken. 54pp.
Dutch Museum Saba, West India Company and Dutch antiquities
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport
Saba Comprehensive School
Coat of arms
Islands of the Dutch Caribbean, the former
Bonaire (Klein Bonaire)
Curaçao (Klein Curaçao)
Netherlands Antilles was dissolved on 10 October 2010
Aruba seceded from the
Netherlands Antilles on 1 January 1986
Public bodies of the
Countries and dependencies of North America
Antigua and Barbuda
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
San Andrés and Providencia
St. Pierre and Miquelon
British Virgin Islands
Turks and Caicos Islands
United States Virgin Islands