You’re Going to Need a Smaller Boat: Island Hopping in the Grenadines

We spent the morning hanging around the dock looking for a boat to take us over. The weather was taking a turn for the worse when we finally found a captain. Among his various gigs, he navigated his single-motor craft several times a week over to Carriacou and loaded plastic tanks of fuel to sell on Union Island, which lost its only gas station in a deadly 2020 explosion.

After a drenching ride across the swells, we docked with some relief and joined the line at a dark customs warehouse, where we spent about an hour with fidgeting yachties and local merchants, sharing the vibe of a rare moment when the line between tourist and resident blurred.

After clearing customs, we checked into the waterfront Green Roof Inn, furnished with old leather chairs and mosquito-net-shrouded beds, and ventured out at dusk as the tree frogs whistled. We considered renting a scooter from the wonderfully diversified Wayne’s Car Rental and Bar, but the videos of Caribbean hip-hop artists like Koffee and Popcaan playing on a big screen there drew us in, and we lingered late into the night nursing Carib beers instead.

The next morning, we hiked a steep trail to a jungle redoubt called the KIDO Foundation, founded decades ago as an animal sanctuary and an environmental school. Tiny boas lay coiled in hollowed-out coconut-shell bird feeders, a colony of fruit bats hung from a ceiling in one meeting room, and a rescued one-winged hawk perched inside a room-size cage.

KIDO offers a variety of voluntourism opportunities, including patrols to protect turtle nesting sites. The group has planted tens of thousands of mangroves and offers a Green College after-school program that, among other projects, teaches island students how to nurture and plant indigenous trees nearly wiped out by colonial cravings for exotic wood.

In the dark before dawn the next day, we boarded our last ferry, to Grenada, called the Spice Island for its nutmeg, clove and cinnamon production. To get there, the ship barreled over Kick ’Em Jenny, an active underwater volcano that occasionally belches gases so dangerous that boats must change course. Jenny wasn’t kicking that day.

In the warm breeze, facing backward, we watched the Grenadines dwindle into the pink horizon. Frigate birds and boobies drifted above the deck, sometimes resting on the radar array before plunging toward a meal. On all sides, the sea undulated, the color of mercury. For two hours, sleepy passengers dozed and rocked. On this last crossing of our voyage from speck to speck of land, everything — water, flora, fauna and human — seemed to be living in sync.

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