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Saba's Rich History

​From the time of Saba's Golden Age in the 1800s, most Saban families were headed by Sea Captains who passed their sea-going skills down from generation to generation through the early 1900s.

Pronounced "Say Bah”

This dormant volcano was attractive to travelers even long ago. Receiving more than 45+ inches or 100 cm of annual rainfall, Arawak and Carib people were drawn to Saba as a source for fresh water and rich volcanic soil. Until the Summer of 2001, it was believed that Saba's first settlers were Caribs around 700 A.D.

Although Saba is one of 6 Dutch Caribbean islands, its unique culture strongly reflects the original British settlers with the Dutch influence appearing later. In the early 1600s, the first European settlers of this 5-square mile island were from Scotland and Ireland. They brought their lilting accents and rich heritage with strong religious beliefs and interesting architectural styles. The Dutch officially proclaimed St. Maarten, Statia, and Saba in 1816; however, the first official Dutch government was not installed on Saba until almost 60 years later. Today these origins are still evident as you listen to a Saban story or look in any direction.

Historical Map of the island of Saba
Spring Bay archaeological discoveries - Saba Dutch Caribbean

Saban Pride...

An archeological dig conducted in 1990 uncovered Carib artifacts in Spring Bay. Spring Bay, so named for the source of fresh water, is where European settlers fought Caribs over the rights to water usage. The once shipwrecked Scotish-Irish constructed a proper well which was not used for some time but has been restored.   The 40' (13m) well has been restored (Jan 2001) by the Saba Conservation Foundation with funding help from The Princess Bernard Fund.  Stop by the Saba Trail Shop or talk to our crew to get your landmarks in Windwardside to start this trek.

The Dutch Archaeological Team that conducted work in the late 80's and throughout the 90's returned to Saba in 2001 after a 5-year break. They  focused on the intact campsite known as Plum Piece. This archeological site is significant as it proves occupation on Saba during "preceramic times" or 3300 BP! According to the archeologists, Plum Piece is the oldest site known in the Lesser Antilles and therefore very significant. A few days before finishing a dig in January 2006, the Dutch team found another campsite--this one closer to the sea. Team Leaders Corinne Hofman and Menno Hoogland of the Caribbean Research Center of Leiden University in Holland trek to the Plum Piece dig area each day. The team's theory is that a seasonal tribe of Indians were on Saba to build their dugout canoes, using the campsite as a working area. The team believes they visited in the spring eating land crabs and shearwater birds which are found on Saba early in the year.

The Saba Heritage Center

The Saba Heritage Center is located just beyond the Post Office in Windwardside.  The center serves as a mini-museum and research facility where you can meet the resident archaeologist.

The opening of the Saba Heritage Center in Windwardside - Saba Dutch Caribbean
Harry L.jpf

Trail Shop & Harry L. Johnson Museum

Just across the street from Lambee's Place (home to Sea Saba's office, Chez Bubba Bistro, Kakona, and more), the Saba Trail Shop awaits. pick up your nature tag, arrange your guided hike or relax and watch a film made by True Magazine on Saba in 1937. A short trail takes you from The Trail Shop to The Saba Museum. This restored Saban home complete with original hearth, holds Indian artifacts, interesting furnishings, and loads of information to read.

Saba and the Sea

From the time of Saba's Golden Age in the 1800's, most Saban families were headed by Sea Captains who passed their sea-going skills down from generation to generation through the early 1900s. Since its settlement in the 1600s as a safe haven for the families of pirates, Sabans have been famous throughout the Caribbean and the World for their seamanship skills. Simon Bolivar made several stops in Saba to recruit sailors in his fight for South American independence. A statue of Bolivar now stands outside the museum in Windwardside - a gift from the government of Venezuela. In 1997, (to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Captain's Quarters Hotel which has since closed), the owners asked Saba's historian - then Senator Will Johnson to compile biographies of Saba's most famous sea captains. Will Johnson is also the author of Saban Lore, an interesting compilation of old Saba tales.

Saba's growth rings can be traced from the first settling of Europeans, the visits by foreign trading ships and the adventurous local ship captains who returned home from far and exotic ports. 

Importing the first cars to Saba - Not as easy as it sounds!
The impressive S-Curve on Saba's Road - Dutch Caribbean

Life gets a little easier...

The next significant change to Saba came with the building of the road (1935-1965) which lead to the first plane landing on Saba in the 1960s. Saba's first real harbor was built in the early '70s. In December 2002, the new Airport Building officially opened when the original building was destroyed by Hurricane George in 1998.

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