One of the most famous parties in the world is of course Carnival. Although this festival may conjure up ideas of erotic spectacles of naked women covered in paint and roaming the streets, in reality Carnival is one of the most culturally significant celebrations for many countries, and a historic festivity in the Caribbean islands.
Experiencing Carnival in the Caribbean is a trip that’s highly recommended to anyone. A suggested route is to start in Trinidad & Tobago, working up to Granada, Barbados and St Lucia, stopping in Jamaica before finishing in the Cayman Islands. Visiting these six different islands really gives you an understanding of the traditions behind the culture, with influences from African music and dance coming together to celebrate this notorious festival. For the Caribbean people, Carnival thus becomes an important way to express their rich cultural heritage. Depending on the country the party may vary from days to weeks. Glamorous dancers and musicians head to the streets for a great parade, exhibiting a wide variety of sculpture, masks and costumes. People dance in costumes that depict a common theme and which usually take months to create, demanding energy and patience to weld, paint, sew, glue, and apply feathers and glitter.
In the streets you’ll be entertained by bands of the famous Caribbean steel drums, the percussion instrument which originated in Trinidad & Tobago and produces a rich sound that automatically creates a feeling of wellbeing and relaxation. During the carnival the heart of the musical celebration has to be the calypso. The players, called pannists or panmen, hang steel pans around their necks and walk the streets with huge smiles on their faces, spreading joy and following the extravagant dancers.
In the twin island country of Trinidad & Tobago, each island has its mysteries and wonders. The people are friendly and kind, always wishing to help others and cracking jokes here and there. Taxi drivers have even been known to offer distressed visitors a bed for the night when they are struggling to find their hotel. Tobago can be reached by ferry (costing $US 10 for a round trip) and their main language is English, although they have two English-based creole languages of their own.
In Jamaica, the country celebrates Bob Marley’s life and work with the Earth Festival, held on the 6th February (his birthday) in his hometown of Nine Mile. Public transport to the festival is not easy to understand and quite peculiar, consisting of 6-seater minibuses usually filled with 11 to 12 people which you have to stop in the middle of the street. If you struggle to figure it all out do not fear; you may meet Bob Marley’s sons Ky-Mani and Rohan who will probably arrange transport with their friends instead.
Needless to say, a trip to the Caribbean is an incredible voyage filled with passion which will quench your thirst for self-discovery and adventure. The Cayman Islands, Barbados, Granada, and St. Lucia are equally heavenly hotspots, especially if you are looking for crystal clear seas and beaches where you can scuba dive, go crazy with jet skis and much more. They also offer adventure parks for all ages and the greatest and cheapest cocktails. The best part is that despite being popular tourist destinations, you tend to see a lot of local people, meaning you can really sink into the culture without even trying.
Sofi Paz Vivo
Pictures courtesy of PeterTea, Louis Vest and Grand Velas Riviera Maya via Flickr.