logo
Connect with us: facebook twitter youtube

Travel Report: Grenada - The Spice Island


The island of Grenada in the Caribbean is as varied, intense and enjoyable as the spices it’s famous for, says Jo Mattock


I have a new favourite sensation: jumping into the cool pool below a waterfall after a long, hot hike. And if that waterfall is secluded, surrounded by lush rainforest and a 45-minute sweat-inducing walk from the nearest road, then all the better. It’s refreshing, exhilarating – and a far cry from the Caribbean experience I was expecting, sitting on a white sand beach sipping rum cocktails.

It’s just one of the many surprises I found on Grenada. Situated in the south eastern Caribbean, the island has the classic white sand beaches fringed by palms, but is dominated by high mountains and lush jungle in the interior. It’s this rainforest we’re exploring, hiking to Seven Sisters’ Waterfall.

Our hiking guide here, and earlier in the day at Grand Etang National Park, is Telfor Bedeau. Something of a local legend (‘This guy’s the grand master,’ says another hiker we pass) he’s been hiking the hills of Grenada since 1962, literally carving out new paths with his machete. Though you could get to the waterfall by yourself – there’s a clear though very steep path – it wouldn’t be the same journey. Telfor is a wealth of information about the flora, fauna and history of the island.


He details the damage done by Hurricane Ivan, which hit Grenada in 2004 devastating around 85 per cent of the island, and describes how the forest is slowly recovering. He also points out spices, fruit and vegetables being grown on a small farm as we walk through – nutmeg, cinnamon, callaloo (a huge-leafed spinach), yams and much more.

I discovered more about local produce on a tour of the island with Mandoo Tours. In the town of Gouyave, we visited a nutmeg processing plant. In this old warehouse, nutmeg is dried, cracked open and packaged in a traditional – and labour intensive – manner. It’s a big industry for Grenada, which produces 40 per cent of the world’s nutmeg. The tree was brought to the island from Indonesia in 1843, and thrived in the warm, tropical climate.

Another product Grenada (and much of the Caribbean) is known for is its rum. The River Antoine Rum Distillery is the oldest on the island, and has been making the spirit since 1785. Incredibly, it’s still made in exactly the same way – there are no computers or machines here. The press that squeezes the sugar cane is powered by the original water wheel, fires are stoked by hand, and sugar cane juice is transferred between boiling vats by ladle. Touring the distillery is like stepping back in time. The rum itself tastes sweet and, as it’s at least 75 per cent proof, incredibly warming! Unfortunately, the original spirit is too alcoholic to take on an aeroplane (it’s considered a fire hazard). There’s a slightly diluted version that’s made for tourists to take home.

After a tour, what better way to get a flavour of the island than with a local chef? I was treated to a morning in the company of Brian Benjamin, owner and chef of BB’s Crabback Restaurant in St George. Though born on the island, and taught to cook by his grandmother, Brian spent many years in London and ran a successful restaurant by the same name in Ealing before returning to the Caribbean.

We had an early morning start and visited the town’s market before the day got too hot (and before the choice produce had been snapped up). We sampled avocados as big as melons and plums as tiny as nutmegs, and drunk fresh coconut water to keep cool.

Brian’s an advocate of using fresh, seasonal and above all local produce in his restaurant. Fish, meat, and spices all come from Grenada, and some of the fruit and vegetables are grown on his own family’s land. Most of the produce sold in the market is grown by small landowners on the island too, and it’s well worth a visit for a flavour of local life. Saturday is the main market day.

We spent the rest of the morning with Brian and his wife Anna at the restaurant, which is right on the harbour in St George’s. In the kitchen, Brian demonstrated how to cook up a traditional Caribbean breakfast – saltfish sousse. It’s salty, fishy, coconuty, and absolutely delicious served with a little hot pepper sauce and ‘bakes’, a savoury roll made from doughnut-like batter. Brian’s cooking style is quick and generous – a Jamie Oliver-style bit-of-this-bit-of-that approach.

Next, we sampled crab and ‘lambi’, or conch. Brian beats the fish with a mallet before cooking, coats it in tandoori spice and quickly fries it. The crab, cooked with spring onion in a cream and white wine sauce and served in its shell, is out of this world – it’s no surprise this is the dish that gives the restaurant its name. Rich and creamy, I couldn’t finish the generous portion Brian served up, despite my best efforts.

And there was still more to come. A red snapper on a ratatouille sauce was light and fresh, but the surprising star of the show was the goat curry. I thought I couldn’t possibly eat more, but one taste of this dish (about which I was a little dubious, never having eaten goat) and it was as though I had found an extra stomach.
Although there was plenty to do, I did manage to fit in some beach and cocktail time – for many, the main draw of a Caribbean holiday, and for the active traveller, an excellent time to contemplate new adventures on this busy, bright and beautiful island.

Diving Grenada
Wrecks, reefs – and a sculpture park

Most of the diving in Grenada takes place on the calmer, Caribbean side of the island, rather than the wilder east coast of the Atlantic.

The island is well-known among divers for the quality and variety of its wrecks, including the largest wreck in the Caribbean, the Bianca C. This cruise liner, nicknamed the Titanic of the Caribbean, was sitting outside the port of St George’s, ready to put to sea, when a massive explosion in the engine room started an intense fire that consumed the ship. Burning for three days, the ship was towed out of the shipping lane and sank.

The wreck lies on the seabed at around 50m (this is a dive for experienced divers only). I visited the deck, which is between 35-40m deep. This is a fairly short dive, due to the depth, but even so, you get a sense of the vast scale of this ship – it was 180m long and capable of carrying 400 people. One point of interest on the deck is the swimming pool, still with handrails around its sides. The wreck attracts a lot of marine life – in particular look out for elegant eagle rays flying above you, and barracuda circling the bow.

Another wreck nearby is the Shakem. The cargo ship carrying a load of concrete sank 11 years ago, and now lies at 30m. In that short time, the wreck has become an incredibly diverse coral reef - angel fish hang around the gorgonian corals at its stern, and moray eels hide on its bridge. You can swim through gangways and marvel at the white coral that sits like snow on its railings and loading crane.

A highlight of diving in Grenada is the Marine Park and the underwater sculpture park that has been created here. Featuring sculptures by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, between 5-12m deep, it can be visited by divers and snorkelers. The figures, some lying, some standing or kneeling, are dotted around the reef. Sunk in 2006, they are slowly becoming colonised by corals and sponges. Some might find them a little freaky, but I quite like the way the statues are becoming habitats for fish and critters.

Many destinations have a site called Shark Reef, but Grenada’s lives up to its name. We spotted four or five nurse sharks during our dive, all lodged in hollows of the reef, snoozing. This shallow, flat reef was a lovely, relaxed dive with little current, colourful corals and huge vase sponges dotted around the reef. A couple of stingrays swam past, and there were lobsters, crabs, schools of snapper and purple creole wrasse. So lovely was it, I didn’t want to get out, even after an hour.

• Jo dived with Aquanauts (www.aquanautsgrenada.com) and ate at BB’s Crabback Restaurant (www.bbscrabback.co.uk). Tours of the island can be taken with Mandoo Tours (www.grenadatours.com) and for hikes call Telfor on (473) 442 6200. For more information on Grenada, visit the tourist board’s website www.grenadagrenadines.com.


Brian Benjamin’s Crabback
Serves 4

50g butter
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
4 dressed crabs
50ml double cream
50ml dry white wine
½ tsp hot pepper sauce
85g grated cheddar cheese
salt and black pepper
Sprinkle of parmesan cheese (optional)

Melt the butter in a pan and add the spring onions. Saute until tender but do not allow them to colour. Scoop out the meat from the crabs and add it to spring onions. Add the cream, white wine, hot pepper sauce and cheddar cheese.  Cook on a very low flame, or ideally over a heat diffuser, for 30 minutes or until thickened. Strain off any excess fat then season to taste. Put the mixture back into the crab shells, sprinkle with parmesan and place under a hot grill until golden brown. Serve hot.


Don't forget to register for the FREE Be Happy digital magazine and newsletter CLICK HERE

Travel Articles

City Break: A Coruña - a food lover's dream

City Break: A Coruña - a food lover's dream

A whistle-stop tour of A Coruña in Galicia, Spain

City profile – Valletta, Malta – European Capital of Culture 2018

City profile – Valletta, Malta – European Capital of Culture 2018

A popular destination with European holidaymakers, Malta has much to offer

Travel Report: Grenada - The Spice Island

Travel Report: Grenada - The Spice Island

The island of Grenada in the Caribbean is as varied, intense and enjoyable as the spices it’s famous for, says Jo Mattock

Marrakech, Morocco - the legendary souk city

Marrakech, Morocco - the legendary souk city

Sitting in the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains is the mystical Ochre city of Marrakech with its famous labyrinth of souks, spices and treasure troves. Jane Morgan reports

Lost in Laos

Lost in Laos

An adventurous journey through uncharted territory by motorbike gave Simon Brown the chance to discover the charms of Laos

  • City Break: A Coruña - a food lover's dream

    City Break: A Coruña - a food lover's dream

    Wednesday, 20 December 2017 19:11
  • City profile – Valletta, Malta – European Capital of Culture 2018

    City profile – Valletta, Malta – European Capital of Culture 2018

    Wednesday, 20 December 2017 17:45
  • Travel Report: Grenada - The Spice Island

    Travel Report: Grenada - The Spice Island

    Wednesday, 08 January 2014 14:13
  • Marrakech, Morocco - the legendary souk city

    Marrakech, Morocco - the legendary souk city

    Saturday, 10 November 2012 17:25
  • Lost in Laos

    Lost in Laos

    Tuesday, 17 July 2012 15:45

Latest Articles

Sample Issue

Be Happy magazine is available online for FREE – simply fill in the details HERE and we'll send you your FREE digital issue every three months as well as our regular enewsletter with the latest Competitions and Offers.

To see a sample issue of the magazine, which comprises article from previous issues, click HERE or on the cover image below.

Related Articles Travel