Montserrat, a British-owned Caribbean island, is commonly regarded as the emerald isle of the Caribbean. This is due to the fact that it resembles the craggy hills and green valleys of Ireland and also because of its Irish ancestry. This gorgeous island was once renowned as a luxurious retreat but today has been left almost abandoned by the tourist industry after a cataclysmic volcanic eruption. However, the pristine beaches and colorful underwater environment still live up to the standard set in the early 20th Century. Montserrat is one of the four Leeward Islands, southeast of Puerto Rico and southwest of Antigua.
While archaeological research indicates that prehistoric people once lived on Montserrat, more recently it came under British rule in 1632. At this time, anti-Catholic violence in Ireland brought many Irish to the island as indentured servants. As time passed, land owners brought in slaves to build up the sugar and rum industries. Following the abolition of slavery, the island was sold off to small holders. In the late 20th Century, Montserrat became a popular tourist destination. This was only enhanced when The Beatles producer, George Martin, opened a branch of his recording studio in the peace and solitude of gorgeous Montserrat.
In recent years, the tourism boom of the 1900s has all but disappeared. The island was devastated by natural disasters not once but twice. First in 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck the island full force, damaging 90% of the structures. Then in 1995, the Soufrière Hills volcano, long dormant, erupted. Between 1995 and 2010, the volcano’s continual eruptions have made the southern half of the island uninhabitable and have also destroyed the island’s airport and ferry terminal. However, the northern half of the island still thrives. Tourism is just beginning to return to this verdant island. Be one of the first to rediscover this tropical paradise and book your dive vacation to Montserrat soon.
The main attraction on Montserrat is, of course, the volcano. Keep in mind that you won’t be allowed to go to the northern half of the island as it is still off-limits to visitors due to the lava flow. You can, however, see the destruction by visiting the Montserrat Volcano Observatory or by taking a boat tour around the island. Otherwise, the southern half of Montserrat is steeped in verdant beauty and as such plays host to a variety of hiking trails, many of which are independently accessible. In addition, the pristine beaches are blessedly uncrowded, so make sure you take some time to unwind during your dive vacation. Of course, if you want to spend your entire trip under the water, we wouldn’t blame you at all.
There are daily flights from Antigua to John A. Osborne Airport operated by Fly Montserrat. It is also possible to reach Montserrat by the frequent ferry service from Antigua. Once you are on the island, rental cars and bicycles are the best way to move around. Boat charters, taxis and minibuses are also a possibility. Hitchhiking is considered acceptable and relatively safe.