The magic of the Caribbean: How to plan your trip

Published Jan 8, 2018


The Caribbean is a magical, beautiful part of the world. Consisting of constitutional monarchies, territories of France, the UK, the Netherlands, the USA, democracies and more, the region is an exciting and vibrant destination. Gorgeous beaches, beautiful water, great food and amazing people make this destination seriously bucket-list-worthy.

To help you plan, I thought a little bit of information on the Caribbean may be useful.

The region takes its name from that of the Carbs, an ethnic group present in the Lesser Antilles and parts of adjacent South America at the time of the Spanish conquest of America. 

The word "Caribbean" has multiple uses with the principal ones being geographical and political. The Caribbean can also be expanded to include territories with strong cultural and historical connections to slavery, European colonisation and the plantation system. Then we have the United Nation’s geoscheme for the Americas which presents the Caribbean as a distinct region within the Americas.

Physiographically, the Caribbean region is mainly a chain of islands surrounding the Caribbean Sea. To the north, the region is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico, the Starits of Florida and the Northern Atlantic Oceann, which lies to the east and northeast. To the south lies the coastline of the continent of South America.

The climate of the area is tropical to subtropical and the region enjoys year-round sunshine, divided into 'dry' and 'wet' seasons. The latter six months of the year being wetter than the first half.

Hurricane season is from June to November, but they occur more frequently in August and September and are more common in the northern islands of the Caribbean. Hurricanes that sometimes batter the region usually strike northwards of Grenada and to the west of Barbados. The principal hurricane belt arcs to northwest of the island of Barbados in the Eastern Caribbean.

Water temperatures vary from 31°C to 22°C all around the year. The air temperature is warm, in the 20s and 30s °C. The northern islands, like the Bahamas, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, may be influenced by continental masses during winter months, such as cold fronts.

The languages of the Caribbean reflect the region's diverse history and culture. There are six official languages spoken in the Caribbean:

- Spanish (official language of Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico)

- French (official language of Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, St. Barthelemy, and St. Martin)

- English (official language of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands)

- Dutch (official language of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, and Suriname)

- Haitian Creole (official language of Haiti)

- Papiamento (a Portuguese and Spanish-based Creole language) (official language of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao)

Dozens of the creole languages of the Caribbean are widely used informally among the general population and there are also a few additional smaller indigenous languages. Like the history and the scenery, the Caribbean languages are diverse and beautiful.

With a variety of entities making up the Caribbean, the visa requirements are not standard. Good news for South African passport holders is that neither the Dominican Republic, nor the Bahamas or the Turk and Caicos islands currently require visas. 

Some of the other areas allow you to get a visa at the airport and in some instances your multiple entry Schengen visa is suitable. Our advice is to check with your travel agent when you book as they are always up to speed with the latest requirements.

South Africa is well served by many airlines and so getting to the Caribbean can happen in a variety of ways. A few options are to fly with: Emirates and to connect via Dubai; Air France via Paris; LATAM via Sao Paolo; and more!

Despite the Caribbean being around 6 hours behind South Africa, if you choose to holiday at an all-inclusive resort such as with Club Med (it’s advisable to opt for all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, where the quality to price ratio is good – meaning, the quality you get for the money you spend is good value), you don’t need to worry too much about jetlag! 

“Our resorts always have relaxing areas or fun activities on offer – so if you want to sleep into the new time zone, or ‘power through’ with activities and parties, we’ve got you covered! So search ‘Caribbean’ on our website and find out more about the individual resorts. Our G.Os cannot wait to share their Caribbean paradise with you!’ says Olivier Hannaert, MD of Club Med Southern Africa.

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