Glass experiences the Crop Over festival in Barbados

THE vibrancy and colour of Barbados flourishes in the month of August where excitement builds all over the island for the celebration of Crop Over – a 200-year-old tradition that commemorates the end of the sugar cane season.

On arrival, I brushed off the fatigue and switched straight into carnival mode after hearing the catchy beats coming from bars and passing cars. Crop Over’s famed reputation for being a non stop party is no lie as festivities start in the day and run through to the early hours – suddenly the paracetamol I received in my welcome pack makes sense.

Crop Over carnivalCarnival dancers

A walk down St Lawrence Gap is a great representation of the island’s dynamic character. In the day it’s a foodie paradise where I was able to taste some international cuisine and even the island’s own exclusive fast-food chain Chefette. Walking past it at night, I’m shocked to believe it’s the same place as it completely transforms into a party hub filled with live music, karaoke bars and nightclubs. I pop my head into a Jazz bar before returning to Sandals to wind down and enjoy the resort’s all inclusive perks and before another busy day. Those who are after a more premium stay have the brand new Sandals Royal just next door with full access to both of the hotel bars and restaurants.

Sandals Royal A room in Sandals Royal, Barbados

Unlike other festivals, Crop Over has a lengthy duration of six weeks which pays homage to food, art and music and after recently reaching 50 years of independence, Bajan’s have even more reason to celebrate. Being the birthplace of rum, it’s almost criminal not to enjoy a refreshing rum punch or two to cherish the harvest of sugarcane which is one of the key ingredients in the rum. The iconic Mount Gay brand is the main Barbadian preference, so I made a boozy pilgrimage to the Mount Gay visitor centre and tried the many strains of rum that are made on the island. In order to get the true experience, I stopped by one of the traditional rum shacks scattered along the island’s 21 mile stretch and enjoyed a rum on the rocks whilst in the company of chatty locals.

In the day it’s not uncommon to go to a breakfast, brunch or lunch party, as it’s a fine chance to indulge in a variety of the best local and international street food accompanied by live music and djs. If you prefer something calmer, there are a number of restaurants strung along the coast that offer authentic local cuisine with a sparking blue view of the water. Lunch at Champers was particularly exceptional as I dined al fresco and caught as special sighting of islands sea turtles which often come up for air in full view of guests. In the evening I sampled an adventurous dinner at Nishi where a Japanese-Caribbean fusion gives sushi and fresh fish dishes a local twist.

Sandals Barbados BeachThe blue Barbadian water

The entire island can be seen by car however, the off road safari tour allowed me to see parts of the island from higher viewpoints situated in the more hidden parts of the land. In addition to all the on land sights, I was able to enjoy Barbados on the water when I went to a Crop Over party on a catamaran. Departing in the afternoon, the party boat cruised around the island giving us a chance to dine, drink and even go for a swim before returning after dark! During the cruise I was given the opportunity to free dive off the boat and enjoy warm Caribbean water whilst viewing the sunset – a truly memorable experience.

A lot of preparation goes into the parade and its common culture to join a ‘band’. Carnival ensembles going by ‘bands’ play a big role in the festival as they showcase their work in a competitive televised parade before the main carnival walk. My visit to a band house allowed me to see the behind the scenes work that goes into the glamorous carnival outfits, and I was shocked to learn all the costumes are handmade by the bands in their free time.

Carnival pictureCarnival day in Barbados

Finally everything climaxes for the bank holiday celebration of the Grand Kadooment carnival street parade, which marks the last day of Crop Over season. I watch countless bands parade down the streets dressed head to toe in striking carnival wear. Large sound systems follow each individual band, playing a mixture of Calypso and Crop Over classics.

The parade grows each year with more people encouraged to “jump in” and join resulting in a fantastically long half day event. As I watch the hundreds of people dancing down the street in unison, I’m filled with positivity as I admire the exuberance of it all and question whether there is any better way to celebrate such a tradition. Crop Over is not just a carnival. It’s reflection of history, rich culture and diversity.

People are encouraged to ‘jump in’ and join which results in a fantastically long parade lasting half a day. As I watch from the side I admire the exuberance of it all and question whether there is any better way to celebrate such a tradition. whilst including everyone.

by Katrina Mirpuri

Sandals Royal Barbados – opened 20 December 2017

Seven nights staying at Sandals Royal Barbados staying in a Royal Seaside Crystal Lagoon One Bedroom Oceanview Butler Suite with Balcony Tranquillity Soaking Tub costs from £3,359 per person. Price includes Luxury Included® (all-inclusive) accommodation, Butler Elite Service, 24 hour room service, return economy flights from London Gatwick and resort transfers. The price is based on travel on 3rd August 2018. Subject to availability. Price is correct at time of print. To book or for more information on Sandals Royal Barbados visit, call 0800 597 0002 or pop down to the new sandals Luxury Travel Store at 135 Fulham Road, London.

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Glass Music Editor

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