Discover the cool charm of Labadee
Spending time on this tiny jewel island in the Caribbean, made me discover how friendly the people are and their way of lifestyle.
By i.c. Golina
Labadee is a port located on the northern coast of Haiti within the arrondissement of Cap-Haïtien in the Nord department. Haiti is not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola. Haiti and Dominican Republic share one island but two separate nations. Labadee, has a private resort leased to Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. until 2050. Royal Caribbean has contributed the largest proportion of tourist revenue to Haiti since 1986, employing 300 locals, allowing another 200 to sell their wares on the premises for a fee and paying the Haitian government $12 USD per tourist. The location is named after the marquis de La Badie, a Frenchman who first settled the area in the 17th century. The peninsula and a village were named Labadie. The cruise company spells the name “Labadee” to make it easier for English-speakers to pronounce.
The resort in Labadee is completely tourist-oriented and is very safe around the area. It is a sun and sandy beach style of get away. There is a personal security force and a controlled group of Haitian merchants that are given sole rights to sell their merchandise and establish their businesses in the resort. The site is fenced off from the surrounding area. The ships are no longer forced to tender passengers ashore as a passenger pier has been built.
The time I spent on this tiny remote village was short but all I wanted to do was relax, explore and see how locals live on this seaside village. It is always nice and exciting to get to see new places and the only way to see the place is to engage and connect with the locals because most of the time they take you to places where tours never would. Labadee is very limited and did not have a lot of options of things for people to do on their own, apart from organised tours. The main area for the market stalls and small shops are right at the front where the cruise-liners dock so walking around and shopping for souvenirs is an easy option. Also, walking to the beach for swimming and sunbathing is just metres away.
Since self-guided activities were very limited, I decided to take a tour of the seaside local village. To get there, it is only accessible by boats, dinghy, canoes or other improvised floating devices that are not life threatening. It was 10-15 minutes ride on the boat to reach this tiny seaside village on the side of the mountain. It wasn’t on a flat land like many seaside villages. It was absolutely mind boggling to see how this local people live on this untouched and rugged mountain side area and yet just right next to their doorstep is the beautiful crystal clear blue sea. Modern style of housing of any kind cannot be seen. It was absolutely beautiful. I just had to question myself, how do this people live and what do they do to survive because there is nothing for them to sell to the tourists.
Ignoring this thought, we were welcome to a taste of local mock/cocktail drink and the bar built with shrubs and improvised bench top were virtually right on the seashore. After few minutes of relaxing, our tour of the village begun with the introduction of the area, what not do in the village and how long the tour was going to be. It was supposed to be 30 minutes tour but instead went for almost an hour. Everyone that was on the tour were so keen to learn about the way local people live and survive in this tiny island. Though this tiny country is in turmoil, embedded in corruption and hit with natural disasters through this tiny island many times, yet locals tend to keep on surviving in this paradise island in the middle of the Caribbean sea.
Our tour guide was very informative, descriptive and passionate about her own people. During the tour, we were shown how the village people improvise trees, plants and bush materials for various purposes.
It was totally a learning curve for everyone of us on the tour. I just felt totally exhausted by looking at what they had to go through to survive. Many times we take things for granted in our own comfort home where everything is easily accessible and yet we are constantly complaining.
After the tour, we had a relaxing time swimming and having few more local style mock/cocktails which absolutely tasted very tasty with a touch of fresh coconut juice. Finally, it was time to go back home and sad goodbye to the local people.
From a personal perspective: Taking time to visit this poor countries with poor standard of living, I seems to find that most them are very happy the way they live, especially on the coastal areas where it is unpopulated. They may not see the outside world in their lifetime but at least they see the outside world from the people that are visiting them. They seems to enjoy the material things they have with less complicated lifestyle. This way of living does remind us of our past what our forefathers have lived.