Ile-a-Vache is a small island in the south of Haiti near the city of Les Cayes. Imagine this: rolling hills, blue water and sky, and beautiful beaches as far as the eye can see!
Ile-a-Vache is “about 8 miles (13 km) long, 2 miles (3.2 km) wide, with an area of 20 square miles (52 km2). The western end of the island is up to 150 metres (490 ft) high and rolling with several small swamps in the valleys; while the eastern section is swampy, and has a lagoon with one of the largest mangrove forests in Haiti. ”
(Source : Wikipedia)
One day my Mom suggested that we went to the Dominican Republic when I would come back for my 2 weeks vacations, then it hit me: why would I have to go all the way to the neighbor’s when my country offers equally beautiful scenery, some of which are still very badly exploited and sometimes not at all. After some research, I decided on Ile-a-Vache because of its relative remoteness and singularity.
It takes up to 3 hours to get to the city of “Les Cayes” from Port-au-Prince, the capital. After getting there, you must take a boat to get to the island. It takes about 15mn for the crossing. This is where the transportation system issue arises. Upon our arrival to Les Cayes, we were completely lost not knowing where to go and how to get to the meeting-point the hotel organization had given us. This shows how at lost you can feel when you enter a city in Haiti, thus the need for a proper transportation system with hubs acting as marks / fixed points to guide tourists, as well as locals, traditionall taxis (tap-taps ; see post below) and pedestrians. The entrance of the city was marked with a huge kind of landmark and a roundabout which was really confusing since we didn’t know where to go. Finally, we were advised by the hotel to ‘pay’ a moto-taxi to ‘show’ us where the meeting point was. After that, we got into the boat and headed to the island.
Once on the boat, it seems as if all the worries for “getting there” etc left us. There was us and the sea. Blue and infinite. As we started to approach the island, we could admire the beautiful landscape and the beaches.
The welcoming from the hotel staff was great. Good service and over all great attention to details by the staff for you own comfort and well-being. Food was pretty awesome too, with a nice choice of traditional dishes and of course sea food.We stayed at Abaka Bay Hotel Resort.
Day 1 was pretty much all getting used to being on an island with no noise, no cars, and no trouble. Just the sound of the waves crashing down on the coast.
Day 2 was about discovering the island a little bit more. We went on a little hike to the other side of the island all the way to Port-Morgan, the other hotel on the island who takes the name of a british pirate, Captain Morgan, whose 34-gun ship sinked in the waters long ago. We met with locals, who are basically all fishing-men and who seem to live peacefully there.
We came back to our hotel by boat. There are other little island that can be explored around, like the lover’s island, which is basically a little stack of sand in the middle of ocean.
Day 3 was getting used to the idea of ‘going back’ to the main island.
Going to Ile-a-Vache was pretty eye-opening on my part. Yes I know there are many beautiful places in Haiti and yes I’ve seen some of them (I hope to see most of them) but this trip got me thinking about all the way this potential can be put to good use. For tourism, local jobs etc..
On our hike, on top of a mountain,we could see a good portion of the island around us: below us layed kilometers of beaches, white sand and blue waters. Beauty forgotten. Not exploited. But how much is too much? Would Ile-a-Vache would be the same with cars, roads and all-included hotels everywhere?
Nevertheless, I do believe a good balance could be found.
Living in Haiti has always been in my mind kind of like an adventure, you never know what’s next or where exactly you’re headed. But, like all those tourists who come back from this beautiful little country of yours, there’s something that leaves us uncannily and pleasantly surprised that makes us come back.. for more!