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5 Things to Explore on Haiti's island Ile A Vache

· ile-a-vache,haiti,island

For our long Easter weekend, we went to see Haiti's southernmost island called Ile à Vache (in Creole it is Lilavach). Translated this means "island with cows" and this is what it was when pirates still crossed the Caribbean Sea to conquer new places and treasures. The Ile à Vache served as meat repository for the hungry pirates. They left their cows grazing on the island's pastures and whenever they were hungry for a good steak, they went back to get a cow:

Early in the morning, we headed out of the capital towards Les Cayes. Arriving at 11am at the harbor of Les Cayes, we had a drink at the local "beach bar" and waited for our boat that left at 1pm. Unfortunately, the view of the harbor's beach was not such a nice one (but we could spot the island from far away already):

As accommodation, we chose Hotel Port Morgan. The rooms with fans (no AC) are totally fine in the month of April and we booked half-board which was good, too. Since we walked around on the island during the day, it was perfect to have a good breakfast before leaving and a nice dinner after the hike and a good swim in the pool.

First impressions

Having settled in our rooms after a rough and wet boat ride, we checked out the vicinity of the hotel: a quiet private beach facing Haiti, a salt-water pool and the cute gingerbread houses serving as hotel rooms:

As mentioned, during the day we walking around discovering the island and these are the following things we observed and appreciated about the island Ile à Vache (which you'll find just as relaxing for sure):

1. The people of the island

After having done several hikes and seen the people of Port-au-Prince, people of this island seem to be more relaxed and less aggressive. While walking around, of course, people looked at us curiously like usual but they were not coming up to us, sending their children saying: "Give us a dollar!"

Close to the hotel's entrance (which actually was not an entrance as there was no gate or whatsoever) there were some younger boys waiting for us tourists. But instead of approaching us aggressively like usual, they just wanted to show us their island without asking for an exaggerated amount of money for doing so. At the end of the day, they were happy with a couple of dollars and the promise to show us around the next day.

Thanks to Jacky and Ronald (I called him "Ronaldo" which made him kind of proud) we saw the nicest corners and beaches of the island. Although in two days of exploring, we have not seen all of it.

Patrick showing Jacky and Ronaldo how to handle a kite :-)

2. Beautiful, colorful houses to see

Throughout the whole two days we spent on the island walking around we saw some stunning houses. I mean, except for the private, huge houses of private people (with pool and tennis court) we saw from far away, we spotted some well-kept, colorful painted houses on the island:

During our hikes we noticed that the government has invested in the island and the villages, too. Close to the hotel there was a community center / house for the villagers, a playground, and even a medical center which was pretty surprising considering the status of the rest of the country:

3. The white sandy beaches

Apart from the peaceful "private" beach of the hotel, we have seen two other long, secluded Caribbean beaches which had some postcard white sand and on top strong waves to play in. The first day we explored the westernmost tip of the island and ended up relaxing, playing, swimming and even eating at the beautiful beach close to the other known hotel "Abaka Bay Resort":

On our second day we walked to another wonderful beach called "La Hafte" not too far away from the other one, a bit more south but accessed it via a different path:

Both beaches were really nice but unfortunately, also due to the playful waves and currents, you have to watch out for small children who cannot swim that well. Furthermore, we did not find there any place for snorkeling such as on one of our favorite Haitian beaches named Kokoye Beach.

However, you can lay there forever and listen to the soothing sound of the waves, snooze off, play with the waves, snooze off, ... I'm sure there are still more beacher to discover on the Lilavach.

4. The way of life at Lilavach

Thanks to our young island guides we ate locally twice: Once at the Akaba Bay Beach (spicy lambi and rice) and on the second day, after visiting La Hafte Beach, we ate in their village at a local, small restaurant which we wouldn't have thought a restaurant at all seeing the outside. As the food preparation took some time, we played Pétanque in front of the restaurant and had a nice look over the bay of Cacor and its decorations:

We also discovered that there are no real streets on the island. So no cars to be found, just the usual motocycle taxis that take every sandy path possible. This really contributes to the whole, relaxing atmosphere of the island as there are no noisy taptaps or trucks. What a blessing when you are used to traffic jams and bad roads!

Like all Haitians, the inhabitants of the island tether up their animals on the side of the "road" (or just on a hillside):

And we also saw that they are growing (for them unusual) vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, aubergines (eggplants) - obviously an initiative of a "helping" NGO. The owner of our hotel explained to us that they grow so many vegetables that they can't find enough buyer (as the local won't buy them):

Finally, lots of people from the island live off fishing, naturally with the Caribbean Sea on the doorstep:

5. Things to do on the island

First of all, the best thing you can do is, take your little backpack and go off exploring the island as we did. Hiking in Haiti is always an adventure!

This way you get to know the surroundings, the people, and the relaxed way of life. You'll see some stunning beaches and some beautifully decorated houses of the locals.

Another option is to rent a boat and go off to some close-by mini islands such as L'Ile d'Amoureux (Island of lovebirds) or go snorkeling as there is a supposed to be a small coral reef, however on the eastern side of the island. Our stay was just too short to try it out.

If you just come to relax, that's fine, too. Our hotel was really nice in a paradise-like setting and after our walks, we loved to just swim in the pool or relax at the quiet beach of the hotel.

Here are some final impressions from our stay:

Have you ever been on such an island? If yes, how was it? Did you have a similar experience?

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