When thinking of Saba, the island’s unspoiled nature and rich marine life quickly come to mind. But our smallest neighbouring island has so much more to offer. Did you know that most of the lobsters we enjoy on St. Maarten/ St. Martin actually come from Saba? And did you know that many tropical fruits and herbs can be found in the island’s lush jungle and gardens?
Last week, the Out N About attended Saba’s first Rum & Lobster Fest, which took place from Sunday, November 5, to Sunday, November 12. After an early wake-up call for our 7:00am flight, we were rewarded with a breath-taking landing on the world’s shortest landing strip followed by two days of serenity, views, laughter and, of course, lots and lots of rum and lobster.
Rum and Lobster Fest is a week-long feast, set to take place each November, and promises to be an unforgettable experience for locals and tourists alike. Although Saba’s Lobster Fest has been around for quite some time, this was the first time Saba’s famous spiny lobsters were paired with locally-infused Unspoiled Queen Liqueur rums – a perfect pairing if you ask us.
Some 15 restaurants participated in the Rum & Lobster Fest: Pachos Bar, Tropics Café, Guidos Bar, Long Haul, Liams Cuisine, Chez Bubba, Brigadoon, Dimples, Ocean Club, Runway 30, Saba Snack Gourmet, Island Flavor, Rendezvous, The Hideaway & Queens Hotel – all offering special lobster dishes and rum cocktails.
Not only can locals and visitors enjoy delicious lobster dishes alongside amazing cocktails and rum-infused sauces, Lobster Fest also offers various engaging events. This year, the programme included an art fair, pub crawl, sunset booze cruise, treasure hunt, and several arts and craft activities such as pottery making, glass painting, sewing, card making and jewellery making – all lobster and/or rum themed.
We were lucky enough to sample nine – yes, you read correctly – different lobster dishes during our two-day stay. Shortly after we arrived, we passed The Hideaway in Windwardside for a soft, creamy and tasty lobster slider – the perfect snack to fuel our tour of the island’s picturesque towns and dramatic viewpoints.
After our island tour, it was time to head down to the harbour, where we enjoyed lobster tacos and mojitos with an ocean view at the newly-opened Ocean Club. The tacos were crispy and flavourful, and the fresh lobster tasted even better while watching the local fishermen bring in their catch.
With our bellies full and thirst quenched, we headed out to the pier to see the fishermen – and the lobsters – in action. Nicky Johnson and Zuniga “Jay” Derfgeis have been catching lobsters on the Saba Bank for over 30 years and told us all about the catching Saban spiny lobsters, characterised by long antennas and small arms. Saba fishermen usually go out for lobsters a few times a week, resulting in a total catch of over 20,000 tons a year.
After our most courageous travel companions held their own lobsters, it was time for us all to brave Saba’s waters aboard Shark Bait. Captain Otto de Vries and Pierre Antoine took us around the Leeward side of the island, explaining that the water there is calmer than on the other side of the island.
Of course, we could not take a cruise without indulging in some more – yes, you guessed it – rum and lobster. We sipped on rum punch and nibbled on lobster ceviche tostones catered by Ocean Club while enjoying the beautifully dramatic coastline and learning more about the historic landmarks and dive sites we passed.
After a quick break – read, nap in our hotel rooms – our charismatic taxi driver Cuchi picked us up for even more rum and lobster at Tropics Cafe. Here, we kicked off a fun evening by sampling different rums and snacks, such as lobster croquettes, lobster dumplings and lobster rangoons.
Local rum, soap, candle and tea maker Veronica Janson guided us on a rum tasting journey of her Unspoiled Queen rums, all of which she infused with locally-grown ingredients she picked herself from the jungle, her garden, or her neighbours’ land. We tested nine different rums, each one delicious or unique, and had to guess which ingredients Veronica had used. Our favourite? The Saban Serendipity: a perfect combination of sweet yet tangy passion fruit and spicy scotch bonnet.
It may come as no surprise that we left the rum tasting feeling extra happy – and not just because we were excited to try Tropics Cafe’s famous lobster tails. We sat down at a beautiful long table overlooking Juliana Hotel’s pool and dug in. One of our travel companions had “no words” for the delicious dish, while others called it “banging,” “rich,” “creamy,” “perfectly balanced” and “the best lobster tails” they ever had.
The next day, we woke up early to enjoy a lovely breakfast at Island Flavor. This time, without rum and lobster, as we would be hiking up through the secondary rainforest towards the Mas’Cohones viewpoint with a stunning view of Windwardside.
After this relatively short and easy hike, we quickly made our way back down to our hotel to pack our bags. We only had a few hours in paradise left – and still had two lobster dishes to try. At Chez Bubba, we enjoyed a gorgeous lobster salad with poached egg, avocado cream and homemade bread, accompanied by a fantastic scotch bonnet passion fruit mojito.
We then headed to the newly-opened Saba Snack Gourmet in The Bottom for our final lobster experience – an amazing lobster thermidor with a creamy mushroom sauce and cheesy scalloped potatoes, all washed down with a frozen passion fruit daiquiri.
Before boarding our 4:30pm flight back to St. Maarten, we made a quick stop at Marie de Saba’s jewellery workshop to make our own macramé keychains to take back home a piece of our precious Saba experience. Until next year, Rum and Lobster Fest!