Most of St Vincent is rugged and mountainous, volcanic in origin and with an active volcano, La Soufrière, which rises to 1,234m and is the island’s highest point; it last erupted in April 1979, and last erupted violently in 1902. Some 70% of the country’s land area is forested. Many of St Vincent’s beaches are of black volcanic sand, while the Grenadine beaches are of fine white sand.
St Vincent and the Grenadines, one of the Windward Island countries of the Eastern Caribbean, lies near the southern end of the Caribbean chain, about 97km north of Grenada. The country comprises six parishes, one of which being Grenadines.
Kingstown (capital, pop. 16,500 in 2010), Georgetown (1,400), Byera (1,200), Biabou (900) and Chateaubelair (630) on St Vincent; Port Elizabeth (770) on Bequia in the Grenadines.
There are 829km of roads, 70% paved. Cruiseships call at St Vincent. A mail boat runs several times a week through the Grenadines and ferries operate between the islands. E T Joshua International Airport is at Arnos Vale, 3km south-east of Kingstown. There are small airports/airstrips on Bequia, Union Island, Canouan and Mustique. A new international airport was due to be opened at Argyle in the east of St Vincent in 2012.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.
The country comprises the island of St Vincent and the northern Grenadines, a series of 32 islands and cays, stretching south-west towards Grenada. (The southern Grenadine islands are part of Grenada.) The larger northern Grenadines are Bequia (pronounced Beck-way), Canouan, Mayreau, Mustique, Isle D’Quatre and Union Island. St Vincent is volcanic in origin, and has an active volcano, La Soufrière, which erupted violently in 1812, and again in 1902. A mild eruption in 1971-72 created a volcanic dome in the crater lake, forming an island. This exploded in another eruption in 1979, blasting ash, steam and stones high into the air. A rugged mountain range runs from La Soufrière in the north to Mt St Andrew (750m) above the Kingstown Valley in the south. This mountainous backbone sends off lateral spurs which are intersected by wooded valleys and numerous streams. Many of the beaches of St Vincent are of black volcanic sand; there are some white-sand beaches. The Grenadines have been much celebrated for their beaches of fine white sand and clear waters.
Tropical, moderated by trade winds in June/July. The dry season is January to May, the rainy season May/June to September. There is significantly heavier rainfall in the mountainous interior. Tropical storms and hurricanes may occur June-November.
The most significant environmental issue is pollution of coasts and coastal waters by discharges from yachts and from industrial plants on shore.
The mountains of St Vincent support a luxuriant growth of tropical forest; coconuts and the more typical tropical coral island vegetation occur on the Grenadines and coastal fringes of St Vincent island. Forest covers 69% of the land area, having increased at 0.4% p.a. 1990-2010. The botanical gardens, founded in 1765, conserve rare species, including the mangosteen fruit tree, and a descendant from Captain Bligh’s original breadfruit tree.
The Buccament Valley east of Layou is a tropical rainforest reserve, home to the endangered St Vincent parrot, aswell as many other species such as the unique whistling warbler.
Bequia’s rich marine flora and fauna make it a popular resort for divers.