Antigua & Barbuda in a nutshell

Where on earth is Antigua & Barbuda anyway?
Antigua & Barbuda is a twin-island nation in the middle of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean.

Funny-sounding name. Where did it come from?
Antigua was named by Christopher Columbus and comes from the Spanish word meaning ancient. Its native name is ‘Waladli’, often referred to as ‘Wadadli’. The Caribs, from Dominica and St Vincent, made regular incursions to Barbuda naming it 'Wa'omoni’. This is believed to mean ‘island of large birds’ and probably signifies Barbuda’s common frigate birds. It was later named Barbuda by 16th century explorer Diego Ribero.

Must be pretty hot there?
Daytime temperatures range from 81F (27C) in winter to around 86F (30C) in summer. Most tourists come between November and May when it’s cooler and drier. Average rainfall is around 39 inches a year with the wettest months between September and November. But Antigua’s generally pretty dry with low humidity.

Antigua beach Luxury Locations

Size? Population?
Antigua covers an area of 108 square miles and has an estimated population of 86,000. The sister isle is 62 square miles and is home to around 1,600 (excluding the frigates).

What is the currency of Antigua?
East Caribbean dollar (XCD). It’s been pegged to the US dollar since 1976. The fixed exchange rate is US$1=EC$ 2.7169 (carry a calculator if your maths isn’t too hot).

What’s the capital city?
‘Capital city’ may be something of a misnomer in a place delightfully devoid of high rises. Either way, it’s St John's, which spans a total of four square miles.

Say what? What’s the official language?
English. But don’t be surprised to hear a local patois version. Antiguan dialect is a wonderful mix of broken English interspersed with a handful of African words.

Religious?
The church plays a vital role in Antigua & Barbuda where around three out of four people are Christians. Other religions practiced include Rastafari, Islam, Judaism and Bahai.

What’s the literacy rate?
Education is compulsory until the age of 12. The literacy rate is thought to be around 90 per cent.

Who are the country’s leaders?
Sir Rodney Williams is the Governor-General and Gaston Browne is the current Prime Minister.

When are the major public holidays?
In addition to Christmas, New Year and Easter, there’s Labour Day and Whit Monday (both in May), two to mark Carnival festivities in August, and National Heroes Day in December. The country also celebrates independence from Britain with a public holiday on November 1 each year. On this date in 1981, the twin islands became an independent Commonwealth state with Queen Elizabeth II as queen and Vere Cornwall Bird as the first Prime Minister. Independence Day, and the month leading up to it, is characterised by a vibrant abundance of food fairs, sports contests, art and craft exhibitions and a gala ceremonial parade.

Money, money, money
Tourism is the country’s mainstay. It’s also the biggest source of employment, along with the government. In 2012, the nation’s GDP and the GDP per capita income were $1.50 billion and $17,000 respectively. The services sector accounts for roughly 75% of GDP, with the bulk of the remainder largely made up of industry, and a small sliver from agriculture.  

 

Antigua & Barbuda National Symbols

Bird...

Frigate bird Antigua CaribbeanThe aforementioned frigate – a relative of the pelican - also known as man-o'-war or weather bird. Males are glossy black, known for the scarlet throats they inflate to attract females, while females have a white breast. They weigh about three pounds, have a wingspan of eight feet, a forked tail and fly about 22mph.

Flower...

Dagger log flower AntiguaThe dagger log, which has yellow flowers rising from a large rosette. In days gone by, fishing rafts were made from the flower's stem and the white pulp of the leaves was used as fishing bait.

Tree...

Whitewood tree AntiguaThe whitewood, recognised by its wide, almost horizontal branches. A relative of the mangrove, its heavy timber was once used for making gun carriages.

Dress...

Traditional Antiguan dressOnce worn by 19th century market vendors and bakers, the current version was designed by Heather Doram. Expect to see the bright colours festooned throughout the island in the run-up to Independence Day.

Fruit...

Black pineapple AntiguaIntroduced by the Arawaks, the Antiguan black pineapple was used for making twine, cloth and for healing purposes. Don’t miss the chance to try this deliciously sweet fruit which can be found at numerous roadside stalls.

Animal...

fallow deerThe European fallow deer. As the name suggests, this is not a native animal. It’s thought to have been introduced by the Codrington family in the early 1700s. Today these gentle creatures still live and breed in Barbuda.

Sea Creature...

The hawksbill turtleThe hawksbill turtle. Once perceived as a gift from archaic gods, they later became actively hunted for their beautiful tortoise-coloured shells. Today they are critically endangered but they nest on our beaches and can often be spotted in and around our waters.

Dish...

Fungee and pepperpot Antiguan foodFungee and pepperpot. A delicious stew of squash, spinach, eggplant, peas, pumpkin, okra, salted meats and dumplings, with fungee, a paste-like ball of cornmeal and okra.

Motto...

‘Each endeavouring, all achieving’, coined by James H. Carrot, inspires Antiguans & Barbudans to work for their country's betterment.