Animal Flower Cave
It has been a busy last month! After nearly a year here in beautiful Barbados, I finally got to welcome my dad to the island as my first visitor! We rented a car for the week and got to experience many places I hadn’t been able to reach by foot or bus yet. While I had gone up to explore the north coast previously, I never actually went *in* the Animal Flower Cave until last week. So here’s a little recap of that adventure.
Note: We chose to go to Animal Flower Cave over Harrison’s Cave (another cave attraction) largely due to price. Tickets for Animal Flower Cave only cost $12.50 USD ($25 BBD) per person, vs. the nearly $60 USD pp price tag for Harrison’s Cave.
Animal Flower Cave is located near the northernmost point of Barbados, in the parish of St. Lucy. There are a couple bus routes you can take to get there from Bridgetown or Speightstown, but it was definitely easier to access by car. One of the nice parts about a 20 mile long island is that getting anywhere very rarely takes over an hour! From our apartment in the middle of the island, it took about 20 minutes, but it would take closer to 40 minutes from Bridgetown.
Just to note: driving in Barbados is… well, it’s an experience in itself, let’s put it that way! After spending a day along the east coast though, the roads at the north end of the island felt well maintained and comfortable comparatively.
Another note: local vendors like to setup at the entrance road to Animal Flower Cave. They are some of the most pushy I have encountered on the island. Roll up your windows and drive past if you don’t want souvenirs being forced in your hands through open car windows.
Upon arrival, we hand sanitized and signed in per current COVID protocols. Then, went to the bar where you can purchase tickets to enter the cave. After securing tickets, we were paired with a guide and put in a group with just one other couple. The small group size made it feel almost like a private tour. Cave tours start at 11:00 AM and go through 3:00 PM. We had arrived just before 11:00 AM, so I think we may have been the first group to go in that morning.
Once in your group, you’re lead to a hole in the ground to descend down a rugged flight of stairs. At the bottom, the guide explained that the stairs were built in 1912 and are made entirely of natural coral. Apparently there are about 20 times a year that the sea and waves get so high that they come up to the top of the stairs, making it impossible to get into the caves.
But immediately when your feet hit the bottom of that staircase, you can see a cave window overlooking the sea. We followed the guide over some rocky terrain to the natural window, which you could see the northernmost point of the island from.
From there, we were lead back and around a bend. Our guide pointed out some interesting coral formations on the walls and explained how they turn green and brown from the oxidation of copper and iron.
Beyond the bend, there’s an even bigger natural cave window. An appearance in one of Billy Ocean’s music videos and in the soap opera “Bold and Beautiful” makes this second window much more renowned than the first.
At this point, there was one more steep step to descend that takes you to the cave’s natural swimming pool. Here, we learned about the cave’s namesake, which can come across as misleading since there are neither animals nor flowers inside. “Animal flowers” is actually the local name for sea anemones, which live in the pools in the cave! Sadly, the water was too rough the day we were there and most of them were hiding. The guide did manage to find two to point out to us, though I didn’t get a photo.
I have to say, the final swimming pool was the best part. I wasn’t planning to get in, but I waded out and the water felt SO GOOD that I couldn’t resist. Most of the pool was only about 3 feet deep. Once you got closer to the edge, it had a sudden drop where you couldn’t touch. It was incredible to look out a cave window while swimming in it – almost like a natural infinity pool!
After we had our fill, we went back out and up to a few vending stalls that were selling jewelry, arts and crafts. Our guide had some of his own woodwork on display and I couldn’t resist buying a little decorative stingray from him.
We walked around above the cave area, enjoying the view and watching waves crash along the cliffside. We found another big hole (inaccessible) that had water spray out of it when a big wave came through.
On the way out, we hit a roadblock of Barbados Blackbelly Sheep being shepherded home!
While my dad was here, I realized I should start adding some notes to my blogs about accessibility. My dad had a hip replacement back in January, so some terrains and steps are too rugged or steep for him to safely navigate. I thought documenting this information could help others plan their adventures, too.
Animal Flower Cave has a steep, coral staircase that you have to descend to get into. It does have a sturdy railing and my dad was able to make it down (and back up) the stairs. However, once inside, the cave is natural and there are no paved routes for easy walking. Luckily, the ground was mostly dry the day we went, but there were still a few slippery spots and unstable rocks.
Dad managed to explore the majority of the caves and the guide was very patient. At the last part of the cave, the natural step to get to the pool you can swim in was too steep. Dad didn’t feel comfortable going down that part, so he wasn’t able to join us for a swim. That said, I think dad still enjoyed the tour and we all agreed that it was definitely worth it for the very affordable price!
Even without purchasing a ticket to go in the cave, there are still plenty of views to be enjoyed. There is a restaurant on the property as well, though we didn’t end up trying it. Animal Flower Cave is definitely somewhere that I want to go back to though, and would highly recommend to anyone visiting the island.
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