Executive Traveller celebrates Carnival time in Grenada

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Pretty Mas and Colourful Pleasure on a Spice Island
Glitzy costumes, bands competing for prizes, trailer trucks and calypso music are just some of the few things to get the party started on the lagoon right outside Port Louis Marina in Grenada.

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A pretty mas queen at a Carnival in Grenada

Grenadian history expressed through masks, dance, chants and colourful costumes.

After months of preparation, planning and co-ordination, the Grenadian ‘Spice Mas’ is in full bloom during the second Monday and Tuesday in August. This colourful carnival is the Grenadian way of expressing their links to their African, French, British and Caribbean heritage. This is the month when Calypsonians, steel pan orchestras, beauty contestants, ‘fancy mas’ bands combine colour, humour and surprises as they perform and parade to compete for Carnival honours from the lagoon right outside of Port Louis Marina to the Carenage.

Colourful carnival girls on a pretty mas dance parage in Grenada

Each has a different theme and is led by a trailer truck with very large speakers on top which play calypso music and the bands dance behind the trucks from midday to about 7pm. There will certainly be music from Grenada’s lost and found Calypso King Slinger Francisco, better known as The Mighty Sparrow and affectionately dubbed, The Birdie. The Birdie is the unrivalled Calypso King of the World, with a career that spans over 40 years and counting. This artiste par excellence’s roots are in Gran Roi, a rural fishing village in Grenada.

The Mighty Sparrow was born to a poor working class family. They migrated to his adopted homeland, Trinidad, when he was just one year old.Whichever way you choose to travel to Grenada, the Spice Island welcomes you with a friendly smile. Volcanic Grenada’s three islands with spice-scented hills, tropical rainforests, powder-white beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters is in full celebratory mood this August. The country I visited and loved, lies at the Southernmost tip of the Windward Island and is a favourite for those seeking a relaxing tropical holiday in exceptional luxury.
If you are sailing across the Caribbean, make a stop at Grenada’s Port Louis Marina.

Map of Grenada
Port Louis Marina, Grenada

This is the place to get a good view of the singers of the bands singing as the partygoers chip (a slow walking dance). The party starts on the lagoon right outside of Port Louis Marina and goes to the Carenage. Port Louis Marina is the ideal destination for visiting and resident yachts. Located in a natural lagoon opposite the island’s charming capital, St Georges, Port Louis provides berthing facilities of the very highest quality for yachts of 10m to 90m in length (32ft to 300ft).

The port is just five miles from the Point Salines International Airport, with private aircraft facilities and direct connections to Europe and North America. From the Marina you are faced with magnificent views of the historic fort and the restored Georgian buildings of St. George’s.The port can accommodate a total of around 390 berths for craft from 10m to 90m including ten berths for craft over 60m. The marina offers any yachts coming in for the week of carnival a monthly rate instead of the weekly or daily rates.
The Restaurant at Port Louis ©LNA Photos

The Judging Procedure

Judges for the Carnival are positioned at 3 different points along the route where they will judge on originality of the costumes, size of the bands and the energy created by the partygoers. At this point all hell breaks loose and all of the contestants dance their hearts out. The song that is played the most on these 2 days of street parties is judged the "Road March". Each band has a "King and a Queen of the Band" who have costumes that are much larger and more elaborate than the regular costumes.
Denisher, the Queen of the Commancheros & Associates mas band, parades across the stage during the King and Queen competition at Sunday night's Dimanche Gras ©Joshua Yetman – Monday Day Gilligan
Jab Jab Revellers on a march in Grenada during a carnival festival

Many take on disguises in the costumes of ‘Shortknee’ and ‘Jab Jab’ players. The Shortknee tradition combines pieces of distant Grenadian history expressed through masks, dance, chants and colourful costumes. Like the Shortknee, the Jab Jab – a creolized word for the French diable (devil) – also operate in packs. Jab Jabs, however, are scantily dressed with bodies entirely daubed to an extreme black, or sometimes yellow or blue. Their antics and appearance, such as Jab Jabs toting cattle horns and cow chains, can be scary for the faint-hearted or the uninitiated. However, it not intended to create fear but a subject of historical study and the existential reality of Jab Jab.

The role of the Jab Jab is similar to that of Puck, the mischievous trickster and knavish jester – also known as Robin Goodfellow – of William Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.’’ Jab Jab revellers paint their bodies black, put red helmets with make-believe horns on their heads, and march in energetic groups. Originating from African and European rituals, Jab Jab has evolved as an integral part of contemporary Spice Mas, shedding away long ago customs of frightening Carnival patrons and establishing a unique rhythmic chant to Carnival. Masqueraders in knee-length pants carry talc powder and arm themselves with tiny mirrors to reflect enemies; they wear ankle bells to make music, as they stomp through towns and villages. The powder is a symbol of appreciation and sprinkled on those who make cash donations.
Monja of husband and wife team Grenada Explorer says that she finds this as one of the most exciting times in Grenada when visitors and friends visit Grenada to meet family and friends or simply to have a great time; the Jouvert jump up, the parties, the costumes - everyone just having a good time. Inevitably is it also one of the busiest times for them because every visitor is looking for places to stay, car rentals, tours etc as well as information on where and when the celebrations will be.
If you are travelling by air, a number of airlines provide service to Grenada from cities around the world. You will first arrive into Grenada and if you want to see its sister islands, you may continue on to Carriacou aboard a ferry or in a smaller plane on a short flight to Lauriston Airport in Hillsborough. Travellers who wish to visit Petite Martinique must take a ferry to the island.

Driving through Grenada, one cannot help but notice that Grenada, though one of the fastest growing economies in the Caribbean, poverty is widespread; thankfully, growths in investment and tourism, and a construction boom, have helped to reduce unemployment. The country was dealt with a serious blow in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan swept through killing dozens of people, damaging 90% of the island's buildings and devastating the nutmeg crop. Tourism has also generated its own problems, in the form of threats to the rainforest and beach erosion caused by resort projects, nevertheless, Grenada still has a lot to offer. Aquatic life is always assured because Grenada is made up of over forty pristine beaches, shipwrecks and treasures for the astute diver to explore.
For further information, please visit www.spicemasgrenada.com

Grenada in brief: Approximately 108,132 (est 2008) people inhabit Grenada, including the 6,521 inhabitants of Carriacou and Petite Martinique. The nation's citizens are primarily of African, East-Indian and European descent, with the largest proportion of the population, approximately 75%, of African descent. Grenada is an English-speaking nation.
Entry Requirements: A valid passport and return or onward ticket is required for all visitors. However, proof of citizenship bearing a photograph is acceptable from British, Canadian and US citizens. Please note however that as mandated by the United States Department of Homeland Security, all US travellers must provide a passport to enter or re-enter the US from both vacation and business travel. A visa is not required from citizens of the US, Canada, UK, British Commonwealth, most Caribbean countries, most European countries, South Korea, and Japan.
Business Hours: Banking hours in Grenada are usually Monday to Thursday from 8:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m., and Fridays from 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.


Shops are generally open from 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Supermarkets and shopping centers are usually open from 9:00 am. - 7 pm. And there are one or two that are open on Sundays. Craft and souvenir shops will open on a Sunday or Bank Holiday, especially if cruise ships are in port. Government offices are generally open from 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, but may be closed from 12:00 to 1:00 pm for lunch.

Credit Cards & Currency: Major credit cards are accepted by most hotels, car rental companies, and shops. Travellers cheques are accepted everywhere. The Eastern Caribbean Dollar, linked to the US Dollar, is the local currency. Banks will exchange EC$2.67 for US$1.00 cash, and EC$2.68 for US$1.00 in travellers cheques. It is advisable to exchange currency at the banks, as the most favourable exchange rates may not be obtained elsewhere.

A-Z of Things to do in Grenada


Executive Traveller 2003