If you want an education, I say, go to Nevis. I learned more there than I ever have watching PBS. For starters, a jungle hike is more like walking through a medicine cabinet, with guide Lynnell Liburd of Sunrise Tours explaining the healthy qualities of plants: lantana for chest colds, soursop for migraines and castor for arthritis. I also do extreme monkey-watching as vervets, brought over from West Africa in the 17th century, treat Nevis as their jungle gym.
Close to the ocean, marine biologist Barbara Whitman, owner of Under The Sea on Oualie Beach, tells me plenty; for example, wrasse possess strange harem-like habits. The male picks a first wife who keeps all the other wives in line. “When the male dies,” Whitman says, “the first wife changes sex and becomes the male leader.” Then we snorkel and, with this new knowledge, the sea unfolds for me like a soap opera.
I take geology lessons with Jim Johnson; at Cades Bay he has me stick my hand in abnormally hot sand (a volcanic vent). And I study history: Nevis-born Alexander Hamilton was an illegitimate child – his rebuilt house, now a museum, is in quaint Charlestown. On my last day, as I drive to the airport, I screech to a halt in front of the monkey-crossing sign: An adult and two little ones cross. Bollocks to PBS. Long live Nevis.