The Central American island state in the Caribbean consists of three islands: Antigua with an area of 280 km², Barbuda with 161 km² and Redonde with 1.6 km². The islands belong to the northern Lesser Antilles (Leeward Islands). Like the other Caribbean islands, they were formed by volcanic eruptions around 10 million years ago. The Sheekerley Mountains (Boggy Peak, 403 m) in the southwest of Antigua are also made of volcanic rock. The rest of the island consists of coral limestone and is predominantly flat and karstified.
Antigua is 12 km long and about 18 km wide, has a bay-rich coast and many offshore coral reefs. Barbuda is about 40 km east of Antigua, the highest point is about 40 m above sea level. Long sandy beaches are typical for the island.
The island of Redonde, only 1.6 square kilometres in size, rises steeply out of the sea to over 300 metres, has no natural harbours and is uninhabited. The capital of the island state, Saint John’s, is located on Antigua.
The tropical climate is characterized by the north-eastern trade wind, the whole year over constantly high temperatures prevail (average value in January and July with 25 °C). The rainy season lasts from May to September and the annual rainfall is around 1 050 mm. Antigua and Barbuda lie within the hurricane-prone zone of the Caribbean, with hurricanes occurring mainly in the months of June to November.
Flora and Fauna
The vegetation on the island state is poor in species. During the colonial period the existing forests were cleared in favour of plantations. In the southwest of Antigua, there are still remains of deciduous and bush forests. On Barbuda there are even larger tree populations, on the coast there are areas with mangroves. Large parts of the island have been declared a nature reserve.
Wild boars live on the islands on bigger mammals and occasionally deer in the forests, also the donkey introduced by the Europeans lives wild here. Besides reptiles (lizards, turtles) over 150 bird species have been observed. In the bird reserve on Barbuda there is a large colony of frigate birds.
The total population of Antigua and Barbuda is around 84 000. Around 30,000 people live in Antigua’s capital Saint John’s (the only larger town on Barbuda is Codrington with almost 1,000 inhabitants). A good 90% of the total population are black, descendants of slaves abducted from Africa. Mix-breeds and whites (usually of British origin) form small minorities. About 75% of the population belong to the Anglican Church, about 10% are Catholics; a minority of 1.2% are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The life expectancy of women is 76, that of men 72. Population growth is estimated at 1.3%. The literacy rate of 89% is relatively high compared to other Caribbean countries, and children are required to attend school. The common language is Creole English.
The island state of Antigua and Barbuda is an independent parliamentary monarchy in the British Commonwealth. The constitution dates back to 1981 and is headed by the British monarch Elizabeth II, who is represented by a governor general who performs predominantly representative functions (since August 2014 Rodney Williams). The government is headed by the Prime Minister (Gaston Browne since June 2014).
The legislative power lies with the parliament. It consists of the Senate with 17 appointed members and the House of Representatives with 19 members (17 elected, 1 ex officio, 1 spokesman). Antigua and Barbuda is divided into six districts and two dependencies (Barbuda and Redonda).
Tourism has replaced sugar cane cultivation as the most important economic factor since the 1970s, with tourism accounting for more than three quarters of gross domestic product (GDP). Around a quarter of a million tourists visit the islands every year.
Agriculture accounts for only about 2% of the gross domestic product, the most important crops being cotton, vegetables, fruit, sugar cane and cereals. The industry is only weakly developed, there are predominantly food processing enterprises.
By granting tax advantages, the island state was able to establish itself as an international financial centre.
On Antigua there is an international airport (V.C. Bird), the capital Saint John’s has a deep-sea port, which can also be called by large cruise ships. Antigua is well developed and has about 1,200 km of roads, of which only 400 km are fortified. On Barbuda there are only sandy roads. Currency is the East Caribbean Dollar.