British Virgin Islands – Pirate’s Paradise
Pirates had excellent taste in venues for plying their trade and traffic. The BVI are Paradise indeed and are still so largely because the swashbuckling traditions of rape and pillage have thankfully not extended to the modern vernacular of the real estate and tourism industries. No high-rise, no traffic, no high density dwellings, no crimes of greed.
These islands remain blissfully underdeveloped and largely unspoiled. Hillsides dotted with homes, not plastered; beaches clean and accessible. Large tracts of verdant land and their surrounding azure waters are protected, which, opposed to coastal Mexico’s current chaotic land grabbage, was a delightful respite from a trend that is short-sighted and, like extinction, irreversible.
Promoting and preserving what occurs naturally and being low-key and harmonious with what could hardly be improved upon is the BVI’s code for long-term success. And don’t think you can’t make money being conservative – room rates are high but worth it; sail charter fleets are fully booked and the envy of other cruising grounds, luxury boutique resorts do a brisk trade; large private estates are for sale, even whole islands like Necker owned by Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson (how appropriate!) http://www.virgin.com/subsites/necker/.
Amidst the success there is no excess; beaches are so abundant that crowding is rarely an issue (except for a few famous exceptions); locals win, tourists win, coral and fish and hardwoods win. Sensible.
OK. Pontification over. The pictures tell the story better.
Weirdest thing about driving around Tortola’s narrow winding roads is that the steering wheel is on the left, courtesy of easy US imports, but one drives on the left also, courtesy of the British heritage. Not driving along the centre-line takes a little getting used to. That’s why all the rental cars come with stickers plastered above the dashboard saying ” keep to the left – use horn frequently.” Honk if you’re happy (or about to head-on).
Tortola, seat of the capital and the largest island in the group of about 30, is bite-sized and easily explored, superficialy at least, in a day. But once you start exploring you want to stop at every look-out and every beach, ‘cos it’s all beautiful. One favourite ‘discovery’ was Josiah’s Bay on the northshore. There’s a few cafes/bars and bungalows but otherwise just a good longboard ride or a bodybash in crystal clear waters.
Closer to the west end of the island was Cane Garden Bay, a classic refuge for sailors and land-lubbers alike. The view goes on forever to a horizon of tradewind cumulous clouds over sand-fringed headlands and the tourquoise Caribbean sea. Yum.
Cane Garden is also a great place to ahem, just hang out.
Evening is even more tranquil.
On a more socially active note, this north coast is also famous for full moon parties thrown at beachside bars like Bomba’s on Cappoon’s Bay which somehow survive (or at least get rebuilt after) every hurricane season – shack sense; keep it simple and Irie. Wet T’s optional.
I went to Tortola to photograph a beautiful house called The Distillery. From its elevated position on Greenbank Hill the view included another gem called Brewer’s Bay. The weather cock perched on top of the pavillion by the tennis court was free. The rest of the property is available for US$4.85 mil. Worth every cent.
Closer inspection of Brewer’s Bay is pretty too.
A casual tour of the island will reveal roofs of corrugated iron in outrageous tones of lilac, pale green and lipstick red with complementary colours in the trim of wooden railings, verandah posts and window frames.
You’ll also see art, spontaneous or sponsored, everywhere.
BVI’s international airport is on Beef Island, joined to Tortola by a bridge over a narrow channel. Trellis Bay is the hub of societal life on Beef Is. where cafes, galleries and the sea-to-shore traffic from the anchored charter boats maintains a mildly active sense of purpose to an otherwise langourous scene. From there you an catch a short free ferry ride to the coral-fringed island of Bellamy Cay, home of the Last Resort.
This picturesque idyll provides cabin accommodations, restaurant, live happy hour music at the bar, internet access, beach chairs, great swimming and privacy with a 360Â° view.
Due east of Tortola and Beef Islands lies another of BVI’s treasures, Virgin Gorda. I was advised by many not to leave the BVI without visiting a national park there called The Baths. Good advice.
We got there by the first morning ferry/taxi and enjoyed the solitude of a truly beautiful place. Lesson was learned a few hours later after a visiting cruise ship (to Tortola) deposited a large proportion of its passengers on the hitherto deserted beaches and boulder-strewn shoreline.
By that time though we’d had enough sun and there were plenty of secret shady retreats amongst the boulders and lapping tide.
Stay tuned for a more complete gallery of images from this trip.
yep. I still love my job.