British Virgin Islands
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The British Virgin Islands are a self-governing British overseas territory, situated in the Caribbean just to the east of the US Virgin Islands. The BVIs, as they are called, are a popular travel destination for sailors, fishermen, sun worshippers, and other independent travellers, albeit not for the cost conscious. Boating among the dozens of tiny, mostly uninhabited, islands is a great stop on any tour of the Caribbean islands.
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About British Virgin Islands
The islands were first settled by the Dutch in 1648 before being annexed in 1672 by the British.
With a tropical climate tempered by easterly trade winds, relatively low humidity, and little seasonal temperature variation, the weather in the BVI is rather enjoyable. In the low season, there are some hurricanes, although in recent years they have had little consequent damage beyond some flooding.
The quality of beaches in the British Virgin Islands, even by Caribbean standards, is very high. Because of the large number of beaches, particularly on the north side of Tortola and the west side of Virgin Gorda, the beaches are generally not crowded (with the exception of Cane Garden Bay on Tortola, which is next to a densely populated area). It is not uncommon, even during tourist season, to be able to have a more remote beach largely or entirely to yourself for an afternoon. With the possible exception of Cane Garden Bay, beaches in the BVI do not tend to have the vendors pestering tourists which are characteristic of some other Caribbean islands. Conversely, many of them do not have any amenities, so remember to bring your own lunch and water!
The Virgin Islands is the most popular area for a sailing vacation in the Caribbean. This is a first-timers paradise, since the islands are close together and well protected from the Atlantic. You wake up to sunshine and a blue sky, choose the cruising target of the day by pointing on a nearby island and set sail in a comfortable trade wind. There are many yacht charter companies and marinas in the British Virgin Islands. Apart from cruise ship passengers, the majority of visitors to the British Virgin Islands stay on liveaboard boats or charter sailing vessels.
- Scuba diving
The BVIs are home to the wreck of the RMS Rhone which served as the site for the underwater scenes in the 1977 Nick Nolte/Jackie Bisset/Robert Shaw flick The Deep. The Rhone is the best-known and most often visited dive site in the islands. Lying just west of Salt Island, the Rhone is a former Royal Mail Steamer that sank in a hurricane on October 29, 1867 with the loss of nearly all lives. A spectacularly large 310 ft (94 metres) steamer in her previous life, she's now a three-site dive, with each chunk resting at varying depths, from 20 to 80 ft (6 to 24 metres).
Apart from the Rhone, the BVI boasts several other shipwrecks, the most notable of which are the Chikuzen, a collection of four purposely sunk wrecks in 'Wreck Alley' off Cooper Island, the Inganess Bay, the Fearless, the rarely dived Parmatta, and an aircraft off Great Dog Island. In addition to wreck diving, the BVI has the usual plethora of coral reefs that one would expect in a Caribbean diving destination.
A list of dive operators in the BVI can be found here. When diving on a guided tour, expect to pay around US$80-100 for a two tank dive and about US$50-60 for a one tank dive, although cheaper deals can be had as part of a package. Most dive operators do not charge extra to use their equipment if you decide to leave yours at home, and most are happy to pick up guests who are staying on boats en route to dive sites ('rendez-vous diving' in local slang). Almost all dive sites in the BVI have permanent marker bouys on them attached by the National Parks trust. If you are on a boat, confident in your diving skills, and are a semi competent navigator, it is easy to locate these bouys and dive most of the sites without a guide.
It is illegal for non-British Virgin Islanders to remove any marine organism from BVI waters without a recreational permit. A permit is available for charterers who intend to fish while in the BVI. The cost is $35 ($10 application fee; $25 for the permit). This temporary fishing permit can be obtained from the Department of Conservation and Fisheries: Department of Conservation and Fisheries, The Quastisky Building PO Box 3323 Road Town, Tortola. Tel: (284) 494-5681/3429 or (284) 468-3701 ex. 5555/1 Fax: (284) 494-2670 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org The government office closes early on Friday afternoons and doesn’t reopen until Monday morning. For charterers arriving on the weekend, it may be a couple of days before you can get a permit. When you arrive for your charter, check with the local staff for advice on obtaining a permit. There have been instances of extremely zealous enforcement of penalties for fishing without licences (including 5 figure fines), so visitors should be mindful of that.
Spearfishing (of any kind) is strictly prohibited in the BVI, as is any kind of marine harvesting on scuba equipment. With appropriate licences, visitors can hunt whilst free diving (ie. with no snorkel or tank) for lobster and conch during the relevant hunting seasons.
Several beaches offer surf-oriented breaks, including Josiah's and Apple Bay.
The annual "HiHo" windsurfing race-cum-travel-tour is held on or around the 4th of July weekend. For a week, internationally renowned competitors participate in formal course racing. Recognized as "One of the 100 top BVI adventures" by the BVI Tourist Board, the HiHo fleet is easily recognized by the distinctive event and sponsor flags flown by the charter fleet. The event generally stops for a day or two at Virgin Gorda, a night on Anegada, one or two nights around Tortola and finishes with a day of racing around the area of Sandy Cay, west of Jost van Dyke. Participants join in a 15-mile ocean dash from the waters around Necker or Gorda directly to Anegada. This event is unusual in that Anegada, a low-lying island, only becomes visible to someone at ocean-level during the last five miles of the race.
- BVI Kite Jam. Annual, week long kite boarding event including professional demonstrations, races, parties and awards ceremony.
BVI Kite Jam is a kiteboarding event held in the beautiful British Virgin Islands, and is open to amateurs, professionals and spectators.
This week long event is packed full of of Freestyle, Sliders, Big Air, Wave riding and long distance racing all in some of the windiest and most spectacular locations in the world such as the North Sound, Necker Island, Anegada and Eustatia Sound.
Inevitably, freshly caught seafood is the dish of choice for most people. Lobster and various fish are available from the many restaurants in the BVI. The choices throughout the islands vary from very high-end dining options to beachside cafes. Local dishes include rotis and curries inspired by Guyana and Trinidad cuisine, to Italian, French and Asian influences.
The BVI sponsored an event titled "Taste the BVI" during the Annapolis Sailboat Show in Maryland, USA in 2009, with notable BVI chefs including Ken Molyneaux, Imran Ashton, Henry Prince, and Neil Cline.
In 2011, the BVI National Culinary Team won nine medals at the Taste of the Caribbean culinary competition, taking home five gold medals, including one in the Culinary Team of the Year category and one in the Chef of the Year category.
The national dish is considered to be Fish and fungee
Rum, not surprisingly, is the drink of choice in the islands. Many rum-based delicious concoctions can be found at bars on the main beaches and roads. Because beaches in the BVI are so pristine, many do not have refreshment stands so it would be wise to bring at least water. However, a lot of the beaches have nearby restaurants and bars, so it's easy to saunter over for a drink when you're done relaxing on the sand. The "Painkiller" - a drink made from rum, coconut, and topped with OJ - is highly recommended, as is the Bushwacker. However, each bar has its own specialty drinks so it's worth it to sample your way through the BVI. Watch out for the No-See-Um, a refreshing banana, coconut and pineapple drink made with 151 proof rum - it'll get you before you see it coming!
There is plenty of Nightlife around Road Town, although many popular tourist places are advertised and some of the more local bars are worth checking out, so ask a local for what is on where. Live local music is a feature of many restaurants and bars. The sunsets are spectacular, so a drink on the beach or in the mountains, watching the sunset and listening to local music before dinner can be a very pleasant vacation from the usual club-based entertainment of most mainlanders. Banana Keets on Tortola offers a beautiful view of the sunset, as does Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda. The Banana Keets terrace overlooks Sage Mountain as well. Expats tend to hang out in Road Town, at the Dove, le Cabanon, or Village Cay. These places are full on Fridays. Do not miss the Full Moon Party at Bomba's Beach Shack, which is full of revelers and good tiems. This bar is famous for its walls where panties and bras are hanging, old licence plates are affixed to the walls, and drinks are flowing freely.
Shopping options vary in the BVI, from locally made to some high-end options, though not as flashy as the jewellery and tourist shops in nearby Saint Thomas or Saint Martin. With rare exceptions, international chains of shops are banned by law in the BVI to protect local character; however, there are some shops like Little Switzerland which are hugely popular with Caribbean visitors for the beautiful high-end wares.
The main shopping area on Tortola is Wickham's Cay in Road Town. Main Street is a small, winding road leading from the Governor's House, past the old Post Office to the Botanic Gardens. The shops on this road are housed in small, West Indian houses and often painted in bright colours, notably Serendipity Bookshop, perhaps the brightest of them all, which has a good collection of Caribbean history and cook books (and now has an internet cafe upstairs). Notable shops include Pussers, a store, popular bar and restaurant (and home of the infamous Painkiller drink!), Sunny Caribbee selling spices and handmade items, and Latitude 18 which sells casual beach clothes. Next to the historic post office is Amethyst, selling imported African and Indian items, Samarkand jewellery shop and across the road, Kaunda's, where you can find Caribbean music.
Additionally, near the cruise ship dock is a branch of Columbian Emeralds jewellery store and opposite it, the Craft Market which despite its name sells mostly t-shirts and jewellery, clothes and other goods. Island crafts genuinely made in the BVI include crocheted items, straw hats, rum and guavaberry liqueur, and can be found in the craft market. Not to be missed are the small bakeries selling local delicacies like Johnny cakes, roti, fish soup and coconut bread.
On the rest of the island there are a number of pharmacies, supermarkets, variety stores and jewellery shops. Shoprite in East End and OneMart in Purcell offer good variety of food at better prices than in Road Town although Bobby's supermarket in Road Town, Cane Garden Bay and Nanny Cay has good prices and is open till midnight 364 days a year (closed Good Friday). There is no need to find a speciality liquor outlet if you simply want a couple of bottles of wine, beer or rum as supermarket prices are excellent, rum is from $3 a bottle. Alcohol is very cheap in the BVI as there is not special taxes or duties on alcoholic beverages. If you are buying quantity or looking for speciality rums, Tico is an excellent store.
On Beef Island, near the airport, is the pretty Trellis Bay, which offers a selection of cafes, tourist shops and a supermarket. Both the Loose Mongoose beach cafe and the Last Resort restaurant on its very own miniature island are worth trying.
Shopping on Anegada is limited to basic necessities plus two gift shops at the hotel and camp ground. Similarly, on Jost van Dyke there are a few gift shops but mostly beach bars and places to laze the day away in a hammock, taking in paradise. Virgin Gorda has a supermarket in the marina and gift shops in the resorts.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article British Virgin Islands on Wikivoyage.
Cities in British Virgin Islands
5 hotels in this place
- Cane Garden Bay Beach
- Marina Cay Beach
- Long Bay Beach
- Smuggler\'s Cove Beach
- Sage Mountain National Park
1 hotels in this place
1 hotels in this place
Points of Interest in British Virgin Islands
Nature is the main attraction in the islands, with coral reefs, white sandy beaches, and scenic seaside villages the main draw.
Other attractions include historic villages, churches, and, if the sun is too much for you, a museum in Road Town, the shady Botanic Gardens or the rain forest on Sage Mountain in Tortola.
Cane Garden Bay Beach - West End
Tortola Cruise Ship Port - Road Town
White Bay Beach - Jost Van Dyke
The Baths - Virgin Gorda
Deadman\'s Bay Beach - Great Harbour
Trellis Bay Beach - Beef Island
Cooper Island East Lagoon - Cooper Island
Brewers Bay Beach - Brewers Bay
Loblolly Bay Beach - The Settlement
Well Bay Beach - East End
Bitter End Gardens - Virgin Gorda
Marina Cay Beach - West End
Long Bay Beach - West End
Leverick Bay Marina - Virgin Gorda
Smuggler\'s Cove Beach - West End
Little Dix Bay Beach - Virgin Gorda
Oil Nut Bay Beach - Virgin Gorda
Savannah Beach - Virgin Gorda
Copper Mine Ruins - Virgin Gorda
Manchioneel Bay Beach - Cooper Island